Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My son's father (we were never married) and I just "resolved" a very difficult and contentious custody battle. My ex wanted more time with our son "Ben" (he is almost 9 years old), but because of issues at his house, my husband and I resisted allowing this. The legal motion was decided in my favor, but because the father did not "win" he started spreading vicious lies about my husband and me at the school our kids attend, the sports teams Ben plays on, and with the parents of the children he plays with. People I used to be on good terms with no longer talk to me. The worst part is that my son is now cut off from his friends. He has been very isolated this summer. He is at a loss as to why his friends aren't around. How can I show that none of what was said was true without stooping to my ex's level, so at the very least my son can have his friends back?
DEAR CONFUSED: To other parents, you should sincerely and accurately correct any specific disinformation you become aware of. Otherwise explain, "My ex and I were involved in a legal challenge. There were some bad feelings. I'm concerned about making sure that 'Ben' can continue to see his friends. Can we get the boys together?" If you are rebuffed, move on.
This summer, enroll him in day camp, if possible. Offer him group swimming lessons and plenty of time outdoors. Take him to the library and encourage him to read books that excite his imagination and interests. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan are perfect companions for a boy between friendships during a lonely summer. Speak with your librarian and check the Scholastic website at scholastic.com for age-appropriate recommendations.
At the beginning of the school year, make sure your son is engaged in after-school extras like music, drama, art and/or the sports he enjoys. Boy Scouts might also be a good fit for him. Make sure his teacher understands some of his current challenges. She may be able to help steer his social connections during school.
DEAR AMY: I am a baby boomer with one old college friend. We were very close once and are still friends on Facebook. I have not seen her for 10 years. On Facebook she sounds not exactly senile but a little crazy. She has poor health and I see online that one of the drugs she takes can cause delusions and symptoms of dementia. She was once a brilliant woman. But her posts are mostly political rants or fan worship for her favorite pop star. I am traveling to her city soon. Part of me wants to see her -- for old times' sake. Part of me thinks I will be depressed and horrified to see her now. I know from the death of my parents how hard it is to erase negative images of someone from my mind. I guess I am writing to ask for permission not to visit her. Or as one of her oldest friends -- should I visit her? I loved her once but I am not sure I would like her now.
Sad to See
DEAR SAD: You have my permission not to visit your old friend.
However, I honestly think you should visit her. Your own experience with your parents has taught you how fragile and fleeting life is, and how important relationships are.
If you have already gained all the insight you could ever hope to gain and if you have absolutely nothing to offer her, then skip the visit. But seeing her briefly might be good for both of you in surprising ways.
DEAR AMY: I was infuriated when I read the question from "Worried Great-Gran," whose husband bullied and teased his 5-year-old great-grandson. He had done this to other generations of children too. My grandfather was like this. I didn't like him and was terrified of him. She should protect her great-grandson from this bully.
DEAR BULLIED: This letter received a very large response from readers, many of whom worried about this little boy.