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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a 21-month-old daughter, "Jennifer," who spends every other weekend with her father. Sometimes when she returns home, her fingernails are painted. I have tried to explain to my ex-husband that Jennifer is too young for nail polish and it isn't healthy for her. Her fingernails aren't thick enough, and the chemicals could seep through into her skin. I hate using polish remover because it is too strong. Please help me convince him that Jennifer is too young to have her nails painted. -- WORRIED MOTHER IN WISCONSIN

DEAR WORRIED MOTHER: I checked with a pediatrician who told me that while Jennifer is quite young to wear nail polish, there is nothing medically dangerous about it.

It is important for you to remember that you set the rules for YOUR home and Dad sets them for HIS. As long as what's going on at Dad's is not dangerous, you should not interfere. The same goes for Dad and the rules at your house.

DEAR ABBY: The homes in my neighborhood are very close together. Last year a family moved in next door, and they have terrible fights. Off and on throughout the summer, I couldn't help but hear them yell and cuss at each other, and say horribly cruel and painful things.

Winter weather and closed windows have brought some relief, but I dread the approach of summer and having to listen to their fights again. Abby, I know -- I've lived through situations like that. Thankfully it was a long time ago. It is painful for me to hear them, knowing how much they must be hurting to say those awful things.

I have two questions: If they start fighting again this year, is there an appropriate way of asking them to keep the volume down?

And what, if anything, can I do for their children, who bear the brunt of all this yelling? I have never seen any evidence of physical abuse, but I know all too well the verbal abuse they are receiving can be just as damaging.

I know that low-cost family counseling is available in this community. Should I mention it to them? I don't know them very well, and I'm hesitant to do anything that will make the situation worse. Some people might consider an offer of information about counseling as a statement that they're sick or bad, and I'd hate to give them that impression. -- CONCERNED NEIGHBOR

DEAR NEIGHBOR: Before you offer any information, first establish a level of trust and communication with one or both of your neighbors.

A good place to start would be an invitation to join you for coffee or to go walking -- anything to open the lines of communication.

During one of those chats, you might reveal something of your own painful past, and mention that counseling services are available in your community.

And if your neighbor protests that he/she cannot afford professional counseling, tell them that they can't afford to ignore it, and all the reasons why, including how damaging verbal abuse is to children.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600