Dear Abby: I am writing to pass on a simple idea that could save a lot of grief and heartache.

Like all parents, I make an extra effort to keep a close watch on our children whenever we are shopping or among crowds. However, even the most diligent among us has had an occasion when a child wandered off or got lost. There are no words to describe the panic a parent feels when this occurs. It is particularly true with preschool children who may be unable to articulate their parents' names, addresses or phone number - especially under stressful conditions.To minimize this trauma, I have begun putting my business card in our children's pockets before we go out. Each of them is instructed that it contains my name and to give it to a police officer or another responsible adult.

This does not substitute for careful observation of our children at all times, but if they do become lost, it provides additional information to ensure their swift and safe return.

- Concerned Dad in Benicia, Calif.

Dear Concerned Dad: An excellent idea and one that many parents would be wise to consider. However, it might be a good idea to put your home number on the card as well. Thanks for writing.

Dear Abby: I cannot let the letter from the hockey coach's wife go without a stronger reply than you gave - and one in direct contradiction to your answer. You suggested that she and Al agree on the number of hours he would devote to his work with youngsters.

Abby, dear, have you read the recent statistics on the problems with kids today? (Of course you have.) They NEED men and women who will give of their time and their hearts, and spouses who support and encourage them.

My husband died seven years ago. He had been a Boy Scout leader. For more than 20 years, he was Scoutmaster to dozens of boys, most long after our four sons had served their time as Scouts. Later he worked with adult training, helping other leaders to better serve the youth of our area. In all those years, he spent thousands of hours away from home, often on weekends at some faraway campground. He always returned renewed and happy, as was I to know that he was contributing to the future of our nation.

More than 200 men he had helped train as kids and adults attended his funeral. My brother's comment afterward was, "At my funeral, I just want to be remembered as Frank Egan's brother-in-law." What a tribute!

Hockey wife should encourage her husband, not begrudge the time he gives to tomorrow's men.

- Mary V. Egan, Dallas

Dear Mary: Your husband sounds like a wonderfully generous man whose legacy lives long after him. It's also clear that the relationship the two of you had was devoted and committed.

The coach's wife said that she felt her husband was using his work with the youngsters as a way of avoiding dealing with what is wrong in their marriage. I agree that donating time to better the community is important. But it's also important that the coach work out the couple's marital problems and not sacrifice his wife and family.

1998 Universal Press Syndicate

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All of the Dear Abby columns for the past several years are available online. Search for "DEAR ABBY" in the Lifestyle section and the Deseret News archives.