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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old mother. After a two-year relationship the father of my daughter left me and will have nothing to do with me or the baby. Then I was diagnosed with kidney disease and my life completely fell apart. My parents have custody of my daughter until I can get on my feet.

I dropped out of school a year ago and haven't been able to find a job. Now I'm trying to get my life back together and get back in school. However, my high school will not let me re-enroll. The principal told my mother, "Those students usually do better in a program where they go to school for only three hours a day and don't need as many credits to graduate." I guess they think if you have a baby, you don't have a brain.

Abby, I was a straight-A student in gifted and talented programs. I took my SAT in seventh grade.

I want to go back to school, but I'm frustrated and don't know what to do. Should I give up, or should I fight for my education? -- FRUSTRATED 16-YEAR-OLD IN NORFOLK, VA.

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Fight for your education; you have what it takes to be a winner. Hang in there, and good luck.

DEAR ABBY: I think you were way off base in your response to "Conservative Mom." She asked if she should talk with her 19-year-old college-age daughter about a receipt for the hotel room she had found bearing the names of her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. You told the mother that her daughter is an adult who has a right to make her own decisions.

I wonder if this "adult" is paying her way through college. Is she fully on her own, having cut the umbilical cord to her parents' purse strings? Is she so wise and worldly at 19 that she knows everything there is to know about dating and sex?

The hotel receipt could have provided an opportunity for the mother to bring up the subject of dating and sex and to perhaps share her own dating experiences with her daughter.

My wife and I are both 31, and she has a 19-year-old sister in college. When we learned that she had been sleeping over at her boyfriend's, we made it clear that we thought it was a bad idea because others in her dorm would assume they were having sex, even though she said "nothing" was happening. Should we have kept silent until she became pregnant because she's an "adult"? I only THOUGHT I was wise and worldly at 19.

Parents need to set examples, Abby. To think that a 19-year-old is an adult in every sense of the word is ridiculous.

Everyone can use some guidance once in a while, especially in this day and age when promiscuity seems to be widely accepted. To say that "Conservative Mom" has no business in her daughter's personal affairs and should not offer advice is absurd. -- DISAPPOINTED IN TUSTIN, CALIF.

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: I did not say that "Conservative Mom" had no business in her daughter's personal life, nor do I agree that finding the hotel receipt was the proper opening to bring up the subject of dating and sex. While there are any number of reasons why a young woman should be advised against sleeping with her boyfriend, what others in the dorm might think seems to be one of the least important.

Sexual activity, with the responsibilities and possible consequences that it brings, should have been addressed long before she graduated from high school. To bring it up now, with hotel receipt in hand, would only make her defensive.

I agree that few people are entirely worldly-wise at 19. People continue to grow and learn as long as they live.

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-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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