Social Q’s: Thanksgiving Deer Hunt? Sounds Like a Great Time to Talk to the Kids About Guns

SOCIAL Q’S

Thanksgiving Deer Hunt? Sounds Like a Great Time to Talk to the Kids About Guns

When your child expresses anxiety about a family tradition filled with firearms, it’s worth having a discussion about it.

By Philip Galanes

We were finalizing our travel plans for Thanksgiving, which we spend with my family in Vermont. Our 13-year-old son, who usually loves going, was hesitant about the trip this year, but he wouldn’t say why. So, we asked his older sister to investigate; they’re close. She told us his reluctance has to do with a family deer hunt that the men and boys go on the morning after the holiday. We told him he didn’t have to go hunting, but he doesn’t want to be around guns at all. Any advice for dealing with this?

PETE

I’m just speculating, Pete. But if I were your adolescent son, and my short lifetime had included a terrifying spate of school and mass shootings, I would be skittish around guns, too. (Hunters: I’m definitely not equating you with school shooters!) But there’s only one way to figure out what’s really going on here.

Parents have to talk with their children about guns and gun violence in an age-appropriate way. Given the frequency of tragedies, it’s only natural for kids to be anxious, even if they never bring the subject up. (It’s often the scariest things we don’t talk about.) Ask your son: Is it hunting that bothers you, or guns in general? How do you cope with your feelings? What can we do to help?

The fact that he confided in his sister suggests that he may be ready to explore his feelings. An open conversation with you and his mother may be useful for both kids. If you need help preparing, reach out to a school counselor for resources.

In my experience, engaging with fears also helps us manage them. Maybe your family can get involved with a gun safety initiative in your area. Together, talk and action may reduce your son’s stress level (and possibly produce a fix for Thanksgiving).

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CreditChristoph Niemann

I am a woman in my 20s. Often I plan meals with friends who have their phones out the whole time: scrolling and texting, chatting with me, and eating at the same time. I don’t like it. I’ve also started dating a guy who seems to think we have to document every date with multiple selfies and post them on social media. I like him, but his posting habit is ridiculous. I know the stuff I’m complaining about is pretty common. But can I get people to tone it down?

ALI

Possibly, but don’t get your hopes up. I, too, find it annoying when people can’t commit to me (for an hour!) without multiple phone checks. Every glance fractures the conversation. And I’m not shy about speaking up: “Let’s put away our phones. They’re distracting.” Some people can oblige, while others experience immediate phantom phone pain.

Here’s the thing: We can be in the moment with someone or on the lookout for moments to post for other people. Many folks try to do both, but multitasking is a slippery tightrope. Consider a compromise with your boyfriend. Dates are just for you two (maybe one post allowed?). If he wants, he can live the rest of his life selfie by selfie.

My husband and I eloped. We never hosted a celebratory party, but most of our relatives sent gifts — except for one branch of the family in California (including a cousin whose wedding we attended and to whom we gave a generous gift). Now, another cousin from the California branch is getting married, and we’re invited. We’re torn about attending and giving a gift. Are we being too sensitive?

ANONYMOUS

Definitely! The whole point of eloping is to escape the rituals of a traditional wedding, one of which, typically, is collecting presents from those who attend. It seems that you wanted it both ways: forgo the occasion and still collect the gifts.

It’s terrific that your family was mostly generous with you. And you needn’t attend weddings of people who hurt you. But I’d make that decision based on overall feelings of closeness, not just whether they spontaneously sent a gift-wrapped package.

My friend became a vegan recently. She goes on at length about the cruelty of killing other living creatures for our food. My husband is skeptical about her conversion at age 40. He thinks she’s jumping on a bandwagon. Problem: She’s giving a potluck dinner and asked guests to bring vegan dishes only. My husband thinks it would be funny to bring meat. (They have a teasing relationship.) You?

J.Q.

I think your husband needs to punch up his material before he pitches a comedy special to Netflix. Bringing meat would be disrespectful, not hilarious. The terms of the party are pretty clear: Come with a vegan dish or decline the invitation. Your call! But judgments about your friend’s diet are not necessary, and needling her would be a lame gag.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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