DEAR ABBY: I am the single mom of a terrific 6-year-old boy. "Matthew" is smart, happy and generally makes good choices when given options. My problem? I'm terrified of the future.

I hear horror stories about kids who take drugs and the downward spiral their lives take. Matthew's father made poor choices regarding drugs and alcohol &

one of the many reasons I divorced him &

so my son is genetically predisposed to addiction. What is to stop him from accepting drugs from friends or acquaintances?

One of my parenting styles has been to let Matthew make choices and live with the consequences, hoping that the price he pays when he is young will be a lower one that when he gets older &

as long as he's not going to hurt himself or others.

If I explain that drugs and alcohol for kids aren't acceptable, in short, "forbidding it," he may rebel. I know he is only 6, but these fears keep me up at night.

Is there an established, proven course of action that parents can take starting at this age to help in the prevention of future horrors? &

SLEEPLESS IN THE HEARTLAND

DEAR SLEEPLESS: Yes, there is. The answer is clear, open communication and education. Talk consistently with your son about the fact that experimenting with drugs and alcohol can cause permanent damage to a young person's developing brain.

When he is a little older, add to that message the fact that it is especially important for him to avoid these things since he has a genetic predisposition to alcoholism that runs in the family. He needs to understand that you are not speaking "generally," but that, where others might have a margin for error, he does not.

Be sure to allow Matthew to communicate honestly with you without fear of punishment. If he is a bright child, he will heed the warning and understand that he can take his concerns to you regardless of the subject.

DEAR ABBY: A dear friend is being married this summer to a man who is abusive. She is in denial about his extreme, sometimes violent, jealous and controlling behavior. Recently, he threw coffee in her face while she was driving and caused an accident. He blamed it all on her, and she accepted the blame.

He punches holes in the walls when they fight. Once he even broke a bone in his hand. He constantly accuses her of cheating, and when they're together, he watches her like a hawk and she won't leave his side.

She asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I am not comfortable with it because I would not be able to celebrate the occasion. Her fiance knows how I feel. He doesn't like me, and the feeling is mutual.

What should I tell her? In the past I told her that marrying him would be a big mistake, and she got very angry. Your advice would be appreciated. &

DEPRESSED IN BOULDER, COLO.

DEAR DEPRESSED: Your friend appears to be in for a rocky future. She's so desperate for a husband &

any husband &

that she's willing to settle for a control freak who didn't hesitate to put her life at risk.

Under the circumstances, you should not participate in the wedding. But do tell her that if this doesn't work out as she is hoping, you will help her form an escape plan, because the likelihood is that she is going to need one.

P.S. I don't blame you for being depressed. If she was my friend, I'd be depressed, too. However, until she's ready to face reality, there is nothing you can do.

Dear Abby is written by , 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.