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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My 31-year-old son calls me only when he's in need of something -- like bailing him out of jail. He never calls just to say hello or ask how I am.

My problem is my guilt feelings. All I can think of is that he's my son and I need to help him. In the meantime I am losing sleep, don't eat right and ignore the rest of my family. How can I help my son and not ignore the rest of my family? -- DISAPPOINTED MOM IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR MOM: Your son will never learn the consequences of his actions unless you stop bailing him out and giving him money. You may think you need to "help" him, but what you are doing ISN'T helping him. It's allowing him to continue to live irresponsibly.

Talk to your spiritual adviser, talk to your husband, consult a psychologist if necessary. But change your focus, because you're directing your attention away from the people who really need you -- and that's the rest of your family. And I'll bet in return you'll get the kind of attention you need.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old girl. My parents own a small business, and I have to work there every day. The only time I get to see my friends is at school or if they visit me. I know my parents are trying to protect me, but I think I'm old enough to take care of myself. They promise that if I do my chores I can go see my friends, but after I have finished, they change their minds.

I think they are trying to keep me from having a normal lifestyle. Please help me. -- CAGED BIRD IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR CAGED BIRD: Do your parents know and approve of your friends? Do they know their parents? Do they know where you will be going, how you will get there and back, and whether there will be supervision? Are they confident they can trust your word and that you will be back when you say you will be?

If the answer to these questions is "yes," then I agree, your parents are being overprotective. And further, it is wrong of them to make a promise to you and then break it. After all, trust works both ways.

DEAR ABBY: I have been placed in an uncomfortable situation at my new job. One of my co-workers, "Wade," has begun planning monthly potluck and brown bag lunches where he shares religious videos and asks everyone to pray with him. I saw this time as an opportunity to get to know my new co-workers, but I do not share his religious beliefs, and I'm offended by the message.

I don't want to seem rude to my fellow employees by declining invitations each month, but I don't want to have religion forced on me at social gatherings. What would be an appropriate thing to do in this situation? (By the way, I work at a religiously diverse state university.) -- CONFLICTED CO-WORKER

DEAR CONFLICTED: You mistook your co-worker's religious outreach project for a social gathering. Graciously and consistently decline the invitations. If you are pressed, say that you prefer to do other things on your lunch break. You may find others feel similarly once you draw the line.

P.S. If you are made to feel uncomfortable about your choice, report it to the university's human relations department.

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