DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother and I have never had a good relationship. He is always criticizing my decisions and trying to control what I do. He is moving back in with my family after graduation from college, and I am nervous about the tension this will cause in my house, especially because he is still searching for a job and has the stress of now being in the real world after finishing school. I am fearful that this added stress will cause him to be even more critical of my life. How should I deal with the return of my brother's controlling presence? I will be a senior in high school next year, so I don't leave for another year. -- Dreading His Return, Chicago
DEAR DREADING HIS RETURN: Now is the time for you to stand up for yourself. While your brother has been controlling in the past, you have the ability to reject his behavior now. First of all, remember that he may be in a troubled state of mind because he is in flux. Choose to be kind to him, but also establish boundaries. If he lashes out at you by making disparaging comments, leave the room. Physically take yourself out of his space so that you don't have to hear him. Tell him that your room is your sanctuary, and he is not welcome to come in without your permission. Do your best to ignore him and to focus instead on your studies, your plans for college and your life. Do not say mean things about him. You can, however, tell him that you have chosen not to criticize him and his life, even though it could be easy to do. Ask him to be kind to you, too.
If you find that his behavior is getting worse or that you cannot handle it by yourself, enlist your parents' support. Ask them to help you by speaking to your brother about being respectful to you.