DEAR AMY: My 28-year-old college-educated child has a 3-year-old child who has no relationship to his other biological parent. My child is currently in a live-in relationship with another person. My spouse and I see our grandchild often, both willingly and because we’re needed to help with child care during some work hours. The significant other spends a fair amount of time alone with my grandchild. I’ve seen and heard horror stories of abusive boyfriends/girlfriends and the harm they can commit not only to their significant others but to the children involved in those relationships. I ask my grandchild from time to time if “so and so” is nice to them. Every time the answer is basically this: NO, they are not. NO, they spank me. No, I get spanked on my butt and my cheek. I have passed this information on to my child and the response is usually the same: denial and disbelief. My feeling is this: A 3-year-old cannot LIE about something like that. What do I do?
DEAR WORRIED: The correct response to this report is never to assume that the child is lying, but to investigate and discern what is behind these statements.
Everything your grandchild says should be taken seriously; if he reports being hit, you must follow up. The parent should not accuse him of lying, but, instead, every adult should try to find out why he is reporting this. Reflexively accusing them of lying calls this parent’s instincts into serious question.
There is no question that this child is in the “high risk” category: no contact with one biological parent, and the other parent has moved another unrelated adult into the home.
The statistics concerning the risk to children when a parent cohabits with a nonrelative are shocking. According to an oft-quoted 2005 study published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics: “Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents.”
Over the course of the eight-year study, in households with unrelated adults, most perpetrators (83.9 percent) were the unrelated adult household member; 6.5 percent of perpetrators were the biological parent of the child.
Even if this child is not in physical danger, his statements indicate distress.
You and your spouse should do everything possible to get to know the domestic partner. Take on more child care, if possible. Urge the child’s parent to take this very seriously. And if the parent doesn’t, you should report this to Child Protective Services.
Also, enroll the child in a quality nursery school or Head Start program. Early childhood education will have a profound impact. Experienced teachers can mark his progress, and are also mandated reporters.
DEAR AMY: I want to point out that as a male I do my best to respect everyone. I have on occasion been grabbed in an inappropriate manner or had a woman attempt to take advantage of me. I find it distasteful in the extreme to be treated this way. When I have brought it up, I have been belittled, shamed and actually accused of doing it to them first. Do you have any advice for a guy in such a situation?
DEAR UNSURE: No person should have to tolerate being grabbed, and then shamed for objecting. I’m very sorry you’ve had this experience. My advice for you would be the same I would give to a woman. Use your voice, stay strong and organize in solidarity for the rights of others who have been abused, but not believed.
DEAR AMY: “Photo Finished” described finding a photo from the ’30s that showed some people in blackface. Excuse me, but this was considered acceptable at the time. And because you found this so offensive, I’m wondering what you think of Al Jolson?
DEAR UPSET: I am truly shocked by the number of readers who have responded to this question by asking me what I think of Al Jolson.
First of all, I am not 110 years old, but because I’m a movie buff, I am familiar with the strange career of Al Jolson.
I contend that blackface was always offensive, but the people most affected lacked the power to say so.
When I first saw “The Jazz Singer” — as a child in the ’60s — my mother explained blackface as “something that some people used to think was OK, but it really never was.”
That’s what I think of Al Jolson.