Dear Abby: My heart goes out to "New Father in North Carolina" (July 10), who was asked to baby-sit a 14-year-old boy and now has legal custody of him. A long time ago, a baby was abandoned and left in my care. I made the commitment and the sacrifices and reaped rewards along the way. I'm proud of the fine person my daughter has become and the way she respects me. Please allow me to share some advice with "New Father" based on my experiences.
- Ask people for help. Be open about the difficulties you encounter, while maintaining good humor. It will give others an opportunity to volunteer for particular things.
Live your values. My own father never failed to correct himself when he learned he was wrong. He never lied, cheated or took unfair advantage. I'm grateful for the examples he set.
Above all, listen. Don't shrug things off just because they might not loom large in your own mind. Find out why they matter to your son. He needs to know he'll be treated with respect even if he says something "stupid." Assure him that mistakes don't equal stupidity and that learning to correct mistakes sensibly is one of the most important lessons in life.
I hope these suggestions will be useful to "New Father." Although we have never met, this gentleman is lodged permanently in my heart. Proud Father in Las Cruces
Dear Proud Father: How kind of you to share your insights. Many caring readers were also inspired to pass along helpful resources that should benefit "New Father." Read on:
Dear Abby: Please tell that man to call 2-1-1. This free service offers information and referrals, and they will be able to guide him to agencies that may help him obtain furniture, etc. The 2-1-1 service is available in about 70 percent of the United States. It's free and confidential. For more information, visit www.211.org. Cindy in Jamestown, N.Y.
Dear Abby: Freecycle (www.freecycle.org) is a great online group of people who give and take instead of throwing things out. If "New Father" signs up and sends an e-mail of items he needs, there's a good chance someone will respond to his request. Good luck! J.C. in Newington, Conn.
Dear Abby: Please suggest that "New Father" visit his county's Smart Start office for parenting skills info. I'm a board member of this organization, which offers a wide range of services from which he can benefit. Also, he should ask about food stamps and child care subsidy at his local Department of Social Services. His social worker can probably guide him to sources of assistance in housing costs. And the local crisis center may be able to assist him with household needs. Carolyn in Clinton, N.C.
Dear Abby: Please point "New Father" toward www.craigslist.org. People advertise and sell everything there. It's the world's largest garage sale. They also have a "free stuff" section. You'd be amazed at the things people give away as long as someone can pick the items up. In Our Prayers in Phoenix
Dear Abby: I am a 13-year-old girl. My parents own a small business, and I have to work there every day. The only time I get to see my friends is at school or if they visit me. I know my parents are trying to protect me, but I think I'm old enough to take care of myself. They promise that if I do my chores I can go see my friends, but after I have finished, they change their minds.
I think they are trying to keep me from having a normal lifestyle. Please help me. Caged Bird in Sacramento
Dear Caged Bird: Do your parents know and approve of your friends? Do they know their parents? Do they know where you will be going, how you will get there and back, and whether there will be supervision? Are they confident they can trust your word and that you will be back when you say you will be?
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