Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our parents, who were married 47 years, divorced six months ago. Mom and Dad now live on opposite sides of town. My brothers and I have been discussing how to celebrate the holidays as a family. I think Dad could probably tolerate being in the presence of Mom for a few hours, but Mom is so angry, she can't stand the sight of him. We kids want our children to celebrate as we always have -- as one family.

I realize we could split Thanksgiving and spend half a day with each parent. However, we don't think that's fair to us and our children. My husband is recovering from a heart attack, and he will get too tired if he has to spend the whole day with that many people. I suppose he could slip off into the bedroom and rest, but how much rest can you get with people talking and kids running all over the place?

I would like for our parents to meet us in a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, either at noon or in the evening. I'm not sure Mom would agree to be in the same room with Dad, though. My oldest brother thinks it would be a disaster.

Abby, do you have any suggestions for handling this holiday dilemma? -- THE CHILDREN

DEAR CHILDREN: Putting your parents together now would be like mixing fire and ice. Forcing them to be in the presence of each other when their feelings are still so volatile would ruin the holiday for everyone. It's time to establish new traditions.

Since your husband is not up to a full day of celebrating, I suggest you have Thanksgiving dinner with one parent and dessert with the other. Next year, do the opposite. It isn't the "family" celebration you wanted, but it's practical.

DEAR ABBY: The recent letters you printed about transmitting colds prompts my own. Last year, I missed more than a week of work and was sick for almost a month. It was all because a few employees repeatedly came to work sick. My company lost many man-hours during a season when the whole crew was needed. All of it could have been prevented by practicing courtesy and common sense.

Some suggestions to help prevent the spread of colds and flu:

(1) Stay home when you're sick. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, rest, and drink plenty of fluids.

(2) If you can't afford to lose time, make sure to use a cough suppressant. A doctor or pharmacist can recommend the best one for you. A cough not covered can spread germs up to 15 feet away. When you must cough and cannot cover your mouth, bury your face in your arm -- or at least turn away from others.

(3) Use disposable tissues -- and use them only once. Deposit them in a proper receptable, preferably a lined one so someone else doesn't have to touch them.

(4) Wash your hands at the beginning of breaks and before returning to work to help minimize spreading your illness.

Remember, too, that even the "hale and hardy" can meet an early death if a cold or flu slips unnoticed into pneumonia. I know I wouldn't want it on my conscience that I might have spread the "bug" that killed someone. -- A FELLOW EMPLOYEE

DEAR FELLOW EMPLOYEE: Those are excellent suggestions. What you are promoting is consideration for others -- and that applies during every season, not just the flu season.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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