Annie's Mailbox: Daughter's family living in squalor

Dear Annie: My daughter and her children live in a small home with three dogs and three cats. She doesn’t work, and her husband has been on disability leave for a year.

It breaks my heart to see them living in squalor and poverty. My daughter was not raised like this, and it sickens me that she is OK with her circumstances. She and her husband have a choice, but the kids do not. We have helped (maybe too much), but it seems nothing makes a difference. Our daughter gets defensive if we say anything. She always was so practical and used good common sense prior to marrying this guy. She got wonderful grades in school, set goals and had dreams but not now.

Her husband has been let go of several jobs, but it’s never his fault. Just about every word he says is untrue. I just hate the thought of our grandchildren growing up with these values. We love our daughter and her family and would do anything in the world for the grandchildren, but it gets harder to deal with each day. What can we do?

— Worried and Disappointed Grandparents

Dear Worried: Your daughter gets to live her own life, even if it means she chooses to live in squalor. Whatever work ethic you may have instilled in her apparently has been forgotten. You cannot fix it, so say nothing more about it. You can, however, be supportive of the grandchildren. Offer to take them for the afternoon, weekend visits, vacation trips, whatever you can manage, and let them see what a well-balanced home looks like. Say nothing negative about her husband or her home. You might casually ask if she’d like a cleaning service as a gift because, after all, everyone could use a hand now and then. If she sees that you don’t intend it as a judgment on her housekeeping skills, she will be more receptive.

Dear Annie: With the holidays coming up, I have a decision to make, and I trust your advice.

My sister and I had a falling out last year. She thinks I wronged her in a big way. I think she made some bad choices. In any case, she’s furious with me, and we haven’t spoken for months.

The question is about holiday gifts. I’d like to send something to her and her boys, but I’m afraid it might make her more angry. Right now, reconciliation seems unlikely, but it may be possible someday. Is there anything I can do that won’t further annoy her?

— The Best Gift Would Be Peace

Dear Best: Send the gifts. And enclose a card to your sister, saying you love her and miss her. Even if she becomes angry, at least you will have done something that shows you care. Maybe it will help.

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