Dear Annie: I have the sinking feeling that my parents, who have been married for 20 years, don't love each other anymore. Mom and Dad are always insulting each other. They never give compliments or even say I love you, except on special occasions. Sometimes I think the only reason they are together is my brother and I.

I am only 11 years old and can already pick up on their disconnection. The main thing I'm worried about is divorce and making me pick sides. They are very nice to my brother and me, but not to each other. Last week, Dad called my mom and my brother some not-very-nice names, and they stormed out of the house and didn't come home until really late.

When my parents fight, I feel terrible. I just want to jump out the window. Don't even suggest counseling. I already did, and they laughed and said they don't need it. I showed them an entry in my journal about my feelings and they said I'm too young to feel this way. I'm so confused.

I just want to relax for the rest of the summer, but I feel like I have an elephant on my shoulders. — Confused and Frustrated

Dear Confused: Not all arguing leads to divorce, but even so, it's obvious your parents don't realize how upsetting this is for you. You need an advocate. Discuss your concerns with a grandparent, favorite relative, your clergyperson or a school counselor, and ask one of them to talk to your folks about what's going on. We hope it will help.

Dear Annie: Thousands of motorists risk their lives every year trying to outrun trains at highway-rail grade crossings. There are more than 145 million miles of rail track and over 153,000 public grade crossings in the United States, leaving too many opportunities for risky behavior.

Now that kids are out of school for summer and younger, less-experienced drivers are spending more time behind the wheel, it is an ideal time to share safety tips from the Association of American Railroads:

1. Never drive around lowered gates or race a train to a crossing.

2. Always expect a train.

3. Cross tracks only at designated crossings.

4. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 800-number posted near the crossing signal.

5. If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately vacate everyone and quickly move away from the track in the direction the train is coming from. — Susan Molinari, Mother and former chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Railroad Subcommittee

Dear Susan Molinari: Thank you for this excellent information. Too many tragedies have happened around train tracks. We hope our readers pay attention to your sound advice.

Dear Annie: I read with dismay the letter from "C.M.," whose husband thinks their son will eventually grow up and be self-sufficient. I have a son with a disability and I believe this is also the case with her.

So many people think a person needs only to "grow up," when in reality, their disability prevents them from functioning fully. Many times this translates into behavior that is escapism — sleeping too much, showing up late, being irresponsible in taking charge of their life such as paying bills, managing a bank account, etc. C.M. should have her son go through an assessment. It would help her husband understand that what his son needs is guidance. It is overwhelmingly detrimental for someone with a disability to feel inadequate, stupid or irresponsible when, in fact, they are trying to cope with something they might not understand about themselves. It takes a lot of patience, but it is extremely rewarding when a person with a disability stabilizes and accepts themselves for who they are instead of feeling like a failure. — Been There

Dear Been There: Thank you for pointing out that there is often a medical reason for certain behaviors and an evaluation can provide an explanation.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate, Inc.