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Dear Abby: I’m a single mother of two amazing boys, 16 and 12. While my older son has been private about coming into puberty, my younger son is very open about it, and we have had many conversations about it. Abby, I’ll be honest. The subject makes me uncomfortable.

Last night I walked into my 12-year-old’s room and interrupted him pleasuring himself. I was shocked, and I started to laugh because I was embarrassed. I did tell him he needed to be more private about his curiosity, to close the door and have a blanket over himself.

But I was laughing when I was talking to him and literally could not stop. I’m unsure what is the right course of action at this point. Where do I go from here?

– Embarrassed Mom

Dear Embarrassed: Masturbation is natural. Every healthy, normal person has done it. It is not depraved, a crime or harmful to one’s health.

Your son is now at an age when it is appropriate for Mom to knock before entering his room out of respect for his privacy. So: Apologize to your son for laughing. Explain that it was because you were embarrassed.

If your children’s father is in the picture (or another male relative), a man-to-man talk about this could be helpful.

If there isn’t one, consult your sons’ pediatrician for suggestions on how to discuss sexuality with both of your boys. If you haven’t already done so, the time has arrived.

No takeout for absent in-law

Dear Abby: My brother, three sisters and their husbands and children and I go to our parents’ house for holiday dinners. My youngest sister’s husband refuses to go because he doesn’t get along with our family. (He also does not get along with his own family.)

Before my youngest sister leaves, she insists on taking a plate of food home for her husband who was “unable to be there.” I feel if he doesn’t want to be with our family, he shouldn’t be allowed to have takeout. Our mother is 82, and it upsets her that he doesn’t want to be there. What do you think?

– Resentful

Dear Resentful: If your brother-in-law can’t get along with the family, he is doing everyone a favor by not attending those family dinners. Because your mother finds his absence upsetting, it is up to her to put her foot down and tell your sister she doesn’t want food taken to him. Until she does, food deliveries will continue.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.