Pinned down with a duty friendship

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dear Cindy,

I have a close friend who’s in the process of getting her marriage annulled. She expects me to baby sit her kids (I have two of my own), run her errands, and listen to all her woes.

I feel as though I’m being pinned down with a duty friendship, trapped by a combination of politeness and pity into spending time with someone who takes all my energy and gives me only grief in return.


And I think friends like this can be your worst enemy. I’m exhausted. How can I get my life back?


Dear Miley,

Although your friend does need help during this tough transition, she can’t expect you to solve all her problems. If you try, you’ll end up needing help yourself, and she’ll become more dependent upon you, rather than less.

With people who constantly burden you with their problems, or expect you to drop everything for them, tell yourself, “This is not my responsibility.” You must limit what you can take responsibility for. All you can do is be firm and suggest she get professional help. You’re not doing them any favors by complying with her demands. This kind of behavior is really a form of emotional blackmail.

But if the duty friend is someone you don’t see very often, sometimes you just have to be kind. You can say to yourself, “This is one for altruism.” It’s nice, though, to carry out “random acts of kindness” now and again. The interesting thing about duty friends is we can actually derive a kind of pleasure in looking after them. We must do, otherwise, it would be easier to get rid of them.

Miley, you can encourage your friend to become more independent by making a standing date perhaps two to three times a week. During this time you can offer advice or just companionship, but make it clear that you need to stick to the schedule you’ve worked out. If she expects more or asks you to run errands, just say that because of your obligations, it’s essential that you carefully allocate time.

As for her kids, you may have to say that you can care for them only in an emergency. That may sound harsh, but if she’s a friend worth having, she won’t object to being reminded that you, too, have a life.

God bless,

How to choose a path in life

Dear Dr. Dana,

My daughter is in Grade 1, but still she’s so shy. Even though she knows almost all her classmates, she’s hesitant to enter her classroom. And to think I enrolled her to the same school that she attended her pre-school.

I’m worried that she’ll remain like this when she gets older. I’m hoping that she’ll get over her timidity and be an out-going person. How do I go about encouraging her to have friends that she’ll be comfortable with?


Dear Anne,

Having a shy child can be worrisome, even heart-wrenching, to a parent who wants her child to fit in. But how to help? First recognize how common a temperament it is.

Being shy is a combination of extreme self-consciousness, wariness of anything strange or new, and preoccupation with what others are thinking about you. Shyness needn’t be stamped out to help your child handle her fears. You don’t have to change who your child is, instead, you could teach them ways to control their shyness so it doesn’t run their lives.

Perhaps a bashful child stirs up a mother’s unhappy memories of her own shyness. Or a father worries “that his kid won’t be successful if he doesn’t have people skills.” As a result, parents may become impatient with a child social fears or prod too much, sending a harmful message that they think their youngster is inadequate.

Some bashful children are born with an acute sensitivity to stimulation; noise, color, odors, touch, so new faces or changes in the daily routine can really throw them. Slowly expand the comfort zone. It never helps to get impatient and say things like, “Oh, don’t be silly. Go play with those kids. They won’t bite!” That would make your child doubt her own reaction. “I’m scared, but Mom says I’m being silly,” and feel even more insecure. Moreover such words have a big impact later on.

An adolescent who is uncertain of his feeling is especially vulnerable to peer pressure. Be sure to appreciate their breakthroughs. Gushing flattery doesn’t work. Children can sense insincerity, but a word of genuine praise can help cancel out the criticisms shy kids hear that makes them so unhappy. Also sometimes parents need to relax and leave them alone. Shy kids may actually be happy standing on the sidelines.

Lastly, we get our money from an ATM, we order lunch at a drive-through window, we sit in front of our computer all day, and we eat dinner with a blaring TV for company. Is it any wonder our children are unsure how to interact with other humans? It’s time to unplug. When you invite friends over for dinner, ask your daughter to meet the visitors at the door or let her help serve dinner. By helping children learn how to socialize, parents show them the world is filled with potential friends.

Very truly yours,
Dr. Dana R. Sesante

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 06, 2014.


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