Dear Savvy Auntie,

Auntie of five here, and I'm running into things I never thought I'd get into.

My sister and I were always super close (only 18 month age difference). I watch her kids (8, 3, and 2 months) at least 3 times a week. Today her 8-year-old told me that her step-dad hits her with belts and says she isn't allowed to tell me what happens at their house or she won't be allowed to come over anymore.

We were never hit as children, and I don't even know how to respond to this. It breaks my heart and I'm so worried about them, but I feel like there's nothing I can do. Advice?

Shocked Auntie

Dear Shocked Auntie,

I suggest you have a talk with your niece. Tell her that you were upset when she told you about being hit by her step-dad with a belt and haven't told her mom, yet. Explain that part of the job of being an aunt to her and her siblings is to protect and keep them safe,and to not let anyone hurt them.

Ask her to tell you more, like: When did he hit her?; Does anyone else know about it?; and where did he hit her? This is a very difficult conversation so go gently. If she stands by her original story or expands on it, explain that part of loving her is coziness, fun, and making sure she is O.K.

If after speaking with her you are not 100 percent sure that her original report was fabricated, speak to your sister. Depending on her reaction, you might have to speak with their pediatrician and the school social worker. Share your concern and assure your sister you are there for her.

Wishing you luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Homepage photo: Vishneveckiy


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