DEAR NATALIE: I have reconnected with my old boyfriend from college after 20-plus years. During that time, we both married. He is divorced and has two kids that are in college now. I married and lost my husband to cancer six years ago. We had one daughter who is in high school. My college sweetheart was the “one that got away” in a lot of ways. I often wondered what happened to him and if he was happy. He found me on Facebook a few months ago and we have started to chat. He lives out of state but we have fallen right back into love it seems. My daughter is unhappy about this -- I don’t think she understands how lonely I’ve been since my husband died. I feel this new lease on life and I feel guilty because of that. Do you think it is possible to have a second chance at love with your first love? At the time, we were just kids and not ready but I think we really are in a different place now. What do you think? Is this just a pipe dream or do you think people can come back together if the timing works? -SECOND CHANCES
DEAR SECOND CHANCES: Isn’t love grand? Isn’t it seriously amazing how it can find you? You never know what is around the corner and that is what makes life so terrifying and amazing all at once. I get giddy when I receive letters like this because it reinforces the idea that love is for everyone. No matter the stage of life, no matter the circumstances, it can find you. And in this case, it seems like it has found you again. What a gift to reconnect with someone who knew you so intimately when you were this younger woman and who is wanting to get to know you in this present moment. I do think it is possible to have a second chance at love with someone you knew long ago. In fact, if you are coming back together now, it could either serve as a new chapter, or to close the first one. Either way, it is powerful and romantic. I am sorry that your daughter is having a hard time with this, but it may be worth sitting down and discussing it with her openly and honestly. Express to her that you feel lonely sometimes and that her dad wouldn’t want you to be alone forever. Share with her that no one can ever replace her father and that you aren’t trying to do that. You are just looking for someone to share experiences with and enjoy life together. She may need some words of reassurance. Remind her that as she moves along on her journey, you are always there for her, but that life is made up of chapters. This may be a new one for you and you hope she can keep an open mind and heart. This is your moment. Don’t worry it away.
DEAR NATALIE: My 10-year-old son is suffering from severe anxiety brought on by his fears around school and Covid-19. I tell my husband that he is too young to be watching the news with him, but they are glued to the computer most afternoons when they are together. My husband works from home and he is online all day long. My son is scared now to go to school and is afraid of getting sick and dying. He is seeing all these images of kids with Covid and when I try to explain to him that it is a rare thing for kids to get sick, he doesn’t believe me. What’s worse, some of his friends’ parents are anti-vaxxers and so he is afraid to hang out with his friends. He stays at home a lot and I think it’s making him depressed. He has no issue wearing a mask -- none of his friends do and they wear them too without question -- but I am really worrying about his mental health. Do you have any thoughts on how we can better support our kids right now? —FEELING HELPLESS
DEAR FEELING HELPLESS: I can’t even imagine how scary the world would seem right now to a 10-year-old. This is an age where they start to become very concerned about rules and societal order. To see the world unfolding the way that it is -- and to feel that adults are not protecting them -- would be anxiety-inducing. While I agree with you that he shouldn’t be watching so much news in order to help reduce his anxiety, we all know that kids are going to find out information one way or another. Instead, it might be worth sitting him down and have him write out his top five questions about the pandemic. Then, you can work on answering them together. This may help him to feel empowered and teach him how to research. If you sit with him, you can guide him along, using reputable and age-appropriate materials. If he is comfortable being outside with his friends while wearing masks, that may be another good compromise because children need to socialize. You are right. He may be depressed because he isn’t interacting with his friends and also because he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. There are also activities that you could do that help others -- like volunteering at a community garden or fostering a pet to help ground him. Speaking of grounding, you can do fun activities to reduce anxiety like cooking, stretching and taking nature walks. Finding ways to connect in tangible ways and keeping him off line as much as possible can help reduce his fears overall. Watching a funny show or movie before bed or reading a good book together may help, as well. Hugs are the best, too.
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