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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help resolve an ever-widening dispute between my husband and me. We live in a small town with our young children.

Our next-door neighbor is a troubled woman. I call her the Wicked Witch of the West. She's openly hostile, a mad-at-the-world type. Extending an olive branch to her is not possible, as testified to by her many former friends and family members who avoid her.

When the "witch" is out in her yard, she ignores the innocent greetings of our young children, which hurts their feelings. Yet she refers often and loudly to her dogs as her "children" and speaks to them as one would a child. I worry what a person so filled with anger may be capable of. I don't feel safe having my children grow up next to her.

Our neighbor to the east of us is a wonderful person who showers our children with attention and affection. I want to move, but my husband says we have to focus on the positive -- the delightful neighbor whom our children adore. What do you think we should do? -- CONCERNED MOTHER IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA

DEAR CONCERNED MOTHER: I vote with your husband. If you move, there is no guarantee that your new neighbors will relate well to children.

A more realistic way to handle this would be to explain to your children that the neighbor to the west is troubled and unhappy, and that they should leave her alone. It shouldn't be hard to impress on them, because children usually respond to people who show an interest and pleasure at being around them. If possible, plant a nice, thick hedge along the west side of your yard so they don't have to see her or be rebuffed by her.

DEAR ABBY: Recently I began dating a girl from work, and I think she's absolutely wonderful. I'll call her Sheryl. She's a part-time college student. We get along great, and our relationship is slowly progressing.

The one problem I have with her is that she has stopped going to her classes. Sheryl says she "just doesn't feel like it" anymore. She said school started off well, but because of poor attendance she's missed some tests and is failing two of her four classes.

I have encouraged Sheryl to pull herself out of this pit and salvage her grades, rather than accepting failure. However, it shouldn't be my job to constantly remind her to go to class. Sheryl already knows what she needs to do but is very discouraged. She's unhappy with her major, and now she's talking about dropping out and taking some time off.

What should I do, Abby? I can't bear to watch Sheryl fail. -- ANDY IN OHIO

DEAR ANDY: You are a caring friend, and Sheryl is fortunate to have you in her life right now. Please urge her to talk to her school counselor about her ambivalence in continuing college. As a part-time student, she may be carrying too heavy a load and might do better if she cut back. She may also be suffering from depression, and should be evaluated at the student health center before dropping out. However, ultimately the choice is hers, and whether she stays in school is not your responsibility.

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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