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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I seem to be having a communication problem.

I became a widow a year ago. I have two sons, a daughter and three grandsons. They are very good to me. They take me out to dinner often and will buy me anything I say I need.

However, what I really need is help around the house -- someone to mow my lawn, trim the shrubs and trees, paint, etc. I can't do these things myself. I am 72 years old, and having to pay for this kind of help doesn't leave much for extras.

It's a shame, Abby. Here I am with two sons, a son-in-law and three grandsons -- and no help. Please don't use my name. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. I just want to be heard. -- NO HELP

DEAR NO HELP: Here's your letter. You should be more specific about your needs. Offer to prepare lunch in exchange for a day of work around your home, then be effusive with your appreciation. Here's hoping that after this runs, you (and others who are in the same boat) won't have to send out a cry for help.

DEAR ABBY: I have never written to you before, but "Josie," my daughter-in-law, does something that really bothers me. She frequently tells "Sammy," her 3-year-old, to "shut up." That phrase seems so ugly.

I am afraid it will undermine my grandson's self-confidence. Children should be made to feel they are important and loved, and that what they have to say is of interest to adults. They need to be supported. I also think Josie should be more consistent with her discipline. How is Sammy to know if Mommy means it this time when last time she threatened but never acted on her words?

Abby, how can I get my daughter-in-law to quit telling her darling little boy to shut up without coming off as critical and interfering? -- MRS. X IN BANGOR, MAINE

DEAR MRS. X: Explain your fears to your son, and offer some alternative phrases for "shut up." Until your daughter-in-law is willing to make a change, there's nothing you can do to force her. All you can do is lavish your grandson with a double dose of love and support.

DEAR ABBY: I recently married a wonderful, unselfish man who was willing to take my last name at the altar instead of my assuming his. The reason for his decision was that his family had other sons to continue their family name; mine is a family of daughters.

In order for him to assume my last name legally, we have been told he will have to go to court and request the name change. Isn't this discrimination? From the time a woman marries, she can begin signing her new last name without legally changing it.

Can't a husband assume his wife's last name without going to court? And, do I call myself "Mrs." even if I keep my maiden name? -- CONFUSED IN CANADA

DEAR CONFUSED: Your husband may call himself whatever he chooses, but the prudent thing to do with a last-name change is to discuss it with a lawyer.

And yes, now that you are married you may call yourself "Mrs. John Jones" -- your husband's new last name -- regardless of the fact that you were a Jones before the marriage.

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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