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Teenager Gets Grounded for Sky High Phone Bill

DEAR ABBY: My 13-year-old daughter, "Karen," met a boy on the Internet. I guess she felt she needed to talk to him because she called him on the telephone. Unfortunately, he lives in Spain, and she ran up an $1,100 phone bill. Karen had no idea it cost that much to call him, and of course she didn't ask for my permission.

I grounded Karen until she works off the debt, which will probably take six months. I also took away her phone and Internet privileges and made her quit the school volleyball team.

Karen has ADHD, so we've had some problems with her in the past. I don't want to overreact and make her rebel or run away like I did when I was her age. What I do want is to teach her responsibility. What do you think? -- UNHAPPY MOM IN OHIO

DEAR UNHAPPY: I don't blame you for being angry, but you have gone a little overboard. It's time to reconsider the multiple punishments you've levied on your daughter. You say you don't want to overreact or make her rebel. Yet you have cut off her contact with the outside world -- no phone, no Internet, no sports. I agree she should pay at least part of the phone bill, but as she does, you should gradually reinstate her privileges.

DEAR ABBY: You dispensed some wonderful advice in your Thanksgiving Day column. You wrote, "If you're feeling down and want an instant 'upper,' the surest way ... is to do something nice for someone else." I'd like to echo your sentiments and encourage your readers to keep the doldrums at bay by volunteering.

Volunteering not only benefits the recipients of service, but often the volunteer feels better as a result of giving back. Volunteering reduces social isolation and disconnection, boosts spirits, combats stress and builds stronger communities.

According to the most recent study by the Points of Light Foundation and Indiana University, respondents said that volunteering as a family improves communication, promotes positive values, emphasizes the importance of teamwork, teaches kids empathy, respect, friendliness and tolerance, and creates a new generation of dedicated volunteers.

Please encourage your readers who might be dreading this holiday season to volunteer. Giving to others is the best way to nourish your own spirit. -- ROBERT K. GOODWIN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, POINTS OF LIGHT FOUNDATION

DEAR ROBERT: Thanks for an inspiring reminder that the surest way to forget your own troubles is to do something nice for those less fortunate. The adrenaline rush you'll get is more powerful than speed, and the "high" is perfectly legal. Everyone has something to give, and the most precious gift isn't money -- it's TIME.

Readers, to find projects in your local communities or wherever you spend your holiday vacations, call toll-free (800) 865-8683 and enter your ZIP Code, or visit www.1-800-Volunteer.org. Families can find project ideas, activities for kids and other helpful resources by exploring the Web site. Since the holiday season is upon us, don't procrastinate. Reach out and grab the opportunity to help someone.

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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