DEAR ABBY: I have two terrific children, ages 6 and 8. I am honest and open with them about everything. For their ages, they are well-informed about sex, drugs and alcohol.

Some of my friends and neighbors have a problem with my children asking questions in front of them, and with me for giving them honest and age-appropriate answers.

I have been told I am giving them too much information and "oversexualizing" and "overeducating" my children. This is not the way I view it. Everything I say is at a level my children can comprehend, and I don't give more details than I need to. My kids know that drugs are bad and how to identify them in order to refuse them. They also know how alcohol and tobacco affect the human body, how babies are "made" and where they come from.

I believe that honesty is a better policy than "wait until you're older and we'll discuss this." Am I right, or are my friends and neighbors correct?

- Proactive Mom in Washington

DEAR MOM: You are. If children have questions, they should know they can come to their parents for straight answers - regardless of what is being asked. By providing honest information in terms they can understand, you are showing your children that you are open, honest, unembarrassed - and that they can be, too. Good for you!

DEAR ABBY: For 14 years I suffered extreme mental and physical abuse from my parents. It led to chronic depression and self-destructive behavior, until I finally sought the help of a therapist. With talk, therapy and medication, I am finally on stronger footing.

I am 34 now and much better off since I have severed all contact with my parents. My problem is how to convince my aunts that this is what is best for me, and that I am not an "ungrateful daughter" for choosing to have no contact with either parent. I no longer have the energy for their crazy drama. Am I "ungrateful" because of what I have done?

- Healthier Now in Massachusetts

DEAR HEALTHIER: No, not considering your family history, and assuming the decision to cut off contact with your parents was made with the help of your therapist. If that's the case, then what you have done is to protect yourself from further emotional abuse.

Do your aunts know what you suffered while growing up? If so, they should clearly understand that you are doing only what you must in order to maintain mental stability. And if they don't, explain it to them, and don't apologize or allow them to make you feel guilty.

DEAR ABBY: I work in an office with more than 30 employees. Two weeks ago an envelope was sent around seeking our mandatory contributions to give gifts to the partners of the office "to show our appreciation."

I was always taught one never "gifts up" the chain of command. I show my appreciation each day by being a good employee. Am I wrong?

- Blackmailed in Connecticut

DEAR BLACKMAILED: I don't think so. It appears you and your fellow employees are being ordered to pony up in order to keep your job. And by the way, "mandatory contribution" is an oxymoron.

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