DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been married 20 years and have three children, ages 10 to 17. Our oldest is a senior in high school. Her best friend, "Maya," is a friend of the family we have known for 10 years. Maya's parents have been divorced for as long as we've known her. She lives with her single mom. Her dad moved out of state.
Maya spends a lot of time with us on weekends, and we have all embraced her as another family member. Recently, Maya pulled me aside and asked if I could be a father figure in her life. I was honored and immediately agreed. Now when she comes over she calls me "Dad" and even says "I love you." I say it back.
Last week, my wife mentioned that our younger two children have noticed the bond between me and Maya and are upset about it. How can I be there for Maya through these tough teen years without alienating my own younger kids? -- FAMILY GUY IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR FAMILY GUY: Consider having a talk with your younger children and explaining to them that the more love there is in this world, the better our world will be. Explain that Maya has no father in her life, and that any affection you express for her does not lessen the love you feel for them, and they will always be "No. 1" in your heart.
This does not, however, mean that you cannot have love for Maya, too, and say it when you think she needs to hear it. If you haven't already been doing it, make special time for your younger children that does not include Maya. If you do, perhaps it will help them to feel less threatened.