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by Abigail Van Buren

Dad Puzzled by How to Explain His Parents' Childish Behavior

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are separated and in the process of getting a divorce. I have a 9-year-old stepson from this marriage whom I love very much. I'll call him "Nicky." We are very close, and I continue to see Nicky and participate in his life as much as I did before the separation. I'm the only father he has ever known.

The problem is my parents. They have refused to have anything to do with Nicky since the separation. They ignored his birthday and refuse to attend any of his ball games. They act like he no longer exists. Nicky is such a fine young man, and he is very hurt by their behavior.

Abby, since I can't change my parents, how can I explain their unkind behavior to Nicky in a way that won't hurt him any more than he's already been hurt? -- SON OF HARD-HEARTED PARENTS

DEAR SON: Be honest with your stepson. Explain that grown-ups do not always do the right thing, and you do not approve of your parents' behavior. Let him know that your parents are acting this way because they blame his mother for the divorce, and have withdrawn from him as a way of punishing her.

Remind Nicky that he has done nothing wrong, and this is not his fault. Assure him that you love him unconditionally.