Dear Abby: My husband and I recently learned that our sister-in-law's adult son from a prior marriage, "Charlie," is now "Claire." My husband and I have three sons, ages 2 to 10 years.
This sister-in-law expressed concern that our 10-year-old would remember Charlie and say something inappropriate. She's demanding that we lie to him and tell him Claire is another daughter we have never met.
My husband and I do not lie to our children. We feel it is best to explain to all three of our sons that Charlie has decided to make a lifestyle change and let them ask questions if they choose. What is your opinion? – Truth-Telling Parents
Dear Parents: I don't believe in lying to children either, but before you tell your sons that Charlie decided to make a "lifestyle change," I urge you to do some research about gender identity. It is not as simple on any level as changing an aspect of one's lifestyle. It is about who Claire truly feels she is inside.
If your oldest boy remembers Charlie, he should know that some people feel from an early age that they were born into the wrong body – the wrong gender. Fortunately, there is help for it in the form of medication and surgery. He should be told that the problem has been solved and Charlie is now Claire. When the younger children are older, they can be told the same thing in an age-appropriate manner if the subject comes up.
Dear Abby: My children's father died of cancer about a year ago. As a result, they receive Social Security benefits as his surviving dependents. He had no life insurance, so this is all they have.
The problem is nearly everyone who finds out they receive this money becomes angry and jealous. Abby, these benefits came from his earnings and are meant to assist me in supporting the children he is no longer here to help with. We try not to mention the money, but sometimes it comes up in conversation.
How can people be jealous about money received from such a tragedy? Would they really want to lose a family member in exchange for cash? Please ask people to be more considerate in a situation where a child has paid a far greater price than any check in the mail could cover. – Surviving Mom in Illinois
Dear Mom: I'm sorry for your loss. People, particularly in a difficult economy, can become jealous if they think someone is getting "something for nothing." (And depending upon how dysfunctional a family is, they might indeed be willing to "lose" a family member in exchange for cash.)
I'm passing your sentiments along, but my advice to you is to stop discussing finances unless there is a specific reason why the person you're talking to must have that information.
Dear Abby: My mother-in-law picks her nose in front of others by covering her finger with a tissue and then digging deep into her nose. She claims this is acceptable behavior even though the rest of us are grossed out. She refuses to stop unless somebody like you tells her otherwise.
Please help with this. I have a 7-year-old daughter who sees her, and I don't want her to think this is proper behavior in public. – Grossed Out
Dear Grossed Out: It's one thing to use a tissue for a gentle nose-blow, and quite another to use it as camouflage for a major excavation. That your MIL is grossing out those around her should be evidence enough that what she's doing is bad manners. It is showing lack of consideration for those around her.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.