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Dear Shimmy,

I am a 10th grade girl in a Yeshiva High Schoool, and I think I have a problem.  My family is very busy right now, and they fight a lot about money and with my grandparents.  My Mom started going back to school to get her degree is nursing, and she's also working, and I feel like I never get to see her.  In the evenings when I used to talk to my mom and stuff, now she's always doing school work or fighting with my dad about money.  I really miss talking to her, and I don't know what to do, because I know she's very busy and very stressed out. 

Sad in New Jersey

Dear Sad,

First, I am confident that you'll be able to solve this problem, since you already appear so in touch with your own feelings and clearly have a good amount of insight into the situation. At the same time, we must be clear on what "problem" you'll "solve."

It's important to realize that it is not your responsibility to handle Mom and Dad's money, stress, or family issues. However, it is clear how much you really miss the connection that you've had with your mother in the past and would very much like to get this back. I recommend you ask your mother if she has some time to speak with you. Remember that if she's very busy and stressed out, saying to her, "I need to talk to you right now," will most likely not yield the desired result, so find a quiet (or quieter) moment to speak with her, and instead say, "Mom, I would really like to speak to you for a few minutes about something that's very important to me. Do you think you'd have a few minutes later to talk, just me and you?" Later, when you speak with her, I recommend you let her know how you're feeling and what you want. Be loving and direct. Think about which one of these would work better:

"Mom, you've been stressed out and fighting with dad a lot, and you don't make time to speak to me anymore. Why can't you spend more time talking to me?"
or
"Mom, our relationship is so important to me, and I really miss the connection that we used to have. What I want is for us to spend  10 or 15 minutes each night talking to each other before bed. Would you be willing to do that?"

If I were your mom, I'd probably respond much better to the second approach. It's not accusatory, and it talks about your feelings and what you want. It's also loving, clear, and direct ... and you ask for something specific. Of course, you may not want a 15 minute conversation each night. You may want to go out for coffee with her once a week, or find some other way to rebuild your connection. When speaking with her, however, this is the approach I recommend.

Shimmy