Question: My nieces are 16, 14 and 5 years of age and their mother—my sister—has recently started dating a new guy. Since she met him, she has payed less and less attention to the girls. Naturally, they feel neglected and the oldest one got into an argument with her mom that was so bad that she recently told me and her grandmother—who also lives with them—that she was considering moving out. Right now it seems like my sister’s first priority is her new boyfriend. I want to show my nieces that my husband and I are there for them, but how do I do that without showing them more negativity about their mom? Also my sister is very unfair with my mom, treating her like a maid and is very unappreciative. Should I mention something to her or leave it alone?
Here’s my personal philosophy: If you can’t say something supportive and helpful to someone, it’s best to say nothing at all.
Instead, realize that just being an example of what you’d like them to become will impact the situation for the better. In this case, it sounds as if all you really want for your family is to feel peaceful, loved and respected. That’s a very good intention, but getting into other people’s business is often the least effective way to accomplish such results.
Instead—since what you focus on, you’ll get more of—if you see your sister as “the insensitive culprit,” don’t be surprised if she exhibits behaviors that personify exactly that. Whereas, if you start by seeing everyone as doing the best they can at this time and respect them for that, you’ll approach the situation from an entirely different perspective—one that is typically more loving, less judgmental and one that can also have an impact for the better much more quickly. Obviously, what your sister really wants is love and if the only place she feels like she can get that at the moment is from her boyfriend, well then of course she’ll want to spend most of her time with him.
Here’s something powerful that you can share with your nieces. Maybe they don’t approve of their mother’s choices and decisions and yet feel that they are affected by them directly or indirectly. Instead of feeling victim to the situation, they can become victors over it by choosing to give what it is they most want to get… in this case it’s the love and caring attention of their mother. But truly, that brand of love—love that comes from someone else—is never, ever reliable, even from a mother, as you’ve so wonderfully illustrated with your question!
In this world filled with people living in separate bodies, driven by different likes, dislikes and intentions, we cannot expect for anyone else to truly make us live “happily ever after.” Situations and circumstances are always changing as are people evolving, growing and learning via the lives they live. We can’t expect anyone to put their life on hold for us—which is what so many mothers feel that they do for their children only to feel then that their children owe them something for that in return. They don’t! If you choose to sacrifice anything for another person, be prepared to realize that it is never loving. We can only receive perfect and undying love from ourselves! How do we know if we’ve actually succeeded in tapping that kind of love? We don’t need others to do anything for us in order for us to love them… we just love them because that’s what feels best to us! No matter how they are acting towards us, anyone else or themselves. Only that is true love.
Wouldn’t you rather your nieces master a lesson in true love early on and go on to be powerful, amazing self-reliant women in all of their relationships? Rather than make them victim to judgments about their mother, which will only serve to disempower them and lose sight of the love that they innately know and feel for her. Show them real, true undying love now, by asking them to join with you in accepting their mom just as she is and allowing for her to make mistakes as she must. And by the way, if your sister doesn’t feel judged, she’ll walk through situations that aren’t truly led by love—but fear—much more quickly.
For years, I worked with teens in the public school system, who came from “dysfunctional homes.” The members of these families were all craving love, yet no one really understood how to remove the obstacles to love’s presence. Instead they were all in denial, thinking they could live without sharing the very thing they all wanted to experience most. From my own personal experience, I knew that only one person in a family is needed to change everything. How? By deciding to love everyone just the way they are. That doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a situation you don’t like—that’s the power of love—once you accept people/things just as they are—they can change!