DEAR ABBY: My 17-year-old son, "George," has a learning disability. I have to fight the school system to keep teachers from destroying his self-esteem. However, an even bigger problem is that my mother and my sister's boyfriend, "Tony," say cruel things to George.
Mother gives George a hard time because he won't try to read. I constantly tell her that he struggles hard to read, but doesn't comprehend what he's reading -- and it may never get better. Tony ridicules my son because he's a little overweight. How can I give George healthy self-esteem if others tear it down?
I also have a problem with the way Mother and Tony treat my 13-year-old daughter, "Allison." Allison is a tomboy who doesn't like to wear dresses. She prefers baggy clothes. She is a good kid. She's not into drugs, alcohol or sex. Mother berates her for not looking "like a lady," and Tony calls her a lesbian.
I hate to keep my children from seeing my mother or my sister, but it has reached the point where neither George nor Allison wants anything to do with them. How should I handle these so-called "loved ones" without starting a major war? -- MOM OF WONDERFUL CHILDREN IN INDIANA
DEAR MOM: As a parent, it is your job to protect your children and to act as their advocate. If you haven't done so, tell your mother and your sister's boyfriend that their name-calling is destructive and you want it stopped immediately. If they refuse, distance yourself and the children from their painful and abusive influence. Remember, your first obligation is to your children -- not your mother, and certainly not Tony.