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DEAR ABBY: My son, "Stan," and his wife, "Meg," do not have the best of marriages. When they fight, they have mouths that should be washed out, bleached and rinsed with holy water. I have a granddaughter who is 7 and a 10-year-old grandson who have seen and heard things no kids should.

I have scolded Stan and Meg for using obscenities in front of their children. My son was not raised this way, but when I speak my mind, Meg says she's the mama -- not me.

I am a firm believer that children learn by example, and my grandchildren are not being provided a good one. When the kids are with their granddad and me, we try to instill values and explain things to them when they ask. I just hope they grow up understanding that not everyone lives and talks the way their parents do. Your thoughts, please. -- CARING GRANDMA IN A LITTLE TEXAS TOWN

DEAR CARING GRANDMA: I agree that, for better or worse, youngsters learn more from the example their parents set than from any lecture. Your grandchildren are being done a tremendous disserve. They are being taught that verbal abuse and profanity are normal. By indulging themselves in this behavior, your son and his wife are shirking their parental duties. Please continue to interact with your grandchildren as often as possible so they can have positive role models.

DEAR ABBY: Over the years, my husband and I have noticed that you often advise couples to seek marriage counseling. We've been married 25 years and want to offer a few thoughts:

First, there is a misconception that "going to counseling" is a sign that the marriage is failing. We have benefited from counseling several times. We are strong-willed people who sometimes have trouble getting past things that bother us, including dreams and goals that conflict with each other. The way we express ourselves can sometimes be detrimental, too. While we can work through most of these disagreements, we have found outside counsel very helpful at times.

Second, there are a variety of ways a couple can get counseling. Many churches have caring couples in successful marriages who are trusted by the pastoral staff to counsel other couples. These couples are usually warm and generous and have a lot of wisdom to share.

We also recommend that engaged couples seek counseling before they marry. We wish we had been given real counseling at that point in our lives. There were hidden issues that an experienced counselor could have pointed out to us -- our different philosophies about handling money, raising children, relationships with extended family, career, etc.

A marriage requires work by both individuals in order for it to grow. There is no shame in reaching out for guidance when needed, and no sense in waiting until things are out of control. -- WENDY AND BILL NICKOLEY, ROCKAWAY, N.J.

DEAR WENDY AND BILL: I often recommend counseling because the problems in the letters I receive are usually just the tip of the iceberg. I agree that couples should seek help while trouble is brewing instead of waiting until the pot has boiled over. However, for those who are unaffiliated or who would rather not get church-based counseling, a call to one's physician requesting a referral can also be effective.

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