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Your Child, Your Self

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Sibling Revelry

When one kid is a carbon copy of you and another is the opposite, how do you keep from favoring the mini-me?

Resist the temptation to pretend that there isn't any difference between the children, says New York City adolescent psychologist Alec L. Miller. "Your kids are too smart for that, and hiding your feelings sends the message that being different is not okay."

Be as nonjudgmental, supportive, and accepting as possible, says Miller. There's no reason to feel guilty for enjoying the time you spend with your parallel child -- so long as you schedule plenty of togetherness with the kid who's different too. And instead of just grinning and bearing it, be a good sport and actively find some enjoyment in it. "I don't know of any secret recipe other than telling yourself that this is giving your child pleasure, which should make you happy as well," says Miller. And maybe you'll even expand your horizons. Tell your daughter up front that you've never listened to rap music and admit that you may be prejudiced against it, then ask her to teach you what it's all about. Who knows? You may end up buying a Ludacris album one day.

Bridging the Gap with Other Adults

You're an avid Democrat, your mother-in-law's a major GOP'er. How do you deal? "You can almost always find something to talk about," says marriage and family therapist Victoria Manion Fleming. Her tips:

Ask good questions. For instance, if your friend's husband mentions that he's originally from Tulsa, acknowledge the connection ("My brother lived in Tulsa for a while") and then ask what brought him to your area. Take a genuine interest in his answers.

Extend an olive branch. "Disconnects are often rooted in misunderstandings or miscommunication. A small act of kindness can go a long way," says Fleming. For instance, do you know where your cubicle-mate likes to shop? Keep your eye out for a coupon or sales-event flier.

Stick to specific activities. "If you all go bowling, you'll focus on the game," says Fleming -- meaning, you won't have to do as much talking.

Relax. Remember that you have a mutual connection with this person. If it's your husband's mother, let him direct the conversation. The onus isn't always on you.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 1, 2007, issue of Family Circle magazine.