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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I read your column daily and have found the questions concerning when to talk to children about sex very interesting.

I feel it's up to the children to bring up the subject first. If you have made them comfortable talking to you, they will expect their questions to be answered honestly.

I was working in the kitchen one day when my daughter, age 8, broadsided me with, "Mommy, how old do I have to be before I can have sex?"

I took a deep breath and told her not until she found a man she really loved and wanted to be her baby's daddy, because when you have sex you could get pregnant and have a baby.

She responded matter-of-factly, "You could always use the pill." I told her there were other ways, and she said, "You could just say no." I praised her and thought the exchange was over when she asked if, when her daddy and I were dating, did I ever tell him no? Here I copped out and told her that was something she needed to ask her daddy.

My husband was outside and unaware of what was taking place in the kitchen, so he was unprepared when his 8-year-old daughter approached him and pointedly asked if, when he was dating Mommy, did she ever say no to having sex? He and I are on the same page when it comes to parenting. Without hesitating he answered, "Yes, repeatedly." She said OK and walked away, discussion over.

My daughter did wait for the man she truly loved to come along. They now have two beautiful sons.

I'm relating this story so that young parents will know the importance of listening to their children and answering their questions honestly. This holds true throughout their lives. You may not always like what you hear, but if you have always been willing to listen, they will continue to talk to you. -- HAPPY GRANNY IN WALDO, FLA.

DEAR HAPPY GRANNY: Thanks for a letter that's sure to promote discussion among people of all ages. It addresses the importance of responding to children's questions in an age-appropriate way. It reminds me of a story I heard years ago: A young mother was asked by her 7-year-old son, "Mommy, where did I come from?"

The mother had prepared herself well in advance for that question and was ready with the answers, in all their anatomical detail. When she finished her lecture, her son replied, "Oh. My friend Jimmy said he came from St. Louis."

DEAR ABBY: I am a 79-year-old grandmother of 17 and great-grandmother of eight. I am writing about the grandma letters you printed in your column. I was shocked at how some of them talk about their "terrible" grandchildren. I love all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

They come with their pink and blue suitcases that say "Going to Grandma's" and spend the weekend with us. I have had as many as seven stay overnight at one time. In the morning, I ask what they want for breakfast. They all want something different: waffles, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and toast. Guess what? I fix it all.

I live for the times when they visit. I always have five days to get my house back in order. I do laundry, clean and make beds until Friday -- when they come back again. I love it! -- GRANDMA SUSIE, SHAWNEE, OKLA.

DEAR GRANDMA SUSIE: Some people may say you are giving up your life for your grandchildren. The truth is, you are receiving love and making precious memories for the children with whom you are sharing your life.

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-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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