DEAR ABBY: My 44-year-old brother-in-law, "Bryce," still lives at home. He has never dated, nor has he had any kind of adult relationship in his life. He is extremely affectionate toward children, especially males. He buys gifts for the neighborhood kids, and they all think the world of him. My in-laws say Bryce is just a big kid and harmless. I think his behavior is abnormal.
Last week, I came home early from work. When I came through the door, I surprised Bryce saying goodbye to my 10-year-old son. Bryce was rubbing his hands up and down my son's arms and saying, "Goodbye, sweetheart. I love you." When he saw me, Bryce immediately stopped. He seemed caught off guard and embarrassed, and left quickly.
My husband was in another part of the house and didn't see or hear his brother and our son by the back door. I expressed my concern to my husband later, after our son had gone to bed. I told him I was uncomfortable about the idea of his brother being alone with our son. My husband dismissed the whole thing, saying Bryce is harmless. My gut tells me otherwise. What should I do? -- WORRIED MOM IN NEW YORK
DEAR WORRIED: Listen to your gut and talk to your child about what is appropriate behavior -- and "touch" -- and what isn't. Sometimes children who have been molested keep it a secret because they feel they are responsible for it and are afraid they'll be punished.
Tell your son that no matter what, he can always come to you and tell you anything because you love him and you're on his side. Let him know that if he has any questions about anything, you will make the time to hear them and answer them honestly. Repeat that message often. It's one way to protect your child, and will reap many dividends.