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Getting Both Sides of the Family Together

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My husband and I have problems managing our family events. We're often expected to spend holidays with both our families, and my parents feel slighted when we don't attend one of their events. We've tried to encourage both families to celebrate birthdays and holidays together, but they won't. It may seem silly, but I believe they should all be together to celebrate my daughter's birthday. What can I do?

A: Your family dilemma is all too common. These two families are unfortunately sending an unhealthy message to your daughter.

If you have sincerely attempted to appeal to those family members who are at the core of this constant discomfort, you've done your best. I suggest that you and your husband write letters to your families, asking them to participate together in family get-togethers and celebrations. These letters shouldn't be an attempt to lay blame on any family members, but should appeal to them to be the involved, loving family that you want and need in your lives. Follow up those letters with heartfelt discussion. Be sure to ask them what they need from you so that these family events can be an enjoyable time for all involved.

If getting both families together casts a pall over what should be a joyful event and turns into into an uncomfortable affair, let both sides know that you are not going to continue to expose your daughter or yourselves to this unnecessary conflict and tension.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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