Dear Savvy Auntie,

Recently my sister and her husband have started going through a nasty divorce. She has one son (8) who is not from the marriage and the other (2) who is.

Five days ago, during one of the agreed visitations, (for clarification, the visitations were through the two lawyers and not through the court system yet) the father of the two year old took him and is now holding him from my sister. On top of all that, they called Department of Children and Families and told them that the two y.o. had bruises and severe diaper rash. The agent then showed up at the oldest child's school and questioned him about his home situation and the arguments between his mother and her husband. He's pretty upset about all of it.

My question for you is: What can I do to make all of this a little easier on him? I don't want him to have problems with anything. He's highly ADHD and whenever he's stressed or upset he gets into trouble at school.

My Stressed Nephew

Dear My Stressed Nephew,

What an upsetting situation and so unfair to involve a child, especially one who already has challenges to face in school!

What you can do when there is “below the belt” behavior is to remain above the legal and institutional aspects. You can increase your connection to your nephew. By spending calm, quiet, caring time with him for an hour or so you can encourage his positive development and ease his stress.

Try very hard not to ask him too many questions about his situation or how he feels; just be there with him. In addition, you can send him daily phone, email, snail mail. There are so many ways to communicate nowadays, see which one he responds best to.

Your sister sounds as if she needs a great deal of support. Does she trust her attorney? Can she financially afford the costs of a court battle? Is it possible for you to help her to see where she may be contributing (even 1%) to the situation?

I am sure if you sit down and make a list you will find many more ways to ease her burden.

I wish you and your family the best of luck.
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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