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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "A Teen Needing to Talk in Ohio," asking parents to listen to their children, motivates me to share my experience.

When I was in high school, I suffered severe depression and insomnia. I knew I needed help, so every once in a while I'd ask my parents if I could get counseling. When I would tell them how suicidal I was feeling, they'd say, "Oh, it's just a teen-age problem." Or, "Give it some time. You'll get over it." Those were the only responses I got.

The strange behavior that resulted from my depression finally made my parents suspect that I was using drugs. They searched my room and read my diaries, which only furthered my paranoia and depression, because I was clean. In my warped state of mind, I was convinced that suicide was the only way out. I am sad to admit it, but that's what finally caught my parents' attention.

We could have saved thousands of dollars in hospital bills, unbelievable amounts of pain and years off my recovery if they had only listened to me in the first place!

My parents are not horrible people. They love me dearly. They explain now that they didn't know what to do with a depressed child and were in denial from the beginning about my problems.

I hope parents who see themselves in this letter will be motivated to help their children. And for kids in my situation: If your parents won't listen, talk to your teachers, your family doctor, or the parents of one of your friends. Just make sure you get help. You are worth it. -- BETTER, NOT BITTER

DEAR BETTER: If there is one complaint that tops the list of those I receive from teen-agers, it's that their parents don't take the time to listen, or take their problems seriously.

Your letter carries an important message. We are living in particularly stressful times, and parents should be especially concerned about the effect that recent events are having on their children. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: A teen-ager wrote to plead with parents to listen to their children.

Two or three years ago, there was a sermon at my church on the subject of parents listening. During this sermon, our priest read a poem that touched me. After the service I asked if I could get a copy. I'm pleased to share it with you and your readers. The author is unknown:

"Take a moment to listen today

"To what your children are trying to say.

"Listen today, whatever you do,

"Or they won't be there to listen to you.

"Listen to their problems, listen to their needs;

"Praise their smallest triumphs, praise their smallest deeds.

"Tolerate their chatter, amplify their laughter,

"Find out what's the matter, find out what they're after --

"But tell them that you love them, every single night,

"And though you scold them, be sure you hold them tight;

"Tell them, 'Everything's all right --

"'Tomorrow's looking bright!'

"Take a moment to listen today

"To what your children are trying to say.

"Listen today, whatever you do,

"And they will come back to listen to you."

Thanks, Abby. I read your column every day. -- A.J. IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR A.J.: Thank YOU.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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