DEAR AMY: I am a conservative Republican and like to think I'm open-minded. I have friends across the political spectrum. One of these friends is (politically) the opposite of me. I'm fine with that, but this friend seems to enjoy attacking my politics and, well, it gets personal.
I can take it, but the other day she announced that she does not intend to vote! Do I have permission to tell her to step off? If she doesn't vote, she doesn't get to trash someone else's political point of view, right?
DEAR FURIOUS: First of all, thank you for asking my permission to do something. I sure wish my kids would.
I agree with you that your friend should exercise her right to vote for her candidate with the same passion and vigor she attacks your point of view.
However, your situation illustrates the beauty of our system. You and your friends, neighbors and fellow citizens have the right to passionately express your political opinions. You don't get to restrict or suppress someone else's freedom of expression. Nor can you demand that someone else vote.
However, I agree that voting is a right and a duty of citizenship that we should all treasure. I hope parents will take their kids to the polls tomorrow to demonstrate this.
DEAR AMY: I am 13 and have the best dog ever. He usually follows me around the house, and mopes when I'm gone.
He hasn't been following me around the house as much lately, and has been acting kind of mopey. I believe this is because I recently got a smartphone. I am worried that I have been spending too much time on it and not giving him enough attention. He's only 5, and he's healthy.
I love this dog with all my heart and am saddened by the thought that he might feel that I don't love him. How can I make sure I'm spending enough time with my dog and not my smartphone? What are some ways to resist using my smartphone?
— Smartphone Addict
DEAR ADDICT: First, you and your folks should make sure your buddy gets a good medical checkup right away. Dogs tend to act mopey when they're not feeling well.
You are perceptive to see that your inattention has a real impact on your dog. It is possible that he is sad and depressed because he misses you. This is similar to the way some kids report feeling neglected by their parents when their parents play "Words with Friends" instead of talking and listening with full attention to them.
I recently read an interesting interview with psychologist Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other (2011, Basic Books).
Turkle pointed out that an important part of adolescence is the ability to be on your own for the first time, amusing yourself and exercising some independence. Your phone is your constant companion now; it fills a space that should be filled with your own imagination and with interaction with your best dog buddy, friends and family.
When you come home from school, put your phone in a drawer for two hours. Close the drawer and leave it there (not in your pocket). You and your dog will feel much better if you play and hang out together without the distraction.
DEAR AMY: "Sad in the South" wrote a heartbreaking letter about her mother, who was an alcoholic, and her father, who was in denial. I highly recommend checking out Adult Children of Alcoholics (adultchildren.org).
This is a wonderful 12-step program for people who grew up in alcoholic or other dysfunctional homes. "Sad" must be willing to accept that alcoholism is a generational disease that affects all members of the family. It will affect her children, too, even if she never drinks a drop. She must be willing to understand that the only person she can change is herself.
— Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: Thank you for the recommendation.