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Grown-Up Child Still Wonders What Halted Parents' Divorce

DEAR ABBY: During my childhood, my parents fought loudly and often. When I was 12, they spoke to my sister and me about getting a divorce. I was heartbroken and fought back.

Like any kid in that situation, I was upset and scared. I told them they were being selfish and irresponsible for breaking up our family when they were the ones who chose to have children in the first place. They ended up staying together and never mentioned the D-word again.

It's 15 years later; they have now been married for 40 years. When I'm around, I still hear them squabble, but nothing like when I was young. They obviously care about one another.

As an adult, I am plagued by guilt. Had I been older and wiser when they first contemplated divorce, I would have agreed that they were probably not a good match, and told them to do whatever they needed to be happy.

Did I do the wrong thing when I was young? Should I say something now or leave well enough alone? I feel I may have kept my parents in a loveless relationship, and while I'm happy they're still together, I can't help but wonder if I should have kept my mouth shut. I'd appreciate your opinion. -- REMORSEFUL IN THE SOUTH

DEAR REMORSEFUL: What you said when you were 12 may have affected your parents' decision about divorcing, but it was not the deciding factor. It may have slowed them down and made them think that as long as their children were minors, they should make a greater effort to keep the family intact. By the time you became an adult nine years ago they appear to have made peace and patched up their major differences. As you stated, "They obviously care about one another."

Because you carry feelings of guilt over this, if you feel comfortable enough to do so, talk to your parents about it. If not, then discuss it with a counselor because blaming yourself for reacting as any 12-year-old would is wrong.


DEAR ABBY: I am a single parent of four children ages 5 to 13. I want to go back to school to better myself and make a better life for them because I am raising them on my own. I keep putting off going back because something always comes up. I'm afraid if I keep this up, then I'll never do it and will live with regret for the rest of my life.

I don't have a stable support system, and I work full time, so I'm also worried about having no time for my children, although I hardly have any now. Most days I feel like a bad parent and want to cry. What would you recommend I do? Can you help me push myself? -- WANTS NO REGRETS

DEAR WANTS NO REGRETS: Set goals for yourself. Explore career counseling at your nearest community college and ask for guidance about child care options. When you do, ask if you can take one or two classes a semester, rather than a full course load, and if any of the classes you need are held online. That way, you won't be spending a lot of time away from your children, and at the same time you'll be setting an example for them to follow about the importance of education.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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