Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: At the End of Our Rope

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My 12-year-old son recently informed me that his 18-year-old cousin was molesting him. I immediately informed my in-laws. They were in shock and denial. Both said, "Are you sure? Maybe they were experimenting." I was outraged and disgusted, and so was my husband. I went to the police and filed a report.

Both the perpetrator and the victim are their grandsons. My husband no longer speaks to his brother because of what his son did. His brother said he should have been informed before I filed the police report. But the police advised us not to, saying it would give the perpetrator a chance to develop a defense. The cousin was arrested. He didn't deny what he'd done. He was sentenced to a year in the county jail and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, which is absolutely fine with me.

The problem is that my in-laws have chosen to keep this a family secret. Whenever relatives visit and ask where the cousin is, they respond that he is away at college. I find this appalling. What happens when the cousin gets out of jail and goes back to live with his parents? Will they tell the relatives with little kids then?

My husband no longer wishes to visit his parents. I know my mother-in-law is angry with me, and I'm OK with that. My primary concern is protecting my family and continuing to seek treatment for my son. We have found him a great therapist.

Should I tell the family members who have children? -- Daughter-in-Law

Dear Daughter-in-Law: Family members need to know the truth, but it would help if you could approach your in-laws with love and understanding, instead of anger and recriminations. This is breaking their hearts. Help them see how important it is for relatives to know why they cannot permit their young children to be alone with the cousin -- for his sake as well as theirs.

When he is released from prison, he likely will be prohibited from being near these children anyway, so the in-laws are only postponing the inevitable. Sympathize with how awkward it will be to inform others, but the sooner it is done the more supportive and trusting the family members can be. Please talk to your son's therapist about the best way to word this.

Dear Annie: We have four kids. Three of them are doing well, but our youngest, age 23, still lives with us, does drugs and has no job. He sleeps all day and does nothing around the house to help. We have tried different ways to motivate him. We feed him and house him, and he acts as though he is entitled. What should we do? -- At the End of Our Rope


Dear Rope: First try to get your son to a doctor to make sure there are no medical or psychiatric problems hampering his development. Then please take the necessary steps to make him responsible for his own life. It will not be easy for you (or for him), but the situation as it stands is untenable, and you have to consider your own well-being. Contact Because I Love You ( and Families Anonymous ( for support and assistance.

Dear Annie: I was disappointed with your response to "A Devoted Grandma," who thinks her friend "Betsy" should switch turns hosting Christmas Eve dinner because it will be easier with a new baby at Grandma's house. Grandma stated that Betsy relented in an unfriendly way.

It was Betsy's year to hold the celebration, and just because there is a new grandchild doesn't mean Grandma gets to demand it be at her house. At some point, most families have small children. It's not an excuse to give up traditions. And Betsy didn't need to be "more gracious." -- Another Grandma

Dear Grandma: We agree about Grandma, but it never hurts to be more gracious, especially when friends are confronted with unpleasant choices.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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