Dear Abby: My mother has been a single parent for the last seven years. She doesn't have any really close friends — there are two women she goes out with occasionally, but all she does is complain about them. She seems to have forgotten what makes her happy and who she is.

I think Mom is an amazing person. I'm in college now, but whenever I'm home I always try to spend lots of time with her and make her happy.

How can my mother make new friends or start a new relationship? How can she figure out what she likes and be a happier person? —Wants To Help Mom In Philly

Dear Wants To Help Mom: You are a loving and caring daughter, but you can't "make her happy." Only she can do that.

It is possible that losing your father (through death or divorce) has caused your mother to withdraw and go into a depression. Most depression is treatable if the person is willing to discuss the problem with a mental health professional. However, this is a step that you cannot make for her.

Your mother needs to look beyond herself, volunteer some of her free time to the community, and allow herself less time to wallow in her discontent. But none of this can happen until she herself decides to reach out.

Dear Abby: I have lived next door to the "Smiths" for 18 years. They're nice people. We're good neighbors and friends.

I have known the Smiths' children their whole lives. Their daughter is now 17. Their son was born a year later.

My question: Is it normal for a 16-year-old boy to walk around the house naked, in plain view of family members? No one seems to notice or care.

In the morning he gets up around 6:45. He walks into the kitchen and fixes a bowl of cereal. Then he stands at the counter, watching the morning sports shows while eating his breakfast in the nude.

He's been nude in my presence dozens of times. —Clothes-Minded In Wisconsin

Dear Clothes-Minded: Standards regarding nudity vary from family to family, and obviously the Smiths are casual and open-minded on the subject.

Because he has matured sufficiently that his nudity now makes you uncomfortable, you should hang curtains on your windows that face the Smiths' kitchen — and before dropping over there, call to ask whether he's presentable. If he's not, then don't go over.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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