Andrea Bonior

Andrea Bonior
Special to The Washington Post

Q. My husband’s mother believes she is going to continue the tradition of taking our kids (5 and 7) for several weeks every summer, as my husband did as a kid with his grandparents. But they lived in the country with nature to explore. My mother-in-law lives in a suburb and loves shopping, restaurants and movies. I know she loves her grandkids and I have no problem with visits, but I don’t see this idyllic summer-with-grandparents thing working out. I don’t want to hurt her, but there are a lot of better options and camps for my kids to do during the summer. My husband is very passive about talking to her about this.
A: The important themes here are kindness, love and tradition — so prioritize those as you establish new expectations. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for her to adjust. Express gratitude for her offer and for her desire to be part of their lives, and talk with your husband about possibilities for a special tradition that stops short of becoming Summer of the Mall. Maybe it is just one week? Maybe they take a special vacation together at a different locale? Maybe you find some particular experiences near her that meet your needs: zoo, nature center, museum or pool memberships? Then, suggest. “We are excited to continue the special grandparent-grandkid bond that’s been so important in this family. Since schedules and circumstances are different this time around, here is what we had in mind for you and our kids. We know they would have a blast with you.”

Q. My 35-year-old son has recently put on quite a bit of weight, and my husband and I are at odds about whether we should bring it up. He feels strongly that, because obesity and heart issues run in his family, we need to alert our son to the potential seriousness of this and help him get back on track. I feel like of course our son knows this, and it will only make him more ashamed and upset. He is a grown man and our job is just to love him.
A: I lean much more toward your side. Assuming he is not totally in the dark about his specific genetic risks, I agree it is doubtful there is some special insight about weight or health that he doesn’t already know. That said, I don’t think total silence is necessary either. Significant weight gain could have not just troubling effects, but troubling causes, too. Might he be depressed? Have a hormonal imbalance? Be sleeping poorly? There is a sweet spot between the semi-critical nature of “You have put on weight and we are concerned” and the vague dancing-around of “Is everything OK?” I won’t put those words in your mouth (for once!), but they will come to you when you establish a loving, listening conversation about how things are truly going in his life. Chances are, there’s something behind the weight gain. Be empathetic and loving as you try to figure out what it is.

Dr. Andrea Bonior is a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist.

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