DEAR ABBY: I have two nephews and one niece, all teen-agers, who have lived with their father and stepmother for eight years. Their father divorced their mother, who is my sister.
Their stepmother, "Sharon," is trying to make me feel guilty for not sending her daughter gifts for birthdays and Christmas as I do my own relatives. She has informed me that her family considers my niece and nephews to be "family," and gives gifts to them on such occasions –- and she strongly implies that I should too. I resent Sharon pointing this out to me, especially since she does not encourage my niece and nephews to acknowledge the gifts they receive from me with even a simple thank-you note or phone call. Although my gifts are seldom acknowledged, I continue to send them out of a sense of obligation since they are my blood relatives.
Should I succumb to Sharon's wishes and include her daughter, even though I'm not a relative and feel ill will toward Sharon? -– CONFUSED WITH THE PROTOCOL, CHICAGO
DEAR CONFUSED: Yes, you should, because to do otherwise is to punish a child who had nothing to do with the breakup of your sister's marriage. And while you're at it, how about sending your niece and nephews a box of stationery and a note explaining the importance of acknowledging gifts? If you get that message across, it will be more valuable to them than any material possession you could give them.