Dear Annie: I am the father of two sons, seven and 11.
At what point do you stop dressing or being naked in front of your children? I come from a minister’s family, and my wife comes from a somewhat dysfunctional family. Let’s just say they are at the other end of the spectrum and leave it at that.
My wife still gets dressed and undressed in front of the boys, and thinks nothing of coming out of the shower naked while the boys are in our bedroom watching TV. I sometimes get dressed in front of them at home or at the changing room at the pool.
What do you think? — Curious in Maryland
Dear Curious: Parents of the opposite sex should not be undressing in front of their children after the age of four. Unless you intend to raise them as nudists, both of your boys are too old for this.
The 11-year-old will be going through puberty soon and will become plenty confused if he is inadvertently aroused by his mother. Insist that every member of the family have some privacy.
Dear Annie: All the men in our family are big, including me, but we have learned to control our weight through physical activity and diet, except for my dad.
Over the past 20 years, he has continued to eat more and move less to the point where he now is out of breath walking from one room to another.
My mother tries to feed him healthy, low-fat foods, and we have all tried to be honest with him about his weight, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
I understand no one can lose the weight for him.
It is his decision. But I am so angry with his choices that I can barely stand to look at him. Dad is essentially killing himself, and I have lost respect for him. He refuses to see a doctor. Can you help? — Want To Love Him
Dear Want: Please stop being angry with your father. He doesn’t want to be overweight, but finds it so difficult to eat properly and exercise sufficiently that he has become depressed and given up.
You cannot make him try harder, but you can make sure he understands that his health affects the entire family and you love him, no matter what size he is.
Let him know that whenever he is ready, you’ll be happy to go with him for a long walk, bike ride, fishing expedition or trip to the gym. Then try to forgive him for not being what you want him to be.
Dear Annie: “Clueless in California” bemoans her daughter’s lack of independence, but young people don’t turn out that way without a lifetime of parental coddling.
Today’s parents do their kids’ laundry, cook for them and provide them with new cars, clothes, expensive games and computers well past their 18th birthday without requiring so much as a part-time job or a little help with the housework.
And then they are amazed when the kids never move out.
I was guided to pick up my toys as a toddler, cleaned my own room by second grade and started a savings account when I was 10.
By 12, I helped with laundry, dishes and dinner preparation. I learned basic car maintenance before I was allowed to drive.
At 16, my dad showed me how to balance a chequing account.
I had after-school and summer jobs in high school because my parents wisely thought that a part-time job would be important for learning responsibility and independence.
I learned to save money for college and spent a little for music and other fun things.
Sheltering your children from ordinary daily chores, responsibilities and jobs does not give them a sunny childhood — it harms them beyond repair. The name the parent chose to sign off with is significant — clueless, indeed. — Stunned in Baton Rouge
Dear Stunned: You have made some excellent points. It is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children those skills they will need to become independent.
But even at age 24, it’s not too late to start.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.