While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On what to say to people when you're not sure what to say:
A man in our office was dying. The last months, he came in only occasionally and I would hear greetings called out as he walked down the call, "How are you feeling?" The answer would be vague and generic. So when he got to my end of the hall I just said, "Good to see you." A true statement, a welcoming greeting, and he wasn't put on the spot to reply.
Recently I was on the receiving end of an awkward entrance. I was attending a church service where I used to be a regular but chose not to go for a long time. I had interest in returning, but the reaction I received delayed that. I finally went, but the comments and questions on my absence made it uncomfortable. I wish I could have just heard, "Good to see you."
This phrase is now on my go-to list of greetings. It can ease encounters with wayward teens or awkward friendships, and affirms the reconnections in intimate relationships.
I continue to learn that a little thing can make a great impact.
On the scorn directed at people who "self-diagnose" food intolerances:
I've been on a gluten-free diet for nearly three years after my daughter, who suffers from celiac disease, kept saying to me, "Mom, I got it from either you or Dad."
In my case, the psoriasis diagnosed by a qualified dermatologist in 1968 is gone. I spent literally thousands of dollars for medications and treatments for over half of my life to fight it, and after over a year on the diet it's gone. Also, after only two days on the diet, the horrific nighttime leg cramps I had for many months were gone and have never returned! My granddaughter and great-grandson also are affected. That's four generations of my family.
On getting through a non-child-friendly family vacation with children:
All too often I've seen parents who schedule all activities for multiple children together, especially when the children are close in age. The result is that the children spend virtually all of their time together. Of course they learn how to bicker and escalate their play loudly and actively. Can you imagine spending all of your time with the same person? Even most married people get some time away from one another.
Parents should plan for and spend some time with each child separately, leaving the other child(ren) to spend time alone with relatives.
It does not have to be a punishment to leave one behind. Just say, "Today Sam is going to the grocery store with me now. You and Gramps can stay in and rest or go down to the beach, and we'll catch up with you later." This also gives the relatives time to relate to each child individually. Some older adults are overwhelmed by more than one child vying for their attention.
My children had the most fun on our only trip to Disney World when my husband and I took them separate places. They both chattered with excitement to tell the other what happened when they reunited.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.