DEAR ABBY: I am an 18-year-old female. I have a cousin, "Sabrina," who is 14. Despite the age difference and the fact that we live 1,000 miles apart, we're quite close. I know Sabrina adores me, so I have always tried to set a good example and try not to do things I wouldn't want her to do.
Sabrina has had some problems in the past and has been diagnosed with anorexia. I have tried to be supportive, but because of the distance I can't do much more than pray for her to get through this difficult time.
Sabrina was released from the hospital in February, and her mother has told me that although she knew they would have some bad days ahead of them, she was sure my cousin was on the right track to getting past her disorder.
Sabrina's birthday is coming up, and I want to send her a card. In the card I was thinking about writing something to the effect that "No matter what you look like, I think you are beautiful" -- because she is. However, I don't want to have her suddenly try to lose weight again because of my card. Is there a way for me to politely say it without running the risk of setting her off again? -- CONCERNED COUSIN IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR CONCERNED COUSIN: Yes. Instead of telling Sabrina, "No matter what you look like, I think you're beautiful," just say you think she is a wonderful person and always have. Then add that you hope she's doing well in her recovery and that you love and admire her. That way, your message will be stronger, and there will be no possibility of negative connotations.