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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Bonds Do Not Have to Break After Bitter Divorce

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Minneapolis Reader," whose divorced brother did not want her to have contact with his ex-wife and therefore his children, touched me. I have been in that very same situation.

My husband's brother, "Albert," insisted that we not allow our children to spend time with his children when they were with their mother. Since they lived with their mother, there was little chance for contact. Like a fool, with much hesitation, I complied with my husband's demand that we yield to Albert's request.

I kept my daughters from their cousins' house on their first invitation to sleep over. That was the last time they were invited, and I have regretted it ever since. How cruel to punish my girls for a selfish, self-centered brother-in-law. The girls and their cousins loved each other. They had a right, as relatives, to continue the bond that was established when the adults were married.

Tell "Minneapolis Reader" to do the right thing even if no one agrees. Her brother should grow up, live with the choices he has made in his life, and not make his children suffer because of them. -- GROWN-UP IN LOUISIANA

DEAR GROWN-UP: I have said this many times, but it bears repeating: Children need family ties and stability in their lives. This is particularly true when divorce separates their parents. Read on for an example that demonstrates my point:

DEAR ABBY: More than 25 years ago, my parents divorced. It was the greatest tragedy my family has ever experienced. Because they have never been able to put their bitterness aside, we relive the pain on every holiday, birthday and special occasion. One of them has been absent from all of our graduations, weddings, children's births, etc., because the ex-spouse may be present. I cannot begin to describe the disappointment of my college graduation and my wedding due to the absence of one of my parents.

Their anger and bitterness has affected all of us children in many ways. We struggle with depression, poor relationship choices and low self-esteem -- all remnants of a childhood made difficult by divorce.

Divorcing couples and their families must understand that while the divorce is an end to the marriage, it can be a life sentence for the children. Children should never be expected to play favorites or choose sides, nor should the other family members of the divorcing couple.

To the brother of "Minneapolis Reader": Do your children and your family a favor -- KEEP THE PEACE. No matter how acrimonious the split, clinging to the bitterness and robbing your children of part of their family is not the answer.

I'm signing my name, but because I speak for many "divorced children," please sign me ... DIVORCE SURVIVOR

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