Dear Amy:

I'm a step-grandmother to a neat young man of 13. My stepdaughter had the child when she was 17, and she raised him for years as a single mother with no support from the father. Though my stepdaughter has sole custody, the child sees his dad on the weekends.

For the last four years, the father has been badgering his son to change his surname from my stepdaughter's to his. For the sake of the child, she has made every effort to accommodate the father. Unfortunately, I have witnessed terrible verbal abuse (over the phone) to her from him and his wife to the point that we had an attorney write a letter.

My stepdaughter called to say they are coming to our home for the holidays, and that she wants to have a discussion with her family there about the name change.

The poor kid, of course, wants to make his dad happy, but he really doesn't understand the ramifications. It's an emotional issue for my husband because there is no one to carry on the family name.

My dilemma is how to handle this conversation at dinner. I really don't know what to say. We, of course, do not want our grandson to change his name. His mother is also against the change but would probably cave in if her son made a strong request. Being pressured by his father might just do it.

I'm at a loss and want the conversation to be adult and loving.

What's your advice?

- Lynda

Dear Lynda:

I like the idea of families discussing important matters together, but I don't think this is an appropriate conversation for you to have at the dinner table.

If asked directly, you should say, "This is a personal decision to make, but making such a big decision under pressure isn't the best way to do it." Otherwise, you shouldn't weigh in at all.

This boy's father shouldn't badger him for years about anything, no less something so much a part of his identity as his surname. But in my view, your stepdaughter's desire to bring this up in a venue where surely everybody will agree with her amounts to pressure, too, and I don't think she should do it - certainly not in front of him. Though she probably doesn't realize it, her reluctance to be definitive about this places yet more pressure on the boy.

 
 

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