DEAR HARRIETTE: Last year, my husband and I traveled across the country to visit our son and his family. Unfortunately, the visit was not a friendly one. My daughter-in-law made herself unavailable. She wasn’t rude, but she made sure she was never at home when we were there. She didn’t join us for dinners or activities. My son always made excuses.
Finally, my son told me that I had hurt her feelings. He explained that the first night we were there, I made a comment about how much weight I had gained. My daughter-in-law got mad because she assumed that I was actually talking about her. Honestly, I wasn't -- I have always had a weight problem, so I would never comment on someone else’s weight.
We have been invited to visit again and have bought the plane tickets. I am dreading it. What if I say something else that upsets her? I tend to go out of my way to greet her when speaking with my son, but visiting for a whole week is a long time to be neglected. She always seems to be on non-speaking terms with someone in her life -- family or neighbors. She is sensitive. How should I handle this? -- Lost Communication, Los Angeles
DEAR LOST COMMUNICATION: You may want to take on the role of elder in this situation and address the elephant in the room. When you arrive, greet your daughter-in-law warmly, and tell her how happy you are to see them again. Tell her and your son that you are looking forward to spending quality time together. In advance, tell her that you know you got off to a rocky start last year and that what you want most is for everyone to enjoy one another's company and for all to assume the positive.
From there, just be yourself. If tender moments occur, address them immediately. If you detect her creating distance between you, speak up and ask her if there is anything you can do to help make things easier.