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Ask Lisi: Seek help together for boyfriend's son's tantrums

Work as a team to research, read parenting books and talk to an expert — it could bring you closer.
Lisi Tesher, for Ask Ellie column

Dear Lisi: My boyfriend’s son is prone to temper tantrums. This child will wail louder than anything I have ever heard, anywhere, at any time. And the tantrums come without warning. It’s shocking.

We met at a mutual friend’s party and hit it off. It wasn’t until our second real date that we talked about family and he told me about his son. He wasn’t hiding anything, he just wanted to spend some time with me before showing his vulnerability.

I really like this guy and we have a nice connection. We dated for about two months before he introduced me to his son. He’s only four, so doesn’t really understand who is whom. We went for a walk and got ice cream and he was so sweet. We did something like that a few times and I was enamoured with him. He’s super cute and giggles a lot.

But now something has changed. The past four times I have seen him, over a six-week period, he has had a severe temper tantrum. It’s horrifying, embarrassing and frightening. And I have zero experience and no clue how to respond. Is the rest of my life in front of me?

Tantrum Test

I think what you are really asking is, is this guy worth having to deal with his child’s tantrums? Only you can answer that question and it depends mostly on how you feel about your man. I say mostly because he comes with his son — they’re a package deal.

I can tell you that toddler tantrums don’t last forever (though teenagers are prone to their own variation), but they can be extremely unnerving. Parenting isn’t for the weak. And if you continue your relationship with this man, you will become this boy’s stepmother, and maybe even have your own children.

But I imagine your boyfriend isn’t enjoying these tantrums either. So why don’t you two do some research together, read some parenting books, talk to a parenting expert, and learn different ways to handle and diffuse his toddler’s tantrums. This could bring you two even closer. It’s worth a shot before giving up on something that could be long-lasting.

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman continuously feeling low (May 14):

Reader #1 - “As an avid reader of your column, and an admirer of your balanced advice, I’m imploring you to highlight the obvious. I appreciate that you directed this person to see a medical professional to correctly identify what’s going on with them. At the same time, we now have over four years’ experience with COVID, and it is VERY likely that this individual has had COVID and is now starting to feel the longer-term effects.

“Classic symptom is the ‘feeling better, go for a walk but then I must lie down.’ At that point, it is important for the person to focus on taking it easy and not exerting themselves at all, as the likelihood of worsening long COVID symptoms is high.

“Given your broad reach, and the scant attention being paid to the ongoing impact of COVID and long COVID, with many people affected and dropping out of the workforce, I think it would be a great service for you to mention the most likely and obvious condition your writer is suffering. The publicly available information about COVID is now dangerously low, testing is non-existent, and sadly many more people will be adversely affected by this ongoing pandemic. Obviously, a medical opinion is warranted but so is the opportunity to highlight the continuing risks.”

Reader #2 – “I agree with your advice about seeing a doctor for a full examination. I would also recommend testing for ferritin. The ferritin count is how much iron is in your blood. She described some of her symptoms which are related to Hemochromatosis. I have it. One serious symptom is chronic fatigue.

“Hemochromatosis is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the country as many doctors don’t test for ferritin. It is a condition that one can inherit genetically and is thus nonpreventable. It is more common in people with Irish, Scottish and northern European background. It is also incurable. However, it can be controlled by phlebotomies. I donate blood several times a year and my life is completely normal except for the usual aches and pains of aging. However, if ignored, it can lead to serious consequences later. I urge this person to follow your advice and get a complete checkup.”

Lisi Tesher is an advice columnist based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions to [email protected].