DEAR ABBY: My younger sister "Lainie" is 14. She has had a smartphone for about a year. She never goes anywhere without her phone. Sometimes she'll have her phone in one hand and tablet in the other, taking turns when one or the other begins to bore her. It's almost impossible to interact with her because her face is buried in the virtual world just about every hour of the day and night.
I miss the way things used to be before she got that smartphone. I have talked about this with my parents. While they are equally concerned about Lainie's withdrawn, sometimes secretive behavior, they never do anything about it. What are your thoughts?
- Gadget Girl's Sister in New Mexico
DEAR SISTER: It's common for teens to spend a lot of time on their phones and computers. But when they become withdrawn and secretive, it is time for a parental intervention. If your folks are equally concerned, they should step in and find out what's going on. If they don't already, they could schedule family dinners during which cellphones are turned off or put away.
DEAR ABBY: Christmas is nearly here, and I'm concerned about my brother. I'm afraid he blames himself for his 28-year-old daughter's suicide, which was by no means his fault. This will be his first Christmas without her. I don't know what to do for him. Any suggestions?
- Challenged in Michigan
DEAR CHALLENGED: When a close family member commits suicide, it is common for survivors to experience a range of emotions. Anger and guilt are two of them. If possible, encourage your brother to spend Christmas with you or other relatives. You should also suggest he join a survivors support group. The American Association of Suicidology provides referrals to local groups for survivors of suicide. Its website is www.suicidology.org.
DEAR ABBY: A long time ago, I was dating and living with a wonderful woman. I was arrested and went to jail for possession of cocaine. She then had an order of protection issued against me for one year. That was 10 years ago. I have been clean from drugs ever since. She has a child with another man now, and I hope everything is great. My problem is, I can't get her out of my mind. I miss her so much and just want the chance to be with her. Any advice?
- Heartbroken in New York
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Your former girlfriend has gone on with her life, and your relationship is ancient history. If she had been willing to forgive you, she wouldn't have taken out the restraining order. It's time to focus on your future.