Books by Dr. M

Getting to Know the Real You: 50 Fun Quizzes Just for Girls, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Getting to Know the Real You: 50 Fun Quizzes Just for Girls

Check out our Comments column!


Teens

— June 17, 2016 —

Hi, I have a question that maybe you could answer. I have a really hard time concentrating, and that's a pretty bad thing. Whenever I read a book, my mind starts to wander after a while, and then I'll end up reading the same sentence 50 times in a row or something. It's almost as if I can't read anymore. It's really hard for me to focus, too, when someone is just speaking to me. My mind just wanders and there's just no way to stop it. Please help, I would like to enjoy reading again.

— Anonymous, 14

 

Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like this is a new issue for you since you note that you “would like to enjoy reading again.” Maybe you are worried about something so your mind keeps wandering over to a particular issue. Or perhaps what you’re reading or hearing is boring, which makes it hard to concentrate on the book or the conversation. Experiment by finding a book that your friends have recommended as one that is particularly exciting and fast-paced, and see whether that holds your interest. Or track when you are most likely to get distracted—perhaps it’s when you’re tired or hungry or upset.

If this issue is one that has been around for a long time, then you might be dealing with a general attention issue. In that case, consider talking to a parent, a doctor, or a counselor who can help you figure out the root of the problem and help you take specific action to address it.

signed, Dr. M.
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— June 3, 2016 —

My mom yells at me more than she talks to me. I have tried to talk to her about this many times but each time she just yells more. She says that I deserve it and I used to believe that, but I don't think so anymore. She'll yell for an hour or more about how inconsiderate and lazy I am and how she wants to leave and never come back for little things, for example, not putting shoes on the stand or not cleaning out my closet. She does the guilt trip thing a lot too, about how she did so much for me and I'm not doing anything for her, etc. If I do clean the closet, she responds with, "You won't even do it again" and I get no appreciation whatsoever for all the things I do do. I'm not rude, I don't talk back even when she's yelling, I have awesome grades, I don't make a mess, I've never even gotten in trouble at school. I can't even talk to her about things I'm going through anymore because all she does is yell, yell, yell. She's fifty percent of the reason that I'm sinking into depression again, and when I told her this (about three times) she knocked me completely aside. Please help me.

— Mean Mom, 14

Dear Mean Mom,

Since you’ve tried talking to your mom about her yelling and that hasn’t yielded any results, find another trusted adult with whom you can discuss this situation. You didn’t mention a father, but maybe there’s a grandparent, an older sibling, or an aunt who might be able to give you some support and even talk to your mom about the impact of her yelling on you. Even if you don’t have a relative to go to, talk to a school counselor or nurse who might offer you some guidance or help you find a therapist who can help you deal with your depression. Perhaps if you are successfully dealing with the 50 percent that is unrelated to your mom’s behavior, you’ll have an easier time coping with her.

signed, Dr. M.
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— May 8, 2016 —

I really need some advice. This is a very over-told teenage story, but it’s actually happening to my friend and her life and future are at stake. I'm too young to have to deal with this—we are 13 years old!!! My friend told me that her stepmom said she hated her and wished she was in jail. She blames her for stealing things her friends give her (like jewelry). Her mother slaps her and she is scared she is going to do something worse someday. The seemingly obvious thing would be to tell the police or move in with someone else, but her dad is under investigation and she would probably have to go into the foster system. She has no one she can live with or stay with. If she runs away, her mom will call the police and lie about everything. It’s so surreal, the things you read about and see on TV are actually happening. If you have any advice it would really be appreciated. Why are people like this???

— Ally, 13

Dear Ally,

I am so sorry to read of the extremely difficult situation your friend is facing. Her mother should not be slapping her, her stepmother should not say she hates her and accuse her of being a thief, and her father does not seem to be defending her from either her mother or stepmother. Your friend needs help to protect her from the adults in her life.

The most important advice I have for your friend is she MUST find adults to help her figure this out, and to be on her side. She is too young to deal with this on her own. Here are a number of ideas. Since she is only 13 years old, she is still in school. Is there a teacher she especially trusts or a counselor or nurse at the school she could speak to confidentially? If she does not feel comfortable talking with someone at school, she should go to the library to Google the name of the city or town where she lives AND search words such as "teen counseling" or "help for abused teens" to get the names of local hospitals, clinics, or centers for women and teens who have been abused.

Since she has you as a friend, could your parents give her advice—or parents of other friends?You did not mention a sister or brother, but does she have grandparents, aunts or uncles she trusts who could help? She might be afraid that relatives of any kind would just get back to her parents or stepmother and make things worse but there may be an adult in the family who knows what's really going on and could be trusted.

It sounds like she is living with her mother but also sees her stepmother and father. Until your friend gets help, maybe she should stop visiting her father and stepmother. If her father wants to see her, he can take her—and just her—out to eat or to a movie. If he asks why she does not want to come to his home, she should explain she wants time with just him. Any divorced parent should understand a child's need to have some "alone" time. If he does not, he is part of the problem. Your friend will know if it feels dangerous to be directly honest with her father about what his wife says to her. From what you wrote, it may be too scary to confront her father by telling him the truth about her stepmother's unacceptable behavior.

