Friday, January 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

I think I know a child who’s a ’ticking time bomb.’ What should I do?

Dear Annie: With the recent events that have occurred across the country involving mass killings, this has prompted me to ask a question. What do you do if you know someone you think could end up in the news involved in a mass killing? What do you do with those gut feelings?

I know someone who has prompted me and others to think, “This guy is a ticking time bomb.” This particular person is still a child, but one who displays many signs of being severely troubled. His parents don’t seem concerned, but many of us on the outside of this family dynamic think this child has serious issues and could potentially end up committing a horrible crime.

So what do I do? The child has never been in trouble. He has difficulty in public situations and prefers to be by himself. He shows a great interest in knives and guns, has very few friends, and has been moved from multiple schools because “he didn’t fit in.” Does this make him a potential risk? And if so, what do I do?

You hear interviews with neighbors and friends who say, “He was a quiet kid. I never thought he would do something like this.” Well, I wouldn’t be able to say that. — K.

Dear K.: The problem with stopping such behavior in advance is that there is no way to reliably predict who will commit such a crime. Signs can include depression, anger, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of empathy and hurting others. The angry kid who likes to torture dogs and pull the wings off of butterflies is more likely to harm a human being than the child who is socially awkward, but it still doesn’t predict mass murder. And easy access to guns can create an opportunity for tragedy that would otherwise defuse in a less disastrous way.

If you are in regular contact with this child, the best thing you can do is help him develop empathy for others and learn impulse control. We also hope you can be his friend.

Dear Annie: My husband and I communicate with our grandchildren regularly by phone, text and email. We have one adult grandchild who lives in another state. Through the years, we have helped her emotionally, as well as financially. But she never returns our calls or emails. We send gifts and never hear from her.

We simply want to know how she’s doing and be a part of her life. When I complain to her mother, she makes excuses and says her daughter is too busy. She also says grandparents aren’t as important to young people these days.

I find these excuses difficult to swallow, especially when I hear other grandparents talk about their grandkids. Are we expecting too much? — Disappointed Grandparents

Dear Disappointed: It is absolutely not true that grandparents are less important to this generation. But young adults have been known to take their family members for granted. Please continue to stay in touch regardless of the lack of response. We think she’ll come around eventually. However, there is no excuse for not acknowledging a gift. If it happens again, tell your granddaughter that her silence indicates she isn’t interested in receiving any more presents. Feel free to stop sending them.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “RH,” whose dog, “Buster,” died and he wants an identical dog with the same name.

I am a veterinarian and have seen many people experience a profound grief for the loss of their beloved pet. Many veterinary schools offer free pet loss hotlines. I also recommend he write an obituary for “Buster,” describing his wonderful life, and share it with those friends and family who will understand. When he is ready, he can honor Buster’s memory by forming a relationship with a new dog who has a different name. — Massachusetts

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar

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