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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I've never written before, but I'm sure you'll receive a lot of mail about the letter you printed from "Young Mother in Pennsylvania." She wrote, "I know Claire better than anyone else, so shouldn't I know the best way to be a parent to her?" Your answer was, "Yes, stick to your convictions."

I believe you overlooked a few things when you gave that answer. First of all, she's married at 19, they're living with her parents until they can get on their feet, and they have a 9-month-old child. It appears they entered the marriage without considering the costs of living together as a married couple, and to complicate matters, they had a child within the first year. (I'm not even considering the possibility of conception before marriage.)

However you look at it, this constitutes lack of wisdom.

She also said that although both of their parents "did a good job in raising them," now she suddenly feels she knows more than they do because she "knows her child." Abby, loving her child and being with her doesn't equate with wisdom in raising a child.

The problem appears to lie in her statement, "... what seems like advice to them sounds like criticism to me." Her viewpoint needs a little readjustment!

Granted, not all of their suggestions may be the best, but that doesn't mean she should throw the combined total of 40 years' experience out the window. She should sift through it and apply what appears reasonable. She should also be grateful for their advice and realize that they want what's best for both her and the grandchild because they love them. Viewing it from that perspective will help her gain wisdom and cope with the situation until they can move out on their own. -- SECOND OPINION FROM MINNESOTA

DEAR SECOND OPINION: You're right on all counts. I received considerable criticism for taking the side of the 19-year-old mother who wanted to tune out her parents' and in-laws' advice on child-rearing. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: When I saw the letter from the "Young Mother in Pennsylvania" who was receiving unwanted advice on how to raise her baby daughter, I felt compelled to write.

My mother taught me a magic phrase many years ago to help me deal with a relative who also gave a lot of unsolicited advice.

The phrase is: "It's something to think about." It gives the person giving the advice the feeling that you value his or her opinion. And it allows the listener to graciously take heed -- or let it go in one ear and out the other.

I wish the young mother much luck. -- EDIE CHERNACK, VERNON, CONN.

DEAR EDIE: Your tactful mother gave you excellent advice.

DEAR ABBY: When I became engaged, my future mother-in-law gave me a lovely diamond ring that had been in her family for three generations. I was thrilled and have cherished it. I know that it is worth several thousand dollars.

I am now divorced, and she has asked me to please return the ring. I love her very much and couldn't refuse her or fight over it, but that ring means a lot to me. I would have had the stone reset or, perhaps, passed it down to my children.

What is the right thing to do? -- DOUBLY BROKENHEARTED

DEAR BROKENHEARTED: Since your former mother-in-law has asked you to return this family keepsake that has been in the family for three generations, the "right" thing to do would be to return it.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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