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by Abigail Van Buren

Investing Time With Youth Pays Off With Huge Returns

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, both "Colleen in California" and "Giving Grandma" wrote eloquent letters about the rewards of spending time with their grandchildren, helping them connect with positive activities. They and other readers may be encouraged to know that research shows when caring adults become involved with young people in such ways, these youth are far less likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol, skip school or hit someone. They show more confidence in their school performance and are more likely to get along with their families.

Unfortunately, more and more young people share the problems of "Stressed Out," the teen-ager who appealed to you last June because he felt excluded from peer social activities because of his commitment to avoid alcohol. Important studies indicate that the increasing hours today's children and teens spend without adult supervision and structured activity are one of the major risk factors for early substance abuse, sexual experimentation and involvement in crime and violence.

The Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a national call to action to raise awareness about the connection between youth involved in positive, skill-building activities and reduced substance abuse. We want to increase the number of adults participating in fun, positive, challenging, structured activities with youth. "Your Time -- Their Future" is a positive activities campaign that encourages individuals, membership-based organizations and corporate America to make modest investments of time and resources. It promises enormous returns in the health and well-being of today's children and tomorrow's families, communities and businesses.

Please, Abby, ask your readers to find out how they can put positive activities to work in the lives of young people by calling (800) 729-6686, or visiting the campaign's Web site: www.health.org/yourtime. -- NELBA CHAVES, PH.D., ADMINISTRATOR, SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

DEAR NELBA: I wish you the best of luck in this worthwhile effort. America's youth deserve to have more positive mentoring than a television set or a peer group between 3 and 7 p.m. daily. "Getting involved with kids" does not necessarily mean driving them 20 miles to some sports event. It can be as simple as helping with a stamp collection, nature walks, baking cookies, or doing a homework assignment at the library.

You, my readers, are the most generous people in the world. Now I'm asking you to give again. Please pick up the phone today and volunteer your time. America's children need you. The slogan "Your Time -- Their Future" is a recipe for saving our children. Get involved and assure our young people a safer, brighter tomorrow.

DEAR ABBY: Please help. I've kept a diary for most of my life. I am now 50 years old and I don't know what to do with it.

I had a son who died in a car wreck. He was my only child.

This has become a mental burden and I'm ready to carry the diary to my back yard and burn it. Any suggestions, Abby, before I start the bonfire? -- TEMPTED IN TENNESSEE

DEAR TEMPTED: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. If there is anything in your diary concerning your friends and relatives that could be hurtful or damaging, I urge you to destroy it. However, if it is just a record of your everyday activities, some family members might treasure it.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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