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Dear Abby: I'm so upset. I just found out my son was molested by one of his older cousins. "Ryan" didn't want me to know because he was afraid of how I would react. Ryan is 19 and a very private person. I want to confront the person who did this to him and press charges.

What's upsetting is I tried hard to protect my children. I thought I was doing everything right by having my boys let their friends come and spend the night at my home instead of letting them stay at their friends' homes.

I want Ryan to go to counseling to understand he did nothing wrong, that it wasn't his fault. Please help me to help my son. I partly blame myself for not knowing.

How did I let this happen? I am their mother. I am supposed to keep them safe. Please tell me what to do.

Confused Mother

in North Carolina

Dear Mother: Stay calm and understand that you have done nothing wrong. This is no reflection upon you as a parent. While many people still believe that child molesters are creepy strangers who prey on little kids, the truth is the majority turn out to be family members or close friends one would never suspect.

Your son may be embarrassed or blame himself for what his cousin did. Reassure him that when someone older acts out against a younger one, as his cousin did, that is "coercion" — an imbalance of power and experience. Explain that it would be beneficial for him to talk to a therapist. It might also benefit the cousin to do so because he may need to learn about boundaries.

Whether the cousin can be arrested or prosecuted may depend upon how long ago this occurred, and how old the kids were at the time it happened.

Dear Abby: I feel like I am not appreciated at my husband's family's holiday gatherings. Everyone brings a dish, while I get assigned the "leftover" — which is usually a salad. I told my husband I wanted to bring the dessert one year, so I made a homemade pie. His sister proceeded to bring two store-bought pies, in addition to her dish. No one ate any of my pie except for my husband and me. Even when I bring the salad, no one eats it, either.

I may not be not the best cook, but I am a good one and my pie was perfect. Because this has happened more than once, I feel discouraged about contributing, and I have told that to my husband. Do you have any advice about how I can contribute without feeling left out?

No Name, Please, in Missouri

Dear No Name: Yes. Understand that when families gather for holiday dinners year after year, they often want foods made the way they are accustomed. While you may want to contribute, you may not be able to do that unless host the party.

From now on, unless you are asked to do otherwise, bring with you only a smile, your appetite, and flowers or a bottle of wine. If you do, there will be fewer hurt feelings and you'll save yourself some work.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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