Dear Annie: I have seen my sister gradually change from a simple packrat into a full-on hoarder. When I mention my concerns to her, she gets defensive and tells me it's OK, that is just how they live now.
I am especially worried about her children growing up in such clutter and filth. To further complicate issues, my sister recently acquired a puppy and allows him to do his business all over the house.
I feel sorry for her. She suffers from depression and is on medication, but it's not enough. What can I do to help her when she seems to be in denial? — Worried Sis
Dear Worried: Your sister's medication may not be handling her issues sufficiently, and you could first suggest she talk to her doctor.
Is a husband or the father of these children around? Could you talk to him about this? Would your sister be amenable to an offer to clean her house — either by you, a group of friends or a professional service? Is the house so dangerous that you would report her to the local board of health and have the children removed from the home? Are there other relatives who can intercede? Check to see whether there is a Hoarding Task Force in your city, and also contact the International OCD Foundation (iocdf.org) for information and referrals.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Feeling Unloved," who was considering cutting his teenage children out of his life because they don't seem to want to spend time with him. As a high school coach, I have seen numerous teenagers navigate the divorce of their parents.
Divorced parents, you must realize that your teenagers are moving away from you at this time in their lives. It isn't because they don't respect or love you. It is the natural way of growing up. Your teenagers don't want to spend a Saturday afternoon in your living room playing games. They want to be with their friends at the movies. But they still want you to notice what they do, accomplish and need.
Parents who want to stay connected to their teenagers should attend their sports, fundraising and performance events. Be an enthusiastic observer! Take pictures of your children with their friends and send them copies. If the team goes out for a meal after the competition, sit with the other parents and let your kids sit with their friends.
Finally, parents, don't act put-upon and sad. Your teenagers don't want to feel sorry for you. They need you to be strong and encouraging. They want to be proud of you. Let go of your ego. As soon as you recognize that it's about your child and not about your pitiful situation, you will enjoy being a parent again.
Your children are not responsible for your divorce or your recovery, and they should not be expected to do anything to help you through this. Find other adults to help you. — Coach in Lodi, Calif.
Dear Coach: Thank you for pointing out that all teenagers, regardless of their parents' marital status, go through a period when they'd rather be with friends than family. But it doesn't mean they don't still need their parents' guidance and encouragement.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of 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.