Q&A with Dr. Dorothy: Your tough questions answered
Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist specializing in Cognitive Therapy.
I have a great new friend and I’ve been over to her place a few times now. She’s awesome, but her parents are another thing. They are openly racist. They make awful comments when they’re watching TV and I don’t know how to react. What should I do? I like hanging out there (they have an amazing pool!), but I don’t want to seem rude if I speak up.
It is quite possible that your friend may feel a bit uncomfortable with her parents’ comments as well. By talking with your friend, you may develop a better understanding of how her parents came to have their particular beliefs about others, and about the world in which they live. Their life experiences, cultural background, ethnicity, religious views, and the environment in which they grew up, have undoubtedly contributed to and, in many ways, shaped how they view others—rightly or wrongly. Having a better understanding of these contributing factors often helps us to accept others’ differing beliefs—especially when they may be biased or critical. This knowledge may not make you any more comfortable when watching television in your friend’s home, but it may certainly help you to develop empathy.
My sister is one-and-a-half years older than I am and we’ve always been close. Lately she’s been secretive and doesn’t seem to want me around. I’m really hurt and sad. Should I be?
Our feelings are largely based on what we think about. If you are thinking about the changes in your sister’s behaviour towards you and your thoughts are, “Maybe she doesn’t want me around,” or “She doesn’t like hanging out with me anymore,” it would make sense that you feel sad and hurt. However, if you think about your sister’s change in behaviour from the perspective that perhaps she is struggling with a problem or issue and doesn’t feel like talking about it at this time, then you might be less inclined to feel hurt, and instead feel a sense of empathy or concern.
If the two of you have always been close, I would suggest asking her if everything is ok, and commenting on how you have noticed a change in her behaviour. Respect her decision for needing some privacy right now, but let her know that you are there for her if she needs you. Often just knowing that others care and are supportive is a big help. Alternatively, your sister may just be figuring some things out for herself and will let you in on what is going on with her in due time. Being so close in age can be a big advantage when it comes to sharing and helping each other through difficult things.
My friend is 16 and pregnant. My parents don’t want me to hang around her or even talk to her on the phone, but I don’t want to abandon her at a time like this. What should I do?
Realistically, it’s going to be pretty difficult for your parents to stop you from seeing your friend. I’d be curious to know what their reasons are for asking you to do this, but ultimately this puts you in a morally-difficult position. I think that it takes a very compassionate and caring person to choose to stay committed to this friendship, and I’m sure that your friend will gratefully appreciate that you are there for her. Speak to your parents about your commitment to the friendship and about the value of practicing ‘acceptance’ of others without judgment. I’m sure that if the roles were reversed, you would appreciate the same consideration of your friend as well.
Fact: During the last quarter century, there has been an overall decline in the teenage pregnancy rate in Canada. (Source: Statistics Canada Health Reports)
For more on Dorothy check out www.dorothyratusny.com