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DEAR ABBY: I am a teacher with more than 25 years invested in the lives of young people. You stress that parents need to provide their children with sex education because this is what will help them the most to make informed choices. May I present some pearls of wisdom from my experience and observations in working with youth?

Do all that you possibly can to help your children feel successful. Be their greatest fans. Encourage them to participate in activities that challenge and enrich them. Be generous with praise, both for efforts and accomplishments. Take time to write them special notes and look for cards to give them that contain messages of love and pride. (I still treasure the note my mother wrote to me when she felt she had neglected to acknowledge my hardworking efforts.)

Do things together. Hug them. Hug them again. The care and effort you extend to your children, in helping them build strong self-esteem, will generate huge dividends in the form of healthy, wholesome choices when they become teen-agers and young adults.

I can still hear my 30-year-old nephew telling us that as a child he always felt like a "good person" because we always told them what good kids they were. He became a teacher. -- STILL TEACHING AND TELLING THEM THEY'RE TERRIFIC

DEAR STILL TEACHING: Thank you for a terrific letter. I hope parents will take your message to heart. I was touched by the notepaper upon which your letter was written. Printed on it was: "GOALS. No one can predict to what heights you can soar until you spread your wings." How true.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I both have full-time jobs. Whenever I suggest that he help out more, his reply is always, "I do what I can."

Abby, if I had that attitude, our dog would be five years dead and the two cats multiplied to 400. The roof would have caved in on all the dust bunnies, a sink of dirty dishes and matching orange crates. Food in the refrigerator would be green and moldy with no way to cook it because of a broken stove. Utility companies would have turned off the power (but we'd still get a breeze through the broken window). Children's services would have arrested us for neglect, I'd still be wearing my college wardrobe, and my smile would reveal no teeth.

I've decided to throw myself a party. I'm inviting the veterinarian, roofer, appliance salesman, landscaper, but not my husband. He is finally going to have to do something -- like call an attorney. Sadly, however, he won't be left regretting his lack of familial duty. His mother will rescue her "baby boy" again.

Women: Take a lesson from someone who's been there. Find out just what it is he CAN do before buying a wedding dress! -- FINALLY FREE

DEAR FINALLY FREE: I am reminded of that old song, "It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House." I'm sorry that yours failed to live up to your expectations.

In fairness, women should not automatically expect men to fix a roof (or a cat). However, if necessary, they should be able to call someone who can, and schedule an appointment.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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

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