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DEAR ABBY: I had an awful childhood. After I was finally taken into state custody, I cycled through six different foster homes. Because of it I have struggled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember.

I'm 28 now and have a 4-year-old daughter who is everything to me. The problem is, I'm terrified of strangers. As a child I saw firsthand how evil people can be, and I am almost paralyzed with fear because of my hyper-vigilance. I fight the battle every day.

I am in counseling and I'm trying, but I am afraid I am going to make my daughter fear the world. She's in Head Start and loves it. Anyone who meets her comments on how happy and outgoing she is, but I don't know how to walk the tightrope between keeping her safe and making her afraid. Any advice would be appreciated. -- TERRIFIED OF STRANGERS

DEAR TERRIFIED: Considering your past, I think you're being a wonderful mother. You are getting professional help and for that I applaud you. You are realistic about your issues, and your daughter appears to be thriving.

You may need counseling for some time to avoid becoming overprotective and to allow your daughter to develop into a healthy adult. While your fears are the result of your history, they do not have to become a part of hers.


Making Introductions Is Fast-Fading Custom

DEAR ABBY: I grew up in the lap of luxury at a private country club in the East. My father was the golf pro. In my teens I noticed that these wealthy people always introduced one acquaintance to another whenever they met for a chat. I also noticed that my lower-income friends and family never did.

After moving across the country to the West Coast as an adult, I have noticed that nobody -- rich or poor -- seems to go out of their way to introduce a new face to others in the room. What would you say accounts for this? -- DONNA IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR DONNA: A person can't do what he or she hasn't been taught. During the 1960s, many parents stopped teaching their children social refinements like the one you describe. The result has been a lack of sensitivity in social interactions, and it is evident in more ways than this one.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics

Self-Styled Name Can Be Anything You Want

DEAR ABBY: A few weeks ago I began using a name other than my given name. It's one I made up and used during pretend games when I was a child, so it's personally significant.

A friend recently told me that because it is a common Japanese name, it is culturally inappropriate for me to use it because I am not Asian. It is also a name in Hebrew, German and Ancient Egyptian, as I recently learned. Is it wrong for me to use the name? -- THE NEW "ME" IN COLORADO

DEAR NEW "ME": No, it's not. You can call yourself any name you wish. Many parents have given their child a name from another culture because they liked the sound of it, and you don't have to make any apologies for changing yours.

Read more in: Miscellaneous

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