DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a 6-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece who live far away from me. This makes it difficult to establish that traditional relationship that aunts have with their siblings' children.
I try my best to Skype them at least once a month and have gone to visit them a few times since they were born. However, I feel a disconnect with the kids. The older they get, the more unwilling and uncomfortable they are to talk and communicate with me. I am having trouble understanding where this disconnect is coming from, when I try my best to communicate with them often. I know that they are only kids, but it hurts my feelings. How should I bring this situation to my brother and his wife without sounding overly sensitive? -- Distant Auntie
DEAR DISTANT AUNTIE: You should talk to your brother and his wife and let them know how important it is to you that you build a meaningful bond with their children. Ask for their support in making that happen. If they create anticipation around your monthly calls, this may inspire their children to get excited. They are still very young, so their attention spans are short. Think about how you want to engage them when you get them on Skype. Can you share a short story about an experience they might be interested in? It could be about pets, nature or some other topic of mutual interest.
If you are able, talk to their parents about inviting them to spend a week or weekend with you once a year. Establishing a relationship with them on your turf may help to foster a special bond with them. Finally, be patient. They are young. If you remain persistent, something will blossom.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who always tells me a negative or mean comment that an acquaintance has said about me. This friend explains that honesty is key, which is the reason they relay certain comments back to me. However, I believe that there is a time and place for everything, and hearing negativity come back to me from a person I care about does not feel good. Sometimes I question if this is a true friend and wonder if he sticks up for me when comments are being said. How should I handle this? -- Always Negative
DEAR ALWAYS NEGATIVE: It is time for a cease-and-desist conversation with your friend. Tell him that while you understand his position about always being honest, you do not appreciate his constant relaying of negative commentary about you. Ask him directly if he ever defends you when people speak badly about you to him. Listen carefully for the answer.
Admit that you are not perfect, as no one is. Add that you are generally open for constructive criticism, but you are beginning to wonder about his motives. He is the one who consistently brings you critical commentary from a range of people. Ask him what his motives are. Be frank with him. Tell him that the way he is acting doesn’t make you feel like he’s being much of a friend.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)