Dear Annie: I am very concerned about my brother's daughters, ages 18 and 20. My brother and his wife divorced when the girls were young. He and his ex do not get along and communicate poorly. She often berates him, and he remains silent.
Their daughters were shuttled back and forth between their parents' homes, but they lived mainly with their mother. Last fall, she announced that she had had enough and the girls would now live with their father while they attend college nearby.
The girls have been with my brother and his wife for several months, and they are miserable. They have no friends there. They communicate very little with their father and stepmother and remain in their bedrooms most of the day. My brother's wife has reached out to them, to no avail. The older girl is doing well in school, but the younger one dropped out. She promised to get a job, but hasn't found one yet. I don't think she is very motivated.
My brother buys his daughters whatever they want, but they have little respect for him. He buries his head in the sand when it comes to the problems in his home. My nieces have no direction and little self-esteem. The atmosphere in their house is toxic, and I can't stand by and do nothing. What do you suggest? — Concerned Aunt
Dear Aunt: We can tell that you care a great deal about your nieces, but they are both adults. They do not need to live with their father unless they choose to. Dad seems quite willing to support them financially, and their stepmother has tried to help. If the atmosphere is as toxic as you say, both girls would be eager to relocate.
We think a lot of this is the girls' choice and unconnected to Dad's home. If you truly want to help, please spend more time with your nieces, either in person or online. See what's going on. Perhaps you could give the younger one pointers on finding a job. She may be unmotivated because Dad doesn't demand that she find employment, which he should. At the very least, you would be another source of emotional support for them.
Dear Annie: When my husband and I married, his family let me know they didn't like me. He already had an ex-wife, and their two children were the only ones who counted.
My husband and I adopted several children of various races and nationalities. It amazed me that my in-laws acted as though I had adopted them by myself, "burdening" my husband, when, in fact, he loved them unconditionally. We loved all of the children, including the kids from his first marriage.
Our children picked up on the fact that the grandparents cared little for them. My husband seldom visited them because of it. When he died, I found his mother's obituary, which he had hidden from me. I was hurt all over again when it listed by name two surviving grandchildren and "five stepgrandchildren." — Over It Now
Dear Over: In situations like this, it is always the grandparents who lose out. How sad for everyone.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.
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