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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old girl whose parents treat me like an 8-year-old. They not only refuse to let me see any movie that isn't G-rated, but they still cut my meat for me! Once a week we go to the park, and they still push me on the swings.

I don't want to tell them it's embarrassing because I'm afraid I'll hurt their feelings. Please tell me how to convey to my parents that I'm not a child anymore. -- OLD ENOUGH IN VIRGINIA

DEAR OLD ENOUGH: Your parents mean well, but children who are overprotected to the extent you have been often become stunted in their development. Teens do not learn social skills and how to make appropriate choices when they are "supervised" to the extent you are.

Tell your parents that you love them, but in three years you will be 18 and an adult. Explain that you know they love you, but if you are not allowed some freedom now, then you will be behind your peers because of your inexperience when you have reached an age when you'll be expected to make wise choices. Remind them that even children half your age are sufficiently coordinated that they can cut the food on their plates, and you would appreciate their allowing you to get some practice.

If this doesn't help them let go, then ask another adult to help you deliver the message.

DEAR ABBY: Two family members passed away, and because we live several states from our family, we were not informed of their deaths until many weeks after the funerals. Whose responsibility is it to notify us of a death in the family? -- LEFT IN THE DARK

DEAR LEFT IN THE DARK: There is no designated person who makes the call. Often it is a family member conveying the sad news, or a close family friend if the family is too devastated or too busy making funeral arrangements to reach out. That you were not notified until weeks after the funeral -- not once but twice -- implies that there may have been some sort of estrangement. And if that's the case, you have my sympathy.

DEAR ABBY: An old friend from high school came to visit. While she was here I couldn't help but notice that her teeth and gums were in awful shape. Her gums were red and swollen, with dark plaque around the gum lines.

I feel terrible for her. I'd hate to see her lose her teeth. She's only 30, but it's clear she'll be in trouble if she doesn't see a dentist ASAP. How can I let her know that she really, really needs to do this? -- CONCERNED IN L.A.

DEAR CONCERNED: Have a heart-to-heart talk with your friend and ask her why she hasn't been seeing a dentist. Tell her you are worried about her because diseases of the mouth can cause problems in other areas of the body or be a sign of illness.

If her problem is a fear of dentists, she should know that there are dentists who specialize in treating patients like her who can administer anti-anxiety meds to help her. And if her problem is money, that she should contact dental schools in her state to see if she could be treated as part of their supervised training for dental students. You are right to be concerned about your friend, so don't put off talking to her.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)