DEAR ABBY: In 2000, I won full custody of my two children, a boy, 12, and a girl, "Dallas," who is now 14.
I have done everything I could to raise them both with good morals and provide them with a good education.
A few weeks ago, Dallas confided in me that she's attracted to girls, and has a long-distance relationship with a girl in a different state. It came as a shock, but I have tried to understand so that she doesn't feel bad about it. I'm hoping this is just a phase she's going through and that it will pass -- but if it doesn't, I'll do my best to deal with it.
My problem is that Dallas insists on letting everyone know about her orientation. She even wears jewelry with the rainbow colors. I keep trying to make her understand that this is HER business, and it's not something she should make public, but she responds by asking me if I'm ashamed of her. (I always reply, "Of course not.")
Am I wrong by telling her that? What's the correct way to deal with this? -- CONFUSED PARENT, ARLINGTON, VA.
DEAR CONFUSED: It is a compliment to you that your daughter trusts you enough to be open with you about her sexual orientation. Many gay teens -- and younger children -- are so afraid they'll disappoint their parents by disclosing they are "different" that they don't talk about it.
What your daughter needs right now is to know that you love and approve of her. You must be doing something right, because she is assured enough about who she is that she feels safe being open about it. Congratulations on that.
It is extremely important that you come to terms with your own feelings about homosexuality. It is not uncommon for the parents of a gay child to feel guilt or shame, when in truth, it has nothing to do with the quality of their parenting and everything to do with genetics.
Your wisest move at this point would be to contact PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and join one of its many support groups. Once you do, you will find it enormously helpful. Contact it by calling (202) 467-8180, or check the Web site at www.pflag.org.
I have recently learned about another helpful resource for parents of younger children who exhibit gender-variant behavior and interests. It's the Children's National Medical Center, which offers a booklet titled "If You Are Concerned About Your Child's Gender Behaviors." It can be downloaded from www.dcchildrens.com/gendervariance in either English or Spanish. It can also be ordered by writing CNMC, 111 Michigan Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20010.
In addition to the booklet, the Children's National Medical Center's outreach program provides clinical mental health services and referrals to other knowledgeable professionals, a free monthly support group for parents and children, an online discussion group for parents, and a Web page with information for both parents and professionals.
DEAR ABBY: Please alert other dog lovers about something our family learned this week after spending hundreds of dollars at an emergency veterinary clinic: Dogs can become seriously ill or die from eating grapes, raisins, onions and garlic.
Our darling puppy may have permanent kidney damage because, in our ignorance, we left a bowl of grapes on the dinner table. I hope other families will read this and keep their pets safe. Thanks for spreading the word. -- GERMAN SHEPHERD MOM, THORNTON, COLO.
DEAR SHEPHERD MOM: Consider it done ... a "woof" to the wise.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)