Ask Aunt Steph is a bi-monthly advice column by Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC, a licensed, board-certified mental health therapist, freelance writer and beloved aunt to 40 nieces and nephews.
Following in the footsteps of her paternal grandmother, the former neighborhood consigliera (advisor) she is often found holding court with family, friends and clients seeking advice on life, love and loss. Now, “Aunt Steph” lends her talents to answer reader’s questions, too.
Q Recently I discovered that my wife accepted an old boyfriend’s friend request on Facebook. We are happily married and the proud parents of great kids but I know long before my wife and I met and married, she and this old-flame really had a thing for each other. I told her I didn’t think she should friend old boyfriends but she says I’m ridiculous. Am I?
A People often start out believing online relationships are casual and harmless but consider this: The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers indicates 81 percent of its members have used or faced evidence from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites over the last five years. The Internet makes it easy for people to hide behind their cursors and flirt with boundaries they wouldn’t otherwise cross so easily. Why head down a dangerous slippery slope? Sit down with your wife and ask her if she feels like something in your marriage is lacking. Let this experience lead to a conversation that can shore up your own marriage rather than be a threat to it.
Q My mother-in-law was horrified that my husband and I discussed the recent Arizona shooting with our 10- and 12-year-old children. We explained we were concerned about them and that no matter whether we discussed it or not they would likely hear about it. She freaked out and said, “In my day, you’d never discuss something like this with children.” Are we wrong?
A If only we could really protect our children from the malevolence of society. Regardless of whether you discuss this at home, your kids indeed are being fed information about this atrocity. While we wish we could shield them from societal horror, avoiding conversations about this and other tragic events can lead to further confusion and anxiety. It can feel counterintuitive but discussions about appalling events can help restore a sense of safety rather than break it down. When broaching tough subjects keep these tips in mind:
Find out what they already know.
Explore their questions and provide age appropriate answers.
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Resist the urge to dismiss a question out of hand that you aren’t sure how to answer. Better to admit your ignorance and promise to get back to them when you have more information.
Reassure them of their own safety and underscore that these incidents are isolated.
Keeping an open dialogue with your children about current events, even those that are troubling, builds a sense of safety and trust and that is always a good thing.
Email questions toStephanie@StephanieBaffone.com or write to Ask Aunt Steph, PO Box 9972, Newark, DE 19714. Follow Stephanie Baffone on Facebook at Ask Aunt Steph, on Twitter at @SBaffone or visit www.StephanieBaffone.com.