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by Abigail Van Buren

Don't Hesitate to Reach Out to Friend Who Needs Help

DEAR ABBY: How do I tactfully explain to my stepdaughter (my husband's child from his first marriage) that I do not wish to be a baby sitter to her three little girls (my three grandkids)? I have never been around children, never baby-sat any kids, and always feel uncomfortable around them. I never had the desire for children of my own, and the thought of baby-sitting three little girls overwhelms me.

My husband's daughter and I became acquainted only a year ago. She was never part of our life during her growing years, until last year after she got married. She is now 26 and will be moving to our town in a few months. What's the best way to explain my feelings without making her feel rejected, which is probably what she felt all her growing years. Help! -- NEW MOM AND GRANDMA IN WASHINGTON

DEAR N.M. AND G.: The best way to approach it is to broach the subject well in advance of being asked to baby-sit. Tell your husband's daughter exactly what you told me -- that you have zero experience with small children and weak maternal instinct. Therefore, she should not count on you as a baby sitter. A supportive friend and ally -- yes. A baby sitter -- no. Say it with a smile. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.