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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am very worried about my 12-year-old daughter, "Carrie." She's in seventh grade. The other night, I came across a letter she was writing to a girlfriend from school. It said, "I have 'Frenched' with him twice in the hallway.'" I was shocked! After taking a little while to get it together, I calmly asked Carrie about it. She refused to explain.

Abby, this is a girl who wanted (and got) a Barbie Talking Dream House for Christmas! How can she be French- kissing anyone?

Carrie and I have always been close, but now I realize she has confided in me less and less over the last several months. As she's gotten older, I'm afraid I don't know who she is anymore.

Her father and I are separated. He is currently enrolled in a 28-day alcohol recovery program. Carrie has not had much of a relationship with him for a couple of years now. I know that you are going to suggest counseling, and I am not opposed to that. However, my real question is, how do I convince my daughter to go? I know she'll fight it, and I hate the idea of forcing her to do anything. -- WORRIED AND CONFUSED MOM IN DELAWARE

DEAR MOM: If you haven't already done so, it is time for you to have a frank mother-daughter talk with your daughter about sex, and the responsibilities that go with it. Children are maturing faster than ever, and Carrie is right on schedule. There are many books for parents and teens on this important subject.

After you have done that, family counseling will improve your level of communication. As long as she knows the counseling isn't being aimed solely at her, she'll be less likely to object. As a member of the family, Carrie should be included.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 38-year-old, college-educated, single woman. I have a good job and own my own home. A few months ago, I met "Willie," a divorced man who is a couple of years younger than me. We initially exchanged e-mails, then met in person after several weeks. Willie is also well-educated and has a good job. We are extremely compatible, and our relationship has progressed to the point that we are now discussing marriage.

The problem is my mother and single, older sister disapprove of me spending time with Willie. They say I don't spend enough time with them and he is trying to separate us.

When we began dating, I invited Mom and my sister to join us for dinners. All my offers were refused. Willie did spend Christmas with us, but it was awkward.

I have told them how much Willie and I care for each other and that marriage is a possibility, but every time I see them, all they do is complain about my relationship.

Wouldn't you think that when I finally found someone, they would be supportive? What can I do to make this a more peaceful situation? -- TORN IN ALABAMA

DEAR TORN: If the only concern your mother and sister have about Willie is the fact that your relationship leaves you with less time to spend with them, the problem is theirs, and you should not make it yours. Neither should you put yourself into the thankless position of being the family peacemaker. I have a feeling no man will ever measure up to their "standards." Follow you heart and have a happy, fulfilling life.

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