DEAR ABBY: I am a widow with four teenagers. My husband died four years ago, and I have been seeing "Ken" -- a wonderful man -- for 18 months. He is four years older than I am, has never been married and has no kids. He had very little contact with mine until I was sure the relationship was serious.
Ken has proposed and we have set a date for a year from now, but my children are extremely unhappy. They say they don't know him and aren't comfortable around him. Ken is quiet and shy, the opposite of me. We have big decisions to make regarding homes and employment over the next few months.
I realize that life is precious. I'm happy with my decision to marry, but the kids are trying to make me feel guilty and make no attempt to get to know Ken. When he comes over, they barely say hello. They say they hate me, and once they leave for college they'll never return. I know they miss their dad, but how can I get them to see it's OK for me to move on? How can I foster a relationship between them and their future stepdad, help them to move on and accept my happiness?
The kids and I have gone to counseling and were discharged after progress was made, but things have slipped back since I started dating. They refuse to return to counseling. Please help. -- NEW HAMPSHIRE WIDOW
DEAR WIDOW: You are the mother of four immature teenagers who are afraid of change and view your fiance as a threat. In a few years all of them will be away at college and, I hope, will have matured enough that they no longer feel the need to "punish" you for not remaining a grieving widow for eternity.
It would be helpful if Ken had a more outgoing personality and could relate to your children. If he's willing, some counseling for the two of you might help so he can learn and you can get some tips. The bottom line, however, is that you are the parent in that household. Your children do not have to "love" Ken, but they do have to treat him with respect and consideration. If love grows from that -- terrific. If not, so be it.
DEAR ABBY: I have taught English at the junior and senior high school level for 19 years. As I grow older, I find it more and more difficult to be a good disciplinarian, and I'm afraid that I am shortchanging my students. I no longer have the motivation to be a good teacher.
I would go back to school to do something else, even though I am 45, but my husband has recently been placed on disability. Any suggestions for how the "old gray teacher" can evolve into something else? I have tried employment agencies in the area where I live, but they have not been much help. -- THE WORST TEACHER IN LOUISIANA
DEAR TEACHER: You may be suffering from burnout or from a mild depression. If you haven't already done so, discuss your feelings with the head of the English Department or your principal. With your husband not working, your stress level must be high, and it could have a lot to do with the way you feel. Some sessions with a counselor might help you find yourself again. And while you're at it, inquire about career counseling at either a local college or your alma mater.
DEAR ABBY: Would you please settle a dispute in my family? I am a stay-at-home wife and mother of two boys. I do everyone's dirty laundry. When someone leaves something in the pockets of clothes (like wallets, papers, etc.), who do you think should be responsible for removing said articles -- the person placing the clothes in the hamper or the person doing the wash? -- LAUNDRESS IN SPRINGTOWN, TEXAS
DEAR LAUNDRESS: Both!
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