Dear Savvy Auntie,

My niece never lived near me growing up, but I was lucky enough for her having chosen to go to college near me. Up until now I have enjoyed being the 'cool' aunt.

Her freshman and sophomore years were great. She had a steady boyfriend back home and no issues. But she broke up with her boyfriend and has been making some really bad decisions ever since. She has been on Tinder, gone alone to meet a guy she doesn't know, had a guy to her room she barely knew, caught an STD, had to take the abortion pill, I could go on and on.

Her parents know none of this and I have kept her confidence. I have tried to tell her a couple of things and begged her to go on the pill but she is not listening and gets mad or upset when I try to talk to her about anything serious.

I am at a point of wanting to tell her parents all the things that have been going on, but I know if I do I will be lucky if she ever talks to me again, never mind confiding in me.

I am so concerned about her. Her self-esteem seems to be found in having to have a boyfriend at all times. She is very emotional and touchy all the time.

Do I just stay out of it and let her make her own mistakes or do I betray her trust and tell her parents?

Trusted Aunt

Dear Trusted Aunt,

I can understand your dilemma; it is special to have a college age niece confide in you. It sounds as if she is taking a self destructive path at this time and needs more than a loving aunt and confidant.

You need to have a talk with her and tell her about your concerns for her health and safety. Ask her what is driving her dangerous choices and what could help her to make constructive ones. My suspicion is there are drugs involved beyond social experimentation. If she is not ready nor able to be more stable, at least in attitude with specific promises for the future, offer her the decision of talking to her parents. Either she goes to them for help or both of you can have the first conversation which should include programs in her school or community.

I know how difficult it is to confront your niece, chance her anger at you, and the fall out from her parents. However, her actions are cries for help and must be heard before it takes an even stronger hold on her life.

Holiday times offer a great opportunity for positive changes....take advantage of the season.
I hope that whatever distance might result from this confrontation will pass quickly and she will be grateful to you and value your relationship even more.

I wish you the best,

Natalie Robinson Garfield
Author, The Sense Connection


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