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Dear Abby: Teen’s heart aches for young cousin in midst of melodrama

Dear Abby: I am 18 and in my sophomore year of college. A month ago, my family went through some major hardships. It came out that “Uncle Mark” has been cheating on my aunt for years and is moving his mistress to our area. They have two children, a son in elementary school and a daughter, “Dana,” 13.

I feel bad for my aunt, but I’m absolutely devastated for Dana. My Uncle Mark has skipped all of her school events in the wake of this mess, and I can’t begin to imagine how disappointed Dana must feel. Uncle Mark is a sociopath. He feels no empathy, manipulates others and has a sadistic streak. Dana was not close to her dad, but since this mess began she’s even less so.

Abby, I don’t want my cousin to feel like she’s alone. Since I’m an older teenager, she looks up to me. How can I be supportive, and not intrude in this delicate situation?

– Supportive Cousin in Maine

Dear Supportive: You are kind to want to help. Your cousin is probably experiencing a range of emotions because of the turmoil that’s going on around her family. The kindest thing to do would be to spend time with her when your schedule permits and allow her to vent when she needs to, because she will.

Young girl afraid of dark

Dear Abby: I am a 10-year-old girl. I’m good at math and very intelligent. I have two questions: When I’m alone in a dark room, I feel like I have to run out of the room. Why?

My second question is, what kind of job can you get without going to college?

– Smart Southern Girl

Dear Smart Southern Girl: Many people of every age – especially children and the elderly – have a fear of the dark. That’s why parents use small night lights in their children’s bedrooms and gadgets like the Clapper are popular.

Adults may be afraid of tripping or running into furniture. Teens who watch scary movies develop a fear of the dark because they imagine a “monster” is lurking out of sight who might harm them. The solution can be as simple as keeping a night light on or switching a light on as you enter a darkened area.

As to what kind of job a person can find without going to college, discuss this with a counselor at your school. College may not be for everyone, but I don’t think it’s likely you’ll get a well-paying job without some advanced education – if not in a college, then in an apprenticeship program or a trade school with a proven high job placement record.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.