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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter, "Kristen," is almost 17. She's always been a good kid -- keeps her grades up and makes the honor roll regularly. She's never been a problem.

What worries me is Kristen's choice of boyfriends. I know parents are not supposed to like the boys their daughters date, but it's worse than that. The guy she is going with is so far below the standards her dad and I have set for her, it terrifies me.

This boy is only 16, but has dropped out of school and comes from a family that has nothing, including pride. Their house is filthy and falling apart. Frankly, I am embarrassed their name is associated with ours in this small town.

How can we get our daughter to understand she is playing with fire by associating with this guy? Should I forbid her to see him, or would that backfire? Don't tell me to have a heart-to-heart talk with her, Abby; she knows all too well how I feel. -- SCARED FOR OUR GIRL

DEAR SCARED: Don't judge the boy by his family. Unless he's into drugs, alcohol or violence, do not "forbid" your daughter to see him. It will only make him more attractive if he's off limits.

A more effective way to handle this might be to take an interest in the young man. Include him in family activities, and let him learn about your lifestyle and standards. Encourage him to go back to school. Your example could show him the advantage of completing his education. In fact, your family could be the best thing that ever happened to him.

DEAR ABBY: Your response to "Frightened Mom in Arizona" is sure to generate a huge response. My mouth literally dropped open upon reading what happened to her little boy at the day-care center.

Your response regarding reporting the incident to the police immediately was right on. However, adding that you have received letters from day-care providers complaining that parents pick up their children late was a big NO-NO.

Parents are frequently caught in traffic, bad weather, late meetings, etc. In these instances, parents should call the day-care center or provider and notify them he/she is running late and is en route, or if necessary, should arrange for someone else to pick up the child, if possible. We don't know the reason why "Mom" was late, but you almost made it sound as though if the parent was late, it was her fault if something happened to the child.

A responsible day-care supervisor would never let an employee's boyfriend or girlfriend supervise a child. Which brings me to my next point: Children should be informed that no one is to touch or look at their "private parts" ever in a day-care or baby-sitting setting. Parents need to let children know what is permissible and what is not.

My heart goes out to "Frightened Mom," and I will pray for her son. -- MOM IN SAGAMORE HILLS, OHIO

DEAR MOM: I received a stack of mail from readers who were offended that I wrote, "Let this be a warning." They felt I was blaming the mother for her son's possible abuse.

Perhaps I should have been more clear: It was intended as a warning to parents to have an emergency plan in place in case they are detained, so they know who will be responsible for their child until they arrive. Also, it is mandatory that the day-care center be licensed and that all personnel have passed background checks.

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.)

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