DEAR ABBY: In all of my 50 years, this is the first time I have felt compelled to write. It's about your response to "No Vacancy in Indiana," the mother whose 15-year-old son went to live with his father but wanted to keep his old bedroom. Your response was right on, but it didn't go far enough. That boy needs professional help in dealing with his jealousy of the 5-year-old sister from the second marriage. If his feelings remain untreated, it will poison all his future relationships.
How do I know? I just got out of treatment for jealousy -- not my own, my sister's. She has told me throughout my life that the worst thing that ever happened to her was the birth of my twin brother and me. I beat myself up for years trying to have a relationship with my sister, but with professional help, I have realized that it will never be and have let it go.
Jealousy, once established, has a way of coloring all the other relationships the sufferer has. If the young man gets counseling to work through his jealousy, he might yet be able to establish a healthy relationship with his family and others in the future. -- FINALLY FREE IN MONTANA
DEAR FINALLY FREE: Although a certain amount of sibling rivalry is normal, I agree that the young man could benefit from counseling to come to terms with his jealousy. And by the way, some people felt I was far too lenient in my answer to that letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Your answer was way off base. If that boy is old enough to leave, he should also be old enough to accept the consequences of his decision. He just wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
The room should be given to his sister. He forfeited his right to it when he left. If the son decides to return home, let him have his sister's tiny room. The world does not revolve around him. -- FAITHFUL SIOUX CITY READER
DEAR FAITHFUL: While I'm all for teaching children to make responsible choices, a wise parent is careful about being overly punitive. It would be easy to react in anger to the son's behavior; however, the mother who wrote was obviously uneasy about making a snap decision. Although the 5-year-old's room might seem cramped to an adult, it probably doesn't seem so to the little girl, and won't for a few years. I see no harm in waiting a few months before reassigning the room. Young people sometimes make hasty decisions they later regret. They don't need to be punished for it daily, as long as they're under the parents' roof. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago, I married a widower with three children and brought into the marriage my youngest son, age 15, the survivor of a very bad home life. We were all short of space, but somehow I had sense enough to keep a separate bedroom for my son.
When he left for college, he asked, "Who gets my room?" I replied, "No one. It's always yours."
A year later, he let me know how emotionally strong my answer had kept him. He knew he had "a place" in our home and in our hearts.
Today he is a dean of students at a great college and mentors young people. The 15-year-old NEEDS the larger room -- the 5-year-old doesn't. -- CHARLOTTE IN MILFORD, DEL.
Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.
Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600