I am a happily married mother of two - a girl, 9, and a boy, 7. My problem is my older sister is married to a pedophile. "Frank" went to jail after pleading guilty to sexual interference with a young girl. (It was not his first offense.) My sister and Frank have no children and live a five-hour drive away. They plan to visit us at Christmas, but not stay at our house.
My husband and I are extremely worried about how to handle this situation. Our children don't remember Frank because he has been "away" for a couple of years. How do we make sure they will be safe? Do we tell them to stay away from him and then have to explain why - or reinforce what we have already taught them about private parts of their bodies and inappropriate touching? It's a given that everyone will be on "red alert" the entire time he is around.
This is especially difficult for me because I was sexually abused as a child. I know how quickly and easily predators can do things to children. With professional help I have dealt with my past so I could be a healthy parent. How can I get through Christmas with my sanity and my children unharmed?
- Wishes Sissy was Single,
DEAR WISHES: I assume that your sister and Frank will be visiting more relatives than you and your husband because, under the circumstances, I cannot believe you would have invited them.
Because of your personal history, your alarm is understandable. And considering Frank's history, I am sure the adults in the extended family will watch him like hawks. However, your children should not only be reminded about inappropriate touching, you should also make clear to them that your sister's husband did some things he should not have to other children, and warn them to keep their distance and not trust him regardless of how "nice" he may seem.
P.S. I don't know what the laws are in Canada, but in the States, as part of his release from prison, Frank might not be allowed to be around minor children. Check it out with the authorities in your community.
DEAR ABBY: I need your help with a serious problem. I steal. I'm in my 60s and have done it since I was a teen.
I have never been caught because I do buy things. I am well-educated and have a nice way with people. I need to stop because one day I know I could be arrested and bring shame to myself as well as my husband and family. I don't steal expensive things, and sometimes I exchange price tags. No one notices it.
What causes this behavior? I am financially well off and have no need for half of what I take. It's an impulse I just can't control. I am ashamed of myself for doing it, and I pray for help, but nothing works. Can you help me, please?
- Sinful Senior in Florida
DEAR SINFUL SENIOR: I don't know why you are doing it, but sometimes people steal in an attempt to make up for something they feel is missing in their lives. Others do it for a "thrill." If you are sincere about wanting to know what's driving your impulse to take things you don't need, you should consult a psychotherapist to help you get to the root of it.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)