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Woman Wants to Say the Right Thing to Boyfriend's Young Son

DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship with someone for 11 months. He has full custody of an 8-year-old son from a previous relationship. The mother hasn't been in the child's life for two years. His son knows I am his father's girlfriend and has seen us be affectionate with each other. He has also heard us say "I love you."

Lately, the boy has been saying "I love you" to me, and I am torn about how to respond. We have a good relationship, and I do care for him and his well-being, but I don't know how to respond when he says this. Do I say "I love you" back because I care for him, or should I not respond? I don't know if he's just mimicking what he sees or hears, but I also don't want to teach him that he shouldn't be open about his feelings. -- CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

DEAR CAUGHT: All children want to feel loved. Because you care about the boy, give him a hug and say you love him, too, and always will.

I do have one caveat, however. If your relationship with his father doesn't work out, it is very important that you and the child's dad talk to him and tell him that the breakup has nothing to do with him, that it is not his fault, and he (the boy) will always have a special place in your heart.

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