DEAR ABBY: It's that time of year again when parents take their kids to see Santa. As a professional Santa's helper for many years, may I offer some suggestions?
Let your children approach Santa on their own. Do not force your child to sit on Santa's lap. Santa has been seen in books and on TV, but he is now real, big and loud. That can be scary to a child. If he or she wants to stand at a distance and talk to Santa, that is OK. Sometimes just holding the child and standing next to Santa is all it takes for a child to warm up to the idea of sitting on his lap.
If your little one is upset and you want a picture with Santa, have someone else snap the photo while you stand by your child. Let Santa talk to your children while you hold their hands. Santa (if any good) will pace the visit and stop it if it's taking too long. If children are afraid, do not let Santa grab at them to put them on his lap. That will only make the problem worse.
I hope this helps to make the visit easier.
— SANTA'S HELPER IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS
DEAR SANTA'S HELPER: Ho-ho-ho! Thank you for being ABBY's helper today. I hope parents will take your sound suggestions to heart when introducing their little ones to the jolly man in the red suit.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a retired waitress who worked for years in a family restaurant. Many elderly people would come in alone, and I could see they were hungry for conversation as well as food, so I'd talk to them as much as possible.
As the restaurant became more crowded, I had less time to chat, so I set up a table for four and asked the seniors if they might like to sit at the "senior table." So many of the customers said yes that it turned into a table for 12!
It would be great if restaurants would set up senior tables so everyone could have a dinner partner if they wanted to visit. It's also a great way to make new friends. Now that I'm a senior myself I notice a lot of us sit alone, watching families enjoy being together.
— KATHY IN BREMERTON, WASH.
DEAR KATHY: You're a sweet and compassionate woman. A few years ago I heard about some restaurants here in Los Angeles offering a "community dining" table for singles — but they were intended to help young singles mingle. Your idea of a table for solo seniors is a good one, and I hope restaurateurs agree and give it a try. Food tastes better when it's seasoned with good fellowship.
DEAR ABBY: My ex-wife recently remarried and has decided to keep my last name and hyphenate it with her new husband's. She says she's doing it "for the sake of our children."
I don't buy that for a minute, Abby. She was unfaithful many times during our marriage, and I want her to stop using my name so some dignity and honor can be restored to it.
Do you agree that she should drop my name, or does she have a right to it?
— WANTS MY NAME BACK IN MAINE
DEAR WANTS: Although I understand your anger, try to take comfort in the fact that your ex still finds prestige in the association with you. Honor and dignity will be restored to your name by the way you and the children conduct yourselves in the future.
P.S. As long as your ex is not trying to defraud anyone, she has the right to use the name you gave her. Accept it and move on.
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.