DEAR ABBY: I am torn about what to do. My sister has five children, all under 18. She has full custody and receives child support every month from her ex-husband.

The problem is, she has been spending the money that’s intended for the children on her boyfriends. Because of it, they have been homeless twice, and it may happen again.

The only person in that household with a steady job is the oldest – a boy – but he can’t support all of them by himself. How can I make my sister see how irresponsible and immature she is?

My nephew would like to move out, but he is afraid it would seem like he is abandoning his family. Please help me. – ALARMED AUNTIE IN D.C.

Your sister’s behavior is not only irresponsible, but also dangerous for the welfare of her children. If it is possible to contact their father and let him know what has been going on, I’m recommending that you do so. You should also contact Child Protective Services because while foster care is not “ideal,” it would be better than what is going on in your sister’s household.

DEAR ABBY: I am embarrassing my 7-year-old son. I make him come into the women’s restroom with me if no family bathroom is available. He can use the bathroom by himself, of course, but I worry about who might be lurking in the men’s room while he is out of my sight. Other mothers say they agree that a “bad man” could be loitering in public restrooms these days.

Is it more traumatic for him to come into the ladies’ room or have me stand outside the men’s room yelling, “Is everything all right in there?” – LISA IN PHOENIX

If your son is old enough to be embarrassed by having to come into the women’s restroom, then he should not be forced into it. It is not necessary to stand outside the men’s room yelling, “Is everything all right in there?” Simply announce loudly when your son enters that you will be “waiting right here,” so anyone inside will know he is not alone. Then, if your son isn’t out in a reasonable period of time, ask if everything is all right. And if he doesn’t respond, check on him.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 43-year-old professional woman with a good job. I was recently invited by a friend to join her and her parents on a four-day mini-vacation trip. I accepted with the understanding that I would share food and hotel expenses.

Her father insisted on paying for every meal and excursion, and refused my offers to pay for anything. This made me very uncomfortable, since I was not expecting a free ride. I gave my friend some money and asked her to repay her father after I had left, but I still feel awkward about the whole thing.

Abby, what is the proper etiquette for such situations? – CAN PAY MY WAY IN TENNESSEE

DEAR CAN PAY: Your friend’s father is obviously a man of means, who could afford to treat you and did not feel comfortable allowing you to pay for the meals and hotel expenses. It is possible that he comes from the “men pay for everything” generation. While you may be too young to remember, it’s the one that grew into adulthood before the women’s rights movement.

Rather than having given your friend money to pass along to her dad, a better solution would have been to send her parents a lovely gift with a letter included, thanking them for their generosity.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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