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by Abigail Van Buren

Parents' Absence Is Leaving a Hole in Little Girl's Life

DEAR ABBY: I'm a nanny and have been for three years. The 10-year-old girl I work with is wonderful, and I love her dearly. Her parents are not abusive, but they are caught up in their own lives. They devote very little time or effort to their daughter.

The only thing my employers ever talk to her about is school (she's an A student) and academics. When they are home they spend very little time with her. They never buy her even tiny gifts "just because" -- only when she brings home A's does she get gifts. Of course she is upset by this. She confides in me, to the point of tears.

How can I get her parents to take an active role in her life? I know better than to tell a parent how to be a parent, but they are slowly scarring their daughter and making her resent them. I know they love her, but their parenting makes her feel unlovable. -- NANNY IN NEW YORK

DEAR NANNY: Loneliness is the ultimate poverty. For all of her financial advantages, that girl is emotionally starved and for good reason. Her parents appear to be so self-involved they give her only the bare minimum and have handed that "chore" off to you. I'm sad to say what they are doing will have ramifications for their daughter in the future.

Whether you can change their pattern of behavior is open to question. You can try by telling them their daughter "needs more of them" and suggest that ALL of you spend an afternoon/evening together occasionally, so the unaccustomed "burden" won't be too heavy for them. But if they can't or won't devote the time, she should be involved in extracurricular activities that will get her out of the house -- things like sports and classes in music, dance, drama, etc. -- which will give her more positive feedback and less time to brood.