Dear Miss Emily:

I need advice regarding what to write to a relative I found through My Space. I haven't spoken to my niece since my sister lost custody of her back in 1994, and even though I have tried to contact her it has never really worked out.  I knew, because she was 18, she might have a My Space, so I put in her name and where she lived and found her.  I am about 99% sure it's her and in the picture she looks just like my sister.  I want to write her and try to start a relationship with her now that she is older, but I don't know how to start off the email.  It seems so inappropriate to email such things, but I can't find another way.  If I just keep waiting for her mom to put us in contact, then,10 more years could easily pass.  I know she probably remembers me a little from when she visited us, but I don't know if she hates me or would be happy to hear from me. Can you think of the best way to send a message to her?
Reaching Out

--------------------------Miss Emily’s advice---------------------

Dear Reaching:

I’m wondering why your sister is reluctant to tell you how to reach her daughter.  There are a lot a gray areas, no doubt.  If this is really important to you, and your sister’s feelings are not an issue, write to her and tell her you are so-and-so’s sister, and you would like to know if she is interested in exchanging e-mails.  If you are not afraid to do this, give her your phone number and address. Don’t get mushy.  Be direct!  She’ll connect the dots without you having to write: “Auntie, here!”  This way, your niece can feel it’s truly up to her – no guilt attached.  Most children want family in their lives, but if her relationship with her mother is shaky, she may not want to be part of your life.  If this is not the case, and it is your relationship with your sister that is shaky, she may think it a betrayal if she responds. Be prepared, if you do this, that your sister may think you are trying to side-step her, and usurp her role as this girl’s mother.  Complete alienation may be the outcome.  Only you can decide whether it’s worth it.