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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: It's autumn again -- and Halloween will soon be here. That means it's time to remind readers with small children that:

-- Somebody's child will be seriously injured or killed in a Halloween-related traffic accident.

-- Somebody's child will be badly maimed or fatally burned due to a flammable costume.

-- Somebody's child will be coaxed into an automobile or lured into a secluded area and sexually assaulted.

To make sure that that child isn't yours, I offer these tips to preserve the safety of your children:

-- Use flameproof costumes only. If costumes are made at home, treat the fabric with a flame-resistant solution.

-- Because masks, floppy hats, wigs and veils often interfere with a child's vision, use makeup instead.

-- Accessories such as swords, broomsticks, hatchets, wands, etc., should be made of cardboard rather than plastic, metal or wood. Sharp items are dangerous!

-- Provide youngsters with flashlights to prevent falls on sidewalks or porch steps. (Positively no lighted candles should be carried!)

-- Decorate your child's costume and trick-or-treat bag with reflective tape to make them highly visible to motorists.

-- Remind children that they should never enter the home of a stranger or accept rides.

-- Adults can help by keeping their yards well-lighted.

-- Parents should check all "treats" before allowing children to eat them.

-- Very young children should never be out after dark unless accompanied by an adult.

So, let's make it a safe Halloween for all children, and come Thanksgiving, we will have more to be thankful for.

DEAR ABBY: Like many others, I can't say I've read your column for years because I'm only 11 years old. But I have read it a great many times.

I have a very bad habit. I suck my thumb and bite my nails. In fact, I've bitten one of my nails so low it started to bleed without my knowing it. It doesn't even hurt. I started sucking my thumb when I was about 3 years old; then I started biting my nails when I was about 6.

Whenever I catch myself, I take my hands away, or try to "hurt" my hand. Usually my family catches me when I'm not aware of what I'm doing. Abby, please help me, and sign this ... THUMB IN MOUTH AND NO NAILS

DEAR THUMB: Try this. Put a rubber band on your wrist, and when you get the urge to suck your thumb or bite your nails, snap the rubber band hard enough to remind you to resist those old habits.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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