Dear Savvy Auntie,

My 10-year-old niece, my sister’s daughter, with whom I have been extremely close, suddenly won't return my calls or text messages. She is distant and rude. She went from being loving to becoming distance for no reason.

My sister, her mom, passed away ten years ago and my niece is being raised by her dad and step-mother, step-sisters and brothers in Iowa. I travel to Iowa once a year to see her.

This past visit was awful. I cried every day for two weeks. I don't know if she is the victim of abuse or is being brainwashed to dislike her family. We were very close and now she doesn't want anything to do with me or her grandmother (my mom).

I am extremely sad. It's like losing my sister all over again. I send cards, letters, postcards, text messages and call her but get zero response. I send books and little gifts to her and her sister and never hear back - no "thank you,” nothing

Loving to Nothing

Dear Loving to Nothing,

This is indeed sad, as well as a little frightening. It sounds as if you don't have any contact with her dad. I suggest you try delicately to communicate with him...start slowly.

In the absence of any response from your niece, limit your outreach to her for the time being. As holidays approach, you could increase your efforts and see if that makes any headway.

It would be a reach, but I suggest you try to contact the school social worker, ask if she can keep your conversation confidential, and explain that you are concerned about any abuse. Request that she check into the possibility. It is a long shot, but worth the try.

Keep in mind that all the love you shared with your niece when she was younger is still inside her and might be able to be rekindled at some point in time.

I wish you good luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Homepage photo: avemario

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