Dear Amy:

I am a young woman and a single mother. My daughter is almost 3 and is starting to understand what a family is. She knows a "mama," a "dada," and a "baby" make a family.

She is extremely smart and has learned this through TV shows she watches.

I have dreaded the day when she asks where her father is. How do I respond?

- Single and Worried

Dear Worried: You don't say what your specific situation is, but your daughter will learn in nursery school and at the playground that families aren't made only of mommies, daddies, and babies. Sometimes families consist of grandmas, aunts, and uncles raising children; two moms (or dads); older siblings caring for younger; single moms and single dads with babies. Age 3 is the perfect age to start pointing this out. Ask your daughter to help by having her point out animal families and human families.

Ask her to tell stories about families; tell her about her own birth. Tell her how happy you are to be in her family.

When she asks who and where her daddy is, tell her. If her birth is the result of sperm donation or if she was adopted, explain it in a simple, age-appropriate way. Answer her questions and point out all of the people, including close friends, who are part of her extended family.

In my own life, I have dealt with similar issues and chronicled them in my memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them (Hyperion, 2009).

Dear Amy: I am a freshman in high school. I am a smart, friendly, nice girl, and I had relatively high self-esteem until these last few months.

Recently, a lot of friends have been getting boyfriends and publicly displaying it - hugging, kissing, snuggling - and I am very jealous.

I feel like an awkward third wheel.

No boy has told me he liked me or asked me to a dance.

I think I am very attractive, and I try to be nice, but I have not had a true relationship.

I am wondering what I am doing wrong and why no one has liked me yet.

How can I raise my self-esteem or somehow fix this?

- Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: People are ready for relationships at different ages - and everyone has a unique way of trying to get what he or she wants.

You aren't doing anything "wrong." You are being yourself. You don't say if you're interested in a guy. If you are, take steps to get to know him. If you want to go to a dance with someone, ask him to go in a group with you and other friends.

Commit yourself to activities that make you feel good outside of the school dating scene. Music, drama, art, and sports all present opportunities for you to get to know smart, friendly, and nice people - teens just like you.

Dear Amy: I am astonished by your response to H. You suggest it is disrespectful to call a doctor by his/her first name when she/he is calling you by yours!

Why in the world is it disrespectful? The two people involved are equals - one has knowledge and the other has the money to pay for it.

Seems equal to me. I think it is disrespectful to the patient to be called by a first name without expecting the same in return.

- S

Dear S: Most readers agree with you.

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