DEAR HARRIETTE: There’s a pretty large age gap between my sister and me. When my mom had me, my sister was 16 years old. I have been told that when I was a baby, my sister would take care of me like I was her own. But when I turned 4, my sister joined the Air Force. A couple of years later, she got married and had children of her own. I am so happy for her. She has it all: an amazing husband, beautiful kids and a great-paying job. I understand she has a life of her own. However, lately, speaking to her is like speaking to a stranger. She and I are polar opposites. I feel that I don’t have as close a bond with her as she has for other people. My sister makes time for her friends (when she is not watching the kids), but we never seem to do anything together. I miss having this bond with my sister, and I worry that she doesn’t love me. Is there any way I can build our bond again? -- Distant Sister
DEAR DISTANT SISTER: It is natural that you and your sister are not as close as you might like. She left home when you were a toddler and built a life of her own that has been full-on with work, children and family. Rather than bemoaning your status with her, speak up. Tell your sister that you miss her and want to build a closer relationship with her.
Suggest a few options that include visiting her at home with the family. That way you can get to know her children better, too. Invite her to go out with you from time to time. Make it clear that you want to get to know her better. Be direct with her. She is so busy with her life that it’s likely she doesn’t realize how left out you feel. I’m sure she loves you. Don’t give up.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who comes from a strict Christian background. We are not that close, but we consider each other friends.
Becoming so enthralled with the faith from such a young age has disillusioned both of us to the prospects of attending mass every Sunday. It has become akin to a chore, like washing the dishes. It is something we do to appease our parents, but in the end, we derive no pleasure from it. My parents do not pay much attention to me missing a mass once in a while; however, my friend is forced against his will and is losing interest. His parents are extremely overbearing and constantly nag him whenever he does not do as they order him to. He has been visibly depressed lately, and I am afraid to approach him since he is constantly pushing me away. What should I do? -- Concerned Friend
DEAR CONCERNED FRIEND: You really cannot get between your friend and his parents. What you can do is be supportive. Tell your friend that you understand how difficult it is for him. If he doesn’t want to talk, text him. Don’t be pushy. Just say that you are thinking about him. Invite him to hang out in whatever way his parents allow. If his parents allow it, you may be able to be the friend who helps him to feel some sense of freedom.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)