DEAR ABBY: I was bullied from second grade all through school. In junior high the abuse was both emotional and physical, and it happened on a daily basis. My parents' response was that maybe I was the problem -- and if I wasn't, people would stop picking on me. (That's a letter for another day.)
What would have been my 10-year high school reunion was two weeks ago. Needless to say, I didn't go. Since the reunion, however, I have received more than 30 messages via Facebook from former classmates. It seems I was the main topic of conversation at the reunion, mainly because everyone apparently wanted to apologize to me.
Abby, I don't know how to respond to these people. While I don't doubt the sincerity of their apologies, I truly don't want to have any contact with them (even on Facebook). At the same time, I don't want to be rude and just ignore them.
So far, I haven't replied to any of their messages. I want to know if I must, and if so, what I should say? To be honest, I'd like to tell them all to go to hell, but I'm trying to be nice. -- LOST FOR WORDS
DEAR LOST FOR WORDS: You do not have to say anything to any of these people, and you do not have to be "nice." Silence sends a strong message, and it is the one I'm recommending.
Understand that by apologizing they are trying to make themselves feel better. It's also possible that maturity has caused them to realize what they did was wrong. However, you are not obligated to accept their apologies if doing so will make you feel worse.
DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother struggling with my 12-year-old daughter. For the last three months she has been withdrawn, uncommunicative, rude, mean and treats me with contempt. We have been in counseling and are going back again, but I can't ask people to stay with her while I go and recharge my spirit because she's so rude to them as well.
I need to know, Abby, what do other parents do to make it through this incredibly painful period in the lives of their teenager and themselves? -- SINGLE MOM IN CANADA
DEAR SINGLE MOM: Any abrupt change in behavior should be regarded as a red flag. Your daughter should be evaluated by her pediatrician to be sure there isn't an underlying cause. Could she have been molested, be using drugs, pills, alcohol, etc.? Do her friends act this way? Does she have friends?
Changes like this don't usually happen overnight. Was this behavior tolerated when she was smaller? If a child of mine behaved that way, she would be grounded and her cellphone and Internet privileges canceled until she was 30.
As to whom you can leave her with while you "recharge," does this girl have a father, an aunt, a grandparent who can give you respite? That's how some single parents get a break. But if those resources are not available, you will have to deal with this (with the help of a more effective therapist than the one you were using) until your "problem child" becomes an adult.
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