Dear Oracle, through marriage, I have a teenage niece who's having a hard time. She lives with her mom, and that relationship is rocky. (I know all teens fight with their parents, but this one is particularly rocky, and her mom is unreasonably strict, IMO.) She recently told me that she wants to move out to live with her dad. Her dad doesn't have any parental rights/custody due to being a terrible dude so I don't think any court would allow that to happen. However, she is starting to "act out" in ways that teens do, and I'm worried that her mom will either kick her out of the house or run away to her dad's. Short of having her move in with us (not feasible), what is the best way to help my teenage niece?—Anxious Auntie
Cards for what the niece needs right now: Page of Pentacles, Eight of Wands, Strength (reversed)
Photo via Benjavisa Ruangvaree
The Wheel of Fortune is a card that has to do with both fate and karma
Cards for what you can do as her aunt: Wheel of Fortune (reversed), The Tower, Queen of Pentacles
Dear Auntie, thank you for writing in, and I'm sorry that your niece isn't doing well right now. As we enter the two-and-a-half year mark of the pandemic, it's important to remember that we're also in a shadow pandemic for mental health, and this crisis is particularly affecting adolescents. The kids aren't alright, on the whole, making it especially hard for a teen struggling with other issues.
I took the liberty to add a question to your question because I'm not sure I could give you advice on how to help if I didn't know what your niece needed. (And I might be wrong! Directly ask!)
The first card was the Page of Pentacles. Page energy is always very youthful and pure, and in the workhorse suit of the Pentacles, a Page is someone eager to show what they've learned. This could mean your niece needs validation. It might be for her hard work at school or for her efforts in a creative pursuit, or it might just be her feelings. Whatever it is, she needs validation right now because I think she's feeling overwhelmed.
Adolescence is generally an overwhelming time, even for the most well-adjusted child. Raging hormones have you crying or picking at your face, your classmates can say the absolute cruelest shit to you unprovoked, and you're made to feel like you have to have your entire life figured out before you graduate high school. (If any teens are reading this: YOU DON'T!)
That's the feeling of the Eight of Wands, coming in hot.
Your niece needs validation, someone to talk to when she's overwhelmed, and the empathy and trust that comes with the Strength card. You mention in your letter that her mother is "unreasonably strict," and you're worried that she'll get kicked out of the house for doing teenage things.
She probably doesn't feel like her mother trusts her, nor does she trust her mother. That's a hard place to be in as a teen.
So what can you do about it? Unfortunately, not a lot. For you, we have two Major Arcana cards, the Wheel of Fortune reversed and the Tower.
The Wheel of Fortune is a card that has to do with both fate and karma, and in this situation, you might feel like it's your duty to take care of your niece. And I get it—she's your family now, she's young, she's struggling, and you want the best for her.
But The Tower is here to show us that sometimes, shit is just out of our control. For this case, you just have to surrender to the facts. Yes, things are going bad with her mom. Things might be rocky with dad, too. I don't know. Yes, your niece is "acting out." No, you can't just move her into your house.
Even if her mother allowed her to live with you, you would still need to be granted guardianship in order to make any big decisions—like signing her up for therapy. And even if she did and you had guardianship for your niece, and you set up a wonderful room in your home for her and got her new clothes and make-up and a therapist, she still might run away to go live with her dad.
You don't know and don't have much power here.
But what we do have here in the Queen of Pentacles, the generous mother. You can absolutely give your niece validation for her feelings. You can recognize her hard work. You can take her out to lunch, listen to her, and give her the gifts of time and attention.
Having an adult who gives a shit about you and takes you seriously is an incredible thing to have as a teenager, and I'm a firm believer that the more healthy adults in a kid's life, the better.
It's worth noting that the Queen and Page are of the same suit. There's a connection between you and your niece, and your niece might admire you. You're in a unique position because your niece might listen to you and take what you say to heart in a way she wouldn't with just any adult.
You have the power to show her compassion, empathy and trust in a way that lets her feel seen. That's tremendous. So be VERY thoughtful with what you say to her and how you interact with her because you can make a difference that way.
Now, will your niece possibly say something smug and piss you off enough that you don't want to talk to her that much? Of course. Teenagers can be monsters. But you’re the adult here, and even if you think she’s not “grateful” for the compassionate attention, you still need to do it. Because if you can keep an open line of communication with her where she feels loved and validated and doesn’t feel judged, you can really help her.