My lovely, caring husband is having a terrible time with his family. Out of what I can only assume is jealousy, spite and shallowness they have been acting seriously mean and nasty. My three sons, 9-14, are confused and hurt as well and wondering why they don’t see these relatives anymore – relatives they were once very close too. What should I tell them?

Tell them that grown-ups behave badly and just because someone is a family member doesn’t mean they are perfect.  I know that sounds harsh but AKA is positive you can make it sound nicer when you say it.

An AKA rule of thumb is ‘talk to your kids about everything.’ Yes, some conversations should come later than others and age appropriateness is très importante, but believe me, children over the age of 6 or 7 are already becoming aware that there are some grownups in the world who do not behave the way the children are being taught to behave. This is confusing for kids. We tell them to act one way and as they get older they see – clearly – that not everyone is following these rules. What to do?  Talk to them, talk to them, talk to them. Call a spade a spade. Point out the bad behavior – not in front of the person! for the love of god have some common sense! – and acknowledge what is going on. If your kids haven’t seen these relatives over the holidays and you usually do see them, they are already wondering what is up and if they did something wrong. They don’t need gory details. They just need facts. Use it as an exercise in vocabulary building!

Grandma is acting petty.

Grandpa is being ornery.

Aunt Sarah is rapacious.

Uncle Rick is an asshole.

I’ll leave it up to you to choose your descriptors but as with divorces, children need to know that grown up behavior has nothing to do with them and that you too are disgusted with the grown-ups behavior and that it is best for everyone to concentrate on the wonderful people in their lives who are NOT more trouble than they are worth. See? Talking to your kids about grown-ups – even family members – behaving badly is a win-win. Your kids learn how to talk to you and they learn that life is short and worrying about jack-asses is not worth their time.  Make sure your husband and you remember that too!