DEAR ABBY: I have a 10-year-old son. "Zack" is a great kid. He has decided to grow his hair long. My husband and I figure that it's not illegal or immoral, so why fight it?
My family does not share our opinion. My mom and sister are cruel in their opposition to Zack growing his hair. My sister's son has been physically and verbally cruel to Zack, and she thinks it's funny. She's repeating a pattern from when we were children of being the "toughest" - if you can't handle the abuse, you're a "baby."
I need to know how to stand up to these family members for my son. Zack is stressed because he loves his grandma, but can't deal with her harassment. Can you help?
- Guilt-Ridden and Stressed
DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN AND STRESSED: Somehow, for your son's sake, you must find the courage to tell your mother and your sister to their faces that if they don't knock it off immediately, they'll be seeing a lot less of you and Zack.
The dynamics in your family are unhealthy - but you are an adult now and no longer have to tolerate it. Because Zack is athletic, enroll him in self-defense classes and make sure he knows that he does not have to tolerate physical abuse from anyone and that includes his cousin.
DEAR ABBY: I was on a bus yesterday and a woman seated near me complained about how long the trip was taking for so long and so loudly that I ended up "catching" her negative energy. Because I couldn't find a nice way to shut her up, I finally put on earphones and turned on my music.
When there is a toxic person in a public place, what is the best way to get them to stop spewing their hateful sewage onto everyone else?
- Allison in Brooklyn
DEAR ALLISON: The most obvious way would be to put physical distance between you and the person, if that's possible. If it isn't, then the way you handled it was appropriate. I would not recommend confronting a possibly emotionally disturbed individual.