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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Lucy," and her girlfriend, "Madelyn," are both 14. Madelyn recently met a boy on the Internet and began having regular "conversations" with him. Her parents became concerned and forbade her to continue.

I just found out that Madelyn is now writing to the boy and using our address for him to answer her, so that her parents will not know. I told Lucy this "boy" could easily be a child molester who preys on innocent young girls. At 14, they have no life experience, and Madelyn believes everything she reads in his letters. I also found out that she has given him her real name and address, her phone number and our phone number over the Internet.

I am very concerned because all of us are working parents, and our daughters, both freshmen in high school, are home alone every day after school. My husband thinks I am worrying needlessly and should mind my own business. Abby, my warning signals are flashing. Should I tell Madelyn's parents? -- GRACE IN TAMPA, FLA.

DEAR GRACE: Yes, and faster than you can say "cyberspace"! Madelyn's safety may depend on it. In all likelihood, her computer friend is a decent young man, but it would be foolish to take any chances. Explain to Madelyn why her parents must know, and give them the next letter that arrives. They can use the return address to determine who the sender actually is. After that, if any more letters addressed to her arrive at your address, turn them over to Madelyn's parents.

DEAR ABBY: I am a single mom. My two teen-age sons have never had a dad in their lives. They had only me. They don't drink, smoke or do drugs. They don't go out carousing or causing problems in the neighborhood. All this without a father. Let me tell you my parenting philosophy:

-- Give your kids respect and they'll respect you in return.

-- Share your life with your kids and they'll share theirs with you.

-- Listen to your kids and they will listen to you.

-- Provide clear guidelines and values and they will live up to your expectations.

On the other hand, if you:

-- Smoke, drink and do drugs, your kids will do the same.

-- If you get angry and scream, they will imitate you.

-- If you kick the dog, they will kick the cat.

-- If you hit your kids, they'll hit the smaller children.

-- If you disobey the law, your kids will do the same -- and possibly land in jail.

Remember, parents, your kids imitate you. It matters not whether you're single or married: If you do your best to bring up good kids, you won't be disappointed.

I thank the good Lord that he gave me the boys I have. They are blessings beyond compare. -- ALECSANDRA BIHLMAIER, FORT COLLINS, COLO.

DEAR ALECSANDRA: Your sons' greatest blessing was having a mother like you. Your philosophy is commendable. However, despite parents' best efforts, sometimes children choose the low road.

Parents should strive to raise their children with solid values, but they should not beat themselves up if their children are not the shining stars their parents wanted them to be.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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