Dear Amy: My brother and his wife are divorcing. My brother has been abusive and an alcoholic throughout the marriage. I have always sided with my sister-in-law and have cared for my niece and nephew over the years.

Now my brother is committed to rehab and doing very well. I’m a support system to him because he is putting in the work to stay sober. However, my sister-in-law will not speak to me, and my niece and nephew rarely answer my texts. I’m being prevented from seeing them, and I get the feeling that my sister-in-law is alienating them from us. My mom also is being blocked.

What can I do? I love these children, and I think she has turned them against our side of the family.


Amy says: You describe your brother as an abusive alcoholic. You need to understand that, even in sobriety, he may pose a threat to his estranged wife and children. Or they perceive it that way.

Do not press too hard to see these children. They may believe that you will try to act as a go-between with their father, and if they don’t want to see him, they won’t want to see you. If your brother and his ex are going through the legal process of divorcing, she may be trying to build a case against him. Don’t interfere, but continue to support your brother’s efforts to recover. Ultimately, this will be best for the children, and if you have to tolerate some distance until things settle down and legal matters are decided, you should be patient.

Kids giving her cold shoulder

Dear Amy: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for five years. His wife died more than 10 years ago. His children, a daughter, 18, and a son, 22, don’t like me. They never want to spend any time with “us,” as a couple. They never acknowledge me, unless their father tells them to. When I come into the living room, they go to their rooms. They acknowledge others. When his daughter graduated from high school, I was asked not to attend.

Recently, they had family visit, including members of their mother’s family. The guests were so kind! But during the week, the kids didn’t acknowledge me. I’m at a loss. I love this man and would like to grow old with him, but I don’t see how if his children don’t accept me.


Amy says: Your guy is at the heart of this problem — and the solution. The way to build relationships is to spend time together. Including you in his daughter’s graduation celebration should not have been left up to her. His tolerance of his kids’ rudeness is why it continues. If you are in his life, then you should be in their lives. He will have to be openhearted and kind toward their partners, and they must be toward you. He needs to deal with whatever lingering loss they feel regarding their mother’s death, and then lead the way by establishing expectations about behavior.


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