Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have a bright, social and engaging 5-year-old daughter. Our problem has to do with how some family members and close friends interact with her. Examples include people visiting our home and telling her that they are going to take her baby brother home with them, which resulted in my daughter screaming in protest while the other person had a hearty laugh. Then there was the time an adult relative came to her birthday party and repeatedly said, "It's my party and I'm going to cut the cake!" while my daughter progressively got more confused and agitated. This went on until she was in tears and the adult started laughing. We see no meaning in such interactions. We have tried to steer the conversation elsewhere, but we want to get the message across politely, but clearly, that we do not appreciate people agitating our child. My daughter says that she hates being teased by adults and we have asked her to tell people that, but in that moment, she can't. What can we do to send the message politely that we would like our child to be treated with respect and not teased for fun?

Agitated Mom

DEAR AGITATED: Some adults are able to engage children appropriately by "kidding." Five-year-olds usually catch on pretty quickly when an adult says, "Hey, wait a minute -- that's MY birthday cake!" if the adult telegraphs that this is a kidding game. The adult conveys this with a smile and body language that signals to the child his intentions.

Teasing a child until she is obviously distressed is just bullying. Laughing at a child you have made cry is disgusting.

I'm not sure why you are so worried about being polite. While this is happening, you should place your hand on your child's arm and say, "Uncle Buck is teasing you, honey." If you don't catch it in time, after you comfort your child you should ask the adult, "Please don't tease her. You are the only person who enjoys it."

DEAR AMY: One of my oldest and closest friends lost her husband a year ago to an aggressive cancer. Throughout his illness I reached out to her. I offered to give her breaks from caregiving so that she could get out of the house. I also offered to run errands, or just talk. Increasingly I felt pushed away -- she criticized things I said or how I said them, said some other hurtful things, took offense at things I did but never responded to apologies, declined invitations and never suggested alternatives -- to the point where I think she doesn't want my friendship anymore. I wonder if I did something to hurt her that I don't even know about. My husband tells me she is dealing with her own issues and this mess wasn't my doing. Is there something I could or should have done differently? How can I salvage a dear friendship at this point, or should I accept that it is over?

Sad and Bewildered

DEAR SAD: People respond along a very wide spectrum to illness, death and grief. Your friend has been through the most extreme stress you can possibly imagine. Your generous offers might have seemed intrusive (or useless) to her. Your repeated efforts to apologize and restart your friendship might seem impossible to someone whose life has fallen apart and who might be (understandably) depressed.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

I suggest you give her a little more space; shoot her a text or email about something relatable: "The garden mart has gorgeous annuals right now. Can I pick you up a flat of petunias?" Don't crowd her. Don't give up on her. Act like your old self without expecting her to respond like her old self.

DEAR AMY: "Distraught Mom" is troubled that her daughter-in-law is cheating on her son and doesn't know whether to tell him. When faced with a similar situation I managed to be somewhere when "the couple" was there. I stopped at their table, said hello and had a brief nonconfrontational conversation. (It wasn't easy.) This put the ball in their court. The relationship ended shortly after that. They knew I knew.

Affair Buster

DEAR BUSTER: Stealthy!