Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Subdued Colors at Funeral Are Way of Paying Respect

DEAR ABBY: I need your help. For many years, my parents have not been able to care for their children. They are barely able to take care of themselves. I am the oldest child and have helped to raise my younger brother and sisters.

My youngest sister is 16, and in a couple of weeks will be marrying her boyfriend so that she'll have a place to live. (They will live with his parents after the ceremony.) I don't think this is right, but the family thinks it will be a good learning experience for her and will make her grow up faster.

I am torn because I don't feel that marriage should be used as a "lesson" to a teenager. I know with some people the marriage can last for years, but I'm afraid she will become a divorce statistic and that she's ruining any chance for living as a regular, normal teenager. What are your thoughts on this? -- JENNIFER IN UTICA, N.Y.

DEAR JENNIFER: Your concerns are valid. Your sister is marrying for the wrong reason, and most young women who do it find they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. If there is a chance she might listen to you, please discourage her from taking this path. It is important that she complete her education and experience independence before marrying. If your parents can no longer shelter your sister, foster care or staying with a relative might be a better option than the "marriage" she's planning.

P.S. Are YOU able to take her in?