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Dear Harriette

Son’s girlfriend stays in bed during visits

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son lives in a different state, and I do not get to see him very often. Usually about once a year, he will bring his girlfriend of five years to our house and spend a week with us. Unfortunately, every time they come over, his girlfriend becomes sick and will have to stay in bed for the majority of the trip. She says that she is not used to the weather in our state. I don’t believe that she is really sick. I think that she is anxious about being around us and would prefer to stay in bed and be away from us. My son has warned me about her anxiety on multiple occasions. Is it wrong if I request that he not bring her this year? — Just Stay Home

DEAR JUST STAY HOME: Ease into the idea and see what you learn. Who knows? Your son’s girlfriend may not want to come to visit you, but he may be pressuring her to do so. Have a candid conversation with your son. Point out that in the past, his girlfriend has been ill and incapacitated. You know that she suffers from anxiety, as he has informed you. Ask him if there is anything you or the family can do to make her feel more comfortable in anticipation of their visit. Listen closely to get a sense of where his head is.

Next, ask him directly if he thinks she would rather not come. Assure him that it will not hurt your feelings if she decides to stay home. You miss him so much that you want to be able to spend some quality time with him. Perhaps if he comes alone, you can get that time with him, and she can avoid whatever discomfort plagues her each time she visits. Float that and see what he says.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is definitely going overboard with her new diet. Her sister (my aunt) lost a ton of weight earlier this year, and my mother is very competitive with her. I don’t think that she is taking a healthy route. Every time she speaks to my aunt, my aunt shares more unhealthy dieting tips with my mother and makes it worse. She doesn’t listen to me when I tell her she’s going about things all wrong. How can I intervene? — Crash Dieting

DEAR CRASH DIETING: Can you distract your mother from her sister’s obsessiveness by creating ways for the two of you to do healthy things together? Suggest that you look up recipes and cook low-calorie meals together. Schedule time to take a walk or go to the gym with each other. Encourage your mother to engage with you more and her sister less.

If you notice that your mother is taking steps that could jeopardize her health, recommend that she get a physical so that she can talk to her primary care physician about what she’s doing. She should be able to learn some healthy strategies from a professional.

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