DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-husband’s new wife completely crossed the line with me the other day. She took my daughter to get her hair “trimmed” and brought her back with about 4 inches of her real, natural hair cut off. My daughter insists that she wanted her hair short, but as you can imagine, I was completely blindsided. I’ve had no issues with my ex-husband’s wife up until this point. My daughter likes her, and she seems to be a nice woman. However, now I am completely furious that she thought she had the right to make such a bold decision on my daughter’s behalf. My daughter is 6 years old and isn’t allowed to make decisions like that without asking me. My ex-husband knows this. What should I do? -- Haircut
DEAR HAIRCUT: Go directly to your husband’s new wife. Ask to speak to her, and express your concerns. Do your best to stay calm and clear. You want to maintain your power in this situation, and emotion will drain you of that.
Tell her how disappointed and upset you are that she had your daughter’s hair cut without your permission. Point out that a haircut is a big deal in your eyes, and your ex knows that and knows that you would not appreciate this violation of your jurisdiction. Acknowledge that for the most part, you two have a positive rapport, and you know that your daughter and she get along. You would like for that to continue. For that to happen, she must honor your authority and check in with you before even mentioning major changes to your child.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My niece posts the most inappropriate pictures on social media. She is only 17 and posts revealing pictures of herself on Instagram, Twitter, etc. It attracts the WRONG type of attention. The main problem is that her own parents don’t see an issue with it! I’ve asked her dad (my brother) several times if he’s privy to the things she posts, and he said he doesn’t think it’s his business. I can respect giving her the right to make her own decisions, but this is dangerous. She could attract pedophiles. Her mother and I do not have the type of relationship where I would feel comfortable mentioning it to her, but I feel that something must be done. I want the best for my niece, and I fear she doesn’t have anyone to tell her right from wrong. Should I just back off? Or should I say something to her myself and take matters into my own hands? -- Aunty Problems
DEAR AUNTY PROBLEMS: Your niece is at a vulnerable age that has only been exacerbated by the confines of COVID-19. Social media has become even more important as an outlet for teens. And teenagers at her age are often pushing the envelope in terms of exploring their identity and flirting with the unknown.
You are right to be concerned. The best thing you can do is to develop a closer relationship with your niece so that she trusts you and will listen -- at least sometimes. Do not chastise her. That will get you blocked from her social media accounts. Instead, talk to her about her life, her choices and how she spends her time. If you see something egregious, you might ask her about it -- but without judgment. Get her to talk about her posts and how people have responded. Then you can let her know that you are worried that she may be putting herself in a vulnerable position -- something she should think about.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)