DEAR ABBY: My mother watches my two children before and after school and during the breaks. She is a caring person, but she is also very critical of my daughter. (She's fine with my son.)
Mom constantly tells my daughter she needs to lose weight or exercise more, or her hair looks stringy, or she isn't dressed properly. My daughter is only 9.
My mother did this to me when I was younger, and it made me feel I could never live up to her standards. How should I approach her about this? I don't want my daughter to feel inadequate. She's a beautiful, intelligent little girl. -- FRUSTRATED IN MISSOURI
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Deal with this firmly, before your mother erodes your daughter's self-esteem as she did yours. Tell her how her constant criticism made you feel, that you don't want the same thing to happen to your little girl, and that anytime she's tempted to make a negative comment, she should substitute a positive one instead. Be direct with her, and if she isn't able to comply, make other arrangements for your daughter.
DEAR ABBY: My siblings have noticed my distant, odd behavior toward one of my brothers. This sibling and I have a history of incest. He raped me repeatedly for years, and I want nothing to do with him. When the family gathers, one or the other of us declines the invitation if the other one is going to be present.
I have told one sibling, "We just don't get along -- old stuff, ya' know!" and left it at that. I want to keep the reason to myself. I feel I may be pushed for a better answer. Shouldn't "old stuff" be enough of a reason? Should I tell or not? -- SHOULD I OR SHOULDN'T I?
DEAR SHOULD I?: A person who repeatedly rapes someone "for years" is a predator. This wasn't two kids "experimenting"; it was sexual assault. How do you know he didn't prey on other siblings or cousins? You should have sought counseling about this years ago, and it's still not too late. Once you do, I'm sure you'll find the strength to stand up for yourself and speak out.
DEAR ABBY: Seven years ago, when I was 25, I quit a good job before I had a new one. Hard times ultimately led to my husband and me divorcing. I went back to school and am now starting a new career. But I can't help but feel that if I had not quit my job years back, I'd be established in a career by now and still be married.
I never listened to anyone back then, although I was polite and quiet. I have grown from the experience, but my heart aches for what I lost. I don't drink or do drugs, so there is no numbing this pain. How do I get over my regrets and heal? -- LOOKING BACK IN ILLINOIS
DEAR LOOKING BACK: You can't change the past. You can only concentrate on and build a future. Do that by making a conscious effort to stay in the present.
When you feel yourself slipping backward and reliving the pain, pull yourself into the here and now. Then thank your higher power for your health, your job, and the chance to rebuild your emotional and financial future. Regret is the cancer of life. Dwell on it, and it will keep you from progressing.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)