Dear Amy: I have a wonderful 11-year-old daughter. "Tally" is the only child of both her father and me. We were in our early 20s when she was born. We've raised her separately, but have maintained a positive relationship.
Tally is a typical only child. We lived with my family, which included my teenage sister and brother, for most of her early childhood.
I am now happily married to a guy that loves and adores her (and doesn't want any other children).
I'm concerned that my daughter doesn't seem to have much empathy or awareness about how to deal with sibling relationships, or with her friends. She seems to encourage arguments.
I feel like she causes drama between kids. She recently invited one of our neighbors to come over, which upset the child's younger sibling and resulted in an awkward situation between adults.
She understands that her words are hurtful, and I can tell she feels bad, but she also continues the behavior.
I don't want her to be the kid that isn't kind or doesn't understand sibling bonds. How can I help her be more inclusive?
Amy says: Your daughter's behavior seems in the normal range for young adolescents. This stage of life is marked by often confusing changes.
My instinct is that your daughter may be imitating some of the teen behavior that she might have witnessed growing up. The sibling tampering she is engaging in might be her way of expressing her anger that she doesn't have a "real" sibling of her own.
You should offer her choices, and then calmly enforce whatever limits you impose. But must she always include her friend's younger sibling in her play? She should have some autonomy to form her own friendships.
If you witness her being unkind, then ask her to reflect on her behavior, and impose a proportional consequence. And then gently love her through it, modeling kindness and respect.
Make sure your daughter has plenty of opportunities to feel a sense of belonging, perhaps through scouting, chorus, band or a drama club (many a drama queen has found a positive outlet on stage).
Expose her to stories featuring positive values.
Megan Shull has written a wonderful novel perfect for a girl who is searching for her place in the family. "Bounce" (Katherine Tegen Books, 2016) is the story of a girl who goes on a healing journey as she lives the same day over and over again, each day "bouncing" into different families. Read it together.
Dear Amy: I am getting a divorce from my wife of over 20 years. I am at peace with it and feel absolutely no stress concerning the divorce.
Am I repressing something that may do me harm in the long run? If so, what should I be doing about it?
Amy says: I have seen people positively skip out of marriage. And for all I know, they're still skipping. (My own divorce knocked me flat.)
What you might be feeling is the relief that comes from the freedom from marital strife. Perhaps you've been headed for divorce for a long time — and one (or both) of you finally did something about it.
I don't know if you're repressing something. I do know that counseling could help you to take the experiences you've had and turn them into insight. You might see patterns in your behavior that would help you to avoid another marriage mistake.
It's always OK to feel at peace and to feel good, as long as you feeling good doesn't harm someone else.
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