Dear Abby:

Last evening, our 20-year-old son, "Roger," brought a young lady home for us to meet. Her name is "Sally"; they met in a class at the local college.

I know as well as I know my own name that our son is going to ask his dad and me, "Well, what did you think of her?" -- and therein lies my problem. My husband and I aren't sure if we should be honest with Roger about our first impression of Sally.

Perhaps we should tell him to let us get better acquainted before passing judgment. We have even considered staying completely neutral. After all, if Roger ends up marrying her and it doesn't work out, we could be accused of trying to influence him.

This is the first time our son has ever brought a female friend home for us to meet. Roger and Sally seem happy together, and that's all that counts. However, his dad and I also know our son is looking for our approval -- especially mine.

Michigan Mom

Level with your son in a nonconfrontational way. Tell him what you and your husband observed. But make it clear that because first impressions can sometimes be deceiving, you and your husband would like to see more of Sally before making a determination.

Dear Abby:

Five years ago, my family and I attended a friend's party. I'll call her "Vanetta." My son, "Paul," was a young teenager. We didn't know at the time that he had fallen in with a bad crowd and was using drugs. The day after the party, Vanetta called and said a portable radio had been stolen from her home and implied that it was taken by one of the kids who had attended. I questioned Paul; he denied knowing anything about it.

My son is now a young adult and, thankfully, has stopped using drugs. He recently admitted to me that he and another teenage boy had stolen the radio and sold it. In spite of this, I know Paul is a good person who has made some bad choices. I asked him if he would go to Vanetta, confess and reimburse her for it. He said he was too "embarrassed."

Abby, Vanetta tends to be judgmental and would most likely respond to Paul in a condemning way. I'm not defending my son's behavior, but Vanetta has never had children and does not understand the peer pressures young people face today.

Should I encourage Paul to go to Vanetta and make amends, or let it stay in the past and be forgotten?

Anonymous Mom in a Small Town

Encourage your son to speak to Vanetta and, with cash in hand, explain to her that he was young, was stupidly experimenting with drugs, is profoundly sorry for what he did, and hopes that she will understand and accept his apology.

Let's hope Vanetta will find it in her heart to forgive him, but even if she doesn't, your son's conscience will be clear, and he can put this sad chapter in his life behind him.

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, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate