DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother became a Christian about 20 years ago, after spending his teens and 20s running around in the streets. He is very overprotective of his daughter, who recently turned 16. Ever since she was a small child, he has forced her to go to church or some sort of church activity at least three times a week. Sleepovers are out of the question, friends are rarely allowed to come over and getting him to allow her to go anywhere with friends is like pulling teeth. Music and television are heavily restricted, and she has to sneak to go the movies. (She admitted this to me during a recent visit.) While how my brother chooses to raise his daughter is his prerogative, and sneaking to see a movie or two is innocent enough, I can't help but see this all ending badly. Our mother was strict, and she ended up driving both of us away from the church. I made a lot of mistakes I could have avoided if I had been properly advised about certain subjects and situations and was not held on to so tightly.
It's not just me, either. I have seen many other young women who grew up in very restrictive environments get out into the real world and make mistakes -- including some that are life-changing. I see my niece heading down the same path. How can I raise these concerns to my brother without overstepping my bounds? -- Breaking the Cycle, Milwaukee
DEAR BREAKING THE CYCLE: Ask your brother if the two of you can have a meeting. During your talk, remind him of your upbringing and of some of the bad choices that you -- and he -- made. Tell him that you are afraid his daughter is headed down the same path if he doesn't lighten up. Remind him that it is out of love and respect that you are bringing this to him.