Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My little sister, "Cynda," committed suicide nine years ago. She was only 13. She did it because she was being severely bullied at school.

I am now a mother, and my 7-year-old daughter has been asking about Aunt Cynda and how she died. I have told her that Auntie Cynda had a bad hurt on her neck and passed away. Abby, my sister hung herself in her bedroom.

When is the right time or age to explain suicide to a child? This is a very sensitive subject in my family. I don't want my daughter talking to others about my sister's death, especially my mother. I would prefer to teach my little girl about the wonderful person Cynda was. Do you have any advice for me?

— HOLDING ONTO INNOCENCE

DEAR HOLDING: Yes. I sympathize with your desire to protect your daughter's innocence. But has it occurred to you that the reason she's asking about Cynda is because she has already heard something and didn't get the answers she needed?

Ask your daughter why she's asking about her aunt. Then give her bits of information in doses she can absorb. A suicide in the family can be a sensitive subject, but sooner or later the truth is going to come out. And it's important that your child know that if she has questions about ANYthing, she can come to her mother for honest answers.

DEAR ABBY: "Lila" is a lovely girl who works part-time in the administrative office of our university to help pay for her education. She has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, which you would never guess by looking at her.

Lila's problem is she has an hour-long ride on the subway to get here, and after carrying a heavy backpack all day, standing becomes too painful. There have been times when she has given up her seat to an elderly person or a pregnant woman, but sometimes her back is so sore she simply cannot get off her seat.

What is the proper etiquette in this situation, and how should she deal with the glares she gets when she doesn't give up her seat?

— CURIOUS IN ONTARIO

DEAR CURIOUS: Your friend does not owe anyone an explanation for remaining in her seat — and the less personal information she reveals about herself to strangers, the better. However, I do have a word of advice for her. Instead of lugging around a heavy backpack, which further stresses the muscles in her already stressed back, she should invest in a rolling bag to transport her books. It might help her to have less pain more often.

DEAR ABBY: I work with a guy I consider to be a close friend. He is friendly, outgoing and very personable. My concern is that he often tells lies — sometimes about big things, other times about small ones. I see a pattern, and it's really starting to annoy me.

He lies to his wife about "working late" to avoid going home early to help with the kids. He'll lie to me about innocuous things and to our boss about his accomplishments.

I believe lying is one of the worst things a person can do. Should I call him on it, or just start distancing myself from the friendship?

— TIRED OF THE LIES

DEAR TIRED: The last thing you need is an enemy in the workplace. I see nothing to be gained by calling your co-worker on the fact that he isn't a straight shooter. Your mistake is in thinking this man is capable of real friendship. He may be "friendly, outgoing and personable," but he lacks the most important ingredient necessary in a friendship, and that's character. Distancing is the way to go.

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.