The holidays are a time for loved ones. It’s the time of year everyone gets together and celebrates the people in their lives. But what happens when you’re just not OK with being around certain loved ones?

For one woman’s case, her relationship with her brother has now turned into a holiday headache — and it’s all because he simply asked to spend some time together this season.

An anonymous mother of three wrote into Ask Amy for advice:

My youngest brother spent about six years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young woman he met at a bar. While he was in prison, we exchanged a few letters, but I did not go to visit him. He expressed remorse for what happened, and was receiving counseling in prison.

He was released from prison earlier this year, and now lives about a 30-minute drive from where I live, so I’ve met him a few times for coffee or lunch. He now attends group therapy, and is in good standing with his probation officer.

She continued, explaining the last time she saw her brother he asked if he could spend the holidays with her and her family. She responded by saying she’d have to ask her husband, but in reality she is completely torn:

I am incredibly uncomfortable with my brother being in my house with my three teenage kids present — two of which are girls.

I don’t fully trust him yet, and while I believe in forgiveness, I am scared at the consequences of having him in my house. And I also don’t want to be nervous the entire time he’s in our house, if we do invite him over, which would add more stress to the holidays.

She wrote that her husband supports whatever decision she makes, but, clearly, she has no idea what to do.

In response, Amy wrote that regardless of whether the woman’s brother thinks he’s ready to enter her family, she is the one who needs to be ready:

Your brother might believe that he is ready to enter your family circle in this way, but you are not ready, and your instincts are telling you that this is not a good idea — and that’s the only thing that matters.

You have been willing to have your brother in your life in a protected, tangential way, and I believe that both your motivations and your instincts are solid. Pay attention to your instincts!

She reassured the woman that because her decision impacts the safety of her children, it’s paramount she is ready to trust her brother — and that it’s OK if she never even gets to that level of trust:

I assume that contact with family members could help him reintegrate into life in a way that would be positive for him, but all decisions concerning contact should be yours — not his — to make.

She did offer a solution: The woman could go with her husband to visit her brother with a gift rather than inviting him over to their home. She told the woman to make the decision in her own time.

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