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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to "All Alone in Tucson, Ariz.," who is 14 and had a miscarriage. I had a similar experience. I, too, began having sex at an early age. It caused a lot of problems I am still dealing with in adulthood.

Sex is not fun and games. It can ruin your self-esteem faster than a speeding bullet. Once you lose your self-esteem, it can take years to get back.

Also, having sex without regular visits to a gynecologist can jeopardize your fertility. In other words, when you finally find a man who deserves you, you may not be able to get pregnant. That's what happened to me, and it is heartbreaking.

I hope "All Alone" gets to a doctor and resolves her issues with her mother. They need to talk. It's important that she tell her mother that she needs her guidance. Boys come and go, but the mother-daughter bond lasts forever. -- FINDING MY WAY BACK IN SACRAMENTO, CALIF.

DEAR FINDING: I'm sorry you have to learn these life lessons the hard way. I hope "All Alone" will learn from your experience and take your advice. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: We mothers need to remind ourselves that when our daughters are teen-agers, it's not important whether their room is neat or what kinds of clothes they wear. It's more important that they know we care for them -- that we'll always be there for them no matter what happens in life. Many times mothers are the primary source of support and love. We must fulfill that role.

The only thing "All Alone" wants is the assurance that someone cares for her unconditionally. She wanted love from the boy who shunned her, from the child she lost, and from the mother she feels will "kill" her when she finds out she was having sex.

A mother's job is not so much to teach a child how to make a bed, study hard, or even not to have sex before marriage, as much as it must be to love her child, make sure he or she knows it every day, and to teach the child to love him or herself. If a mother can do these things, the child will be empowered to live life in a positive way. -- A MOTHER WHO LEARNED IN TIME

DEAR MOTHER: You have said it beautifully.

DEAR ABBY: You should have told "All Alone" that there are helpful agencies like Planned Parenthood that provide help for teen-agers without requiring legal consent of an adult. Not only can they provide medical attention to ensure that "All Alone" is safe and can have children in the future, but they provide the emotional support and peer counseling necessary to give her confidence and renewed self-esteem.

In an ideal world, parents would all be approachable and helpful in a crisis. If they were, perhaps there would be no crisis. Since an ideal world doesn't exist, helpful agencies do -- thank God. -- TEEN ADVOCATE IN NAPA, CALIF.

DEAR TEEN ADVOCATE: I'm glad you wrote. I have long been a supporter of Planned Parenthood, which offers a full range of reproductive health services for both men and women, including premarital blood testing, contraceptive services, prenatal care and counseling -- to name only a few.

Tomorrow I'll share more of the letters I have received from young women who identified with "All Alone's" experience.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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