Dear Savvy Auntie,

My sister is aunt to my two teenage sons and my brother's two teenage daughters. She has alienated them by trying to act like a parent one too many times. I am very upset by this because she and I are very close and I don't know how to tell her why they feel the way they do without upsetting her. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks, in advance, for your input.

Joy T

Dear Joy T,

Since teenagers by definition are engaged in the developmental challenge of moving away emotionally from their parents, perhaps your sister could understand their annoyance with her through this lens. Of course, it is possible that the teens are pulling away from their aunt instead of their parents. In any case, a heart to heart talk without criticism or blame is in order. You can begin the conversation by telling her how important your close relationship is to you and how much you would like your and brother’s children to have the same with her. Then offer practical suggestions of activities she could invite the kids to do with her. Warn her that they may reject her ideas, as that is typical for this stage.

Since all teenagers want respect, perhaps she could ask their advice or assistance in an aspect of her life.

Keep in mind that adolescence is a stage and everyone, including them, hope it passes quickly.

Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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