Dear Abby

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.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a junior in high school and have never had any romantic experience. It wasn't a big deal when I was a freshman, but now as the prom approaches, I'm starting to get anxious about the possibility of being dateless.

My friend "Terri" says you don't have to have a date, but I am still skeptical. Although it might be fun going with Terri and other friends, who am I supposed to share a slow dance with? I'd feel awkward sitting there while everyone else danced. And I would feel uncomfortable if a guy I didn't know asked me to dance.

If I give up on the idea of going, I might miss a special night, but could also be avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation. What's your advice?

— UNDECIDED TEEN

DEAR UNDECIDED: Stop worrying about what "might" happen, go to the prom with your friends and keep an open mind. If you aren't asked to dance, look around and you'll probably see others who haven't been asked, either. Talk to them. I'm sure they'll be glad for the company.

If someone you don't know asks you to dance, it means he thinks you're attractive. That's a compliment. So smile, be polite and dance with him. If he's not your dream partner, remember it's only a dance — not a marriage proposal.

Unless you're willing to take some risks and put yourself out there, you will never get any romantic experience.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.