Dear Prudence

When She Was Bad

Helping a grandchild with behavioral problems.

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Dear Prudie,
I know most grandparents dote on their grandchildren and think they are perfect. Well, I have several of them and I have one granddaughter who appears to be seriously disturbed. I am a schoolteacher, so I am aware of what is normal for 5-year-olds and what is not, and her behavior is very far down on the Not scale. All of the grandparents are in agreement on this. My daughter appears to agree, but her husband is so overbearing and in denial that nothing much has been done to help this little girl before she started kindergarten this month. She is hyperactive and seems to have a behavior disorder as well. I have seen her slap her father in the face and throw food off the table if she didn’t like it. They say they have her going to a counselor, but we don’t know what sort of counselor and what qualifications this person has. Her preschool tried to tell her parents that there were problems, but they just got angry with the school. Her tantrums and acting out make me afraid that she is not going to be successful in “real” school. Is there anything we, as grandparents, can do to help our granddaughter get the right treatment before it is too late?

—Sad Grandma

Dear Sad,
The good news is that all the grandparents, as well as the child’s mother, see that something is wrong and that professional help is called for. Perhaps the opening salvo should be along the lines of an intervention. Have a family meeting and essentially tell the dad you all wish the child only the best, you feel he is making excuses for her behavior, and you’re all in agreement that professional help is necessary. Ask for the credentials of the counselor they are currently seeing and what the prognosis is. If the father is resistant, remind him of the preschool warning, and to get ready for the same from the new kindergarten. Try to convey that the mother and four grandparents could not have all come to the same conclusion without some basis in fact, and that emotional disturbance is nothing to be ashamed of. Good luck with a difficult situation.

—Prudie, hopefully

Dear Prudence,
I’m caught in an unfortunate situation. I have a dear friend who is married to a man both my husband and I loathe. And then to top it all off they have reproduced! I dislike children to begin with, so even the most adorable child fails to enchant me, but this has to be one of the ugliest babies I have ever seen. Now my dear friend, who lives several states away, not content with sending me 10 pictures a day with lengthy updates on the child, has decided to invite herself, the child, the husband, and for all I know their dogs out to visit my husband and me so we can see the baby! I have two dogs and two cats who have never been exposed to children, and a nonchildproof home. How do I politely decline the privilege of entertaining them, especially as I didn’t issue the invitation in the first place? Help!

—K. H.

Dear K,
Since you didn’t issue the invitation, write your friend back saying you’d love a visit with her, but regrettably you are not equipped for guests. Tell her of all the sights to see in your town (Prudie hopes there are some) and suggest some places to stay with reasonable rates. Do insist that she save a long lunch date for just you girls, as your husband is in the midst of a big project. If they do come and you are introduced to the baby, just say something like, “Boy, that is some baby!” That way you will not feel like a phony. With any luck, they won’t come.

—Prudie, pragmatically

I have a problem with my family and my ex-husband. My ex and I have been divorced for two years after being married for 10. It was a messy divorce and I was very glad to see him go. We had no children. When he left, he told me that he never wanted to see me or hear from me again. I’m fine with that … but he still stays in contact with my family. I keep getting updates about him and his life from them and I know they’re telling him about me. I really don’t want to hear how he’s doing and how wonderful his life is without me. I know he blames me for the marriage ending and the bad divorce. I know he thinks I’m a horrible person. And I’ve moved on with my life. I don’t want these little updates about him. How do I get my privacy back? How can I make them stop telling me about him and (even better) stop talking to him? Thanks.

—Ex in the Midwest

Dear Ex,
One part of your question is easy, the other is impossible. The good news first: Tell your family you do not wish to hear any updates because what’s-his-name is long gone and part of your past—where you are happy to leave him. Should they “forget,” when a story starts, simply remind whomever it is that you have no interest. As for getting them to stop talking to him, forget all about that one. For whatever reason, your family likes being in touch with this man, so ignore it and just control the conversation.

—Prudie, practically

Dear Prudie,
I am nursing a possible midlife crisis. I am an American citizen who has lived seven years in Japan, a country I started studying during childhood. I am proficient enough that some of the work I do is in translation. My problem is this: As a 27-year-old male, I am starting to get anxious about where I will be in my 30s, as I’m ready to make long-term goals and start thinking about owning a house and finding a life partner. I have considered moving back to New York City since I already have a network there. The down side is that I love the city but the place no longer intrigues me, and I dislike American attitudes about guns and obesity. Option 2 is to stay in Tokyo, where I am useful but somewhat bored. Another option would be to move to the U.K. I have many British friends though I’ve never been there, but I feel excited about the U.K. like I used to feel about New York and Japan before I went there. Financially it would be tough, and U.S. citizens have a tougher time moving there than EU citizens. Added to the mix is that I am saddled with a huge amount of university debt, but my language skills ensure that I am employable in any major city in the world. Help! I’m afraid to wake up at 35 and have a major crisis! P.S. I like rainy weather, and I can cook for myself (solving the major American complaints about Britain).

—Globe Trotter

Dear Globe,
Prudie has never been asked to choose someone’s domicile before, and today is not the day she starts. It does sound, however, as though familiarity in your case breeds contempt, at least as far as cities are concerned. Perhaps give your top two choices a trial period. As for the U.K., no one is complaining about the food anymore. Alas, the weather is a little dodgy for people used to sun, but hey, anyone liking rain would feel right at home. Maybe draw straws? Good luck.

—Prudie, geographically