As for her mother slapping her, if your friend can figure out what triggers that behavior (Is her mom drinking or doing drugs?), she might be able to know when to avoid her. For instance, if she comes home from school and her mom is in a terrible mood, can your friend call you or another friend and ask to come over to study together, to get out of her home and potential danger?

There is no good answer as to why people are like this. There are so many possible "reasons" (they may have been treated that way when they were young, for example) but none are excuses for what is basically cruel behavior. What is really important is that you and your friend sound like you have much better values than her parents, and know the difference between what is right and wrong. Your friend has to start with the confidence that she is a good person and deserves better, and then she must be creative and strong to find adults who can get her into a better situation. I really hope your friend is able to get help.

signed, Drb
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— April 25, 2016 —

Ok, I am a sophomore and my boyfriend is a senior. He is thinking that the "inevitable" is going to happen when he graduates in 2 months (that we are going to break up). I really don't want that to happen. I feel like we can make the long distance thing work if we try. The thing is I have had a rough past and because of that I promised I would never let myself love again but he and I worked on it and I do love him a lot. I don't think I can go through loving someone and having it torn away from me again. Last time it almost killed me. What should i do???

— Lexi, 16

Lexi

It sounds like you are in a tough in-between phase because the future is so uncertain. One way to approach the uncertainty is to try to take it day-by-day. This way you can focus on the last two months of the school year rather than what will happen after the year ends. For example, you and your boyfriend can agree to revisit the issue closer to graduation instead of deciding right now what to do in two months or next year. However, I acknowledge that taking it day-by-day would mean you would have to live with a lot of uncertainty. If you are not comfortable with that, then don’t force yourself to live not knowing what will happen and tell your boyfriend that you would like an answer about the future. I’m not necessarily recommending that you do that. I’m only saying that if taking it day-by-day doesn’t feel like something you can do, then you don't have to do it. Also, I want to emphasize that, regardless of what you decide, it is important that you are honest with your boyfriend about how you feel. Relationships, whether long distance or not, require communicating one’s feeling with the other person and listening to the other person’s ideas.

signed, Dustin
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— April 9, 2016 —

Well there is one thing you must know, and that is how I've felt for a really long time now. I am SHY! It's like I can't have a normal conversation or get close to someone. I feel like a loner, and the friends I do have, it's always me trying to do something with them, but never the other way around! So I want to make new friends, some of my friends aren't really the best thing for me. So when I try to talk to other girls, it's like I'm stuck in some phase, where I want to talk but I don't know what to say, so when I do, it's already awkward, or when I want to say something, I back out, and then there are people I talk with but can never get close with, especially with new people, I want them to know that I want to have a friendship with them, but it always comes off as “I'm the quiet girl who doesn't want to talk.” It's as if I have difficulty with expressing my feelings. Please Help!

— Candice, 14

Dear Candice,

Many teens are shy and feel awkward making new friends. One strategy you might try is to join a club at school or volunteer to work with an organization in your community, which is a great way to meet others who share your interests. That way you can talk or even ask questions about an activity that you have in common. It takes time to develop real friendships, so you’ll need to be patient as you go from having casual conversations to having mutually caring relationships.

signed, Dr. M.
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— March 31, 2016 —

My high school has this program for the 'intelligent' students. Basically, they separate the 'average' students from the 'smart' ones. This year, I took a course in math for the higher level program, but I ended up switching out into the 'average' class. In my school, math is the thing that makes or break you. People saw that I dropped out of the higher level and I can always feel them laughing at me. I've had issues where I can no longer look at people in the eyes and I'll run away from them at school. We started picking out high school courses for next year, and my parents insist that I retake math with the higher level. I somewhat want to, and I know I have the ability to do it now, but I'm scared that next year people will laugh at me and judge me for coming back, even after I dropped out before. I'm scared of it all.

— Miche, 15

Dear Miche,

Instead of focusing on what other students may be thinking or saying about you, think about what is best for you and your future. You seem to agree with your parents that taking math at the higher level makes sense, and what’s holding you back is the thought that others will laugh at you. I can understand why you’re nervous about the reaction of classmates, but that shouldn’t determine your course of action. If you decide to go with the higher level math, figure out ahead of time how you will handle teasing from your peers. Being prepared to ignore them or come back with a quick retort will be helpful.

signed, Dr. M.
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— March 15, 2016 —

I’m 15 years old and I’m having big issues with my self esteem. I’m kind of confused about a few things. When I look in the mirror or at photos, I think I look ugly. Well I am ugly, but so many people have randomly said how stunning I am when obviously I’m not. Why do I look so different in the mirror and photos if I generally am pretty? I go to counseling, which I've been doing for a few years but I haven’t really gotten much out of it. It sounds like a silly question but it’s just confusing. I'm at this stage in my life where I would love to have a boyfriend, but I know I’ll never have one, and it’s just hard going out with my friends, who are all beautiful, always getting attention from boys or are out with their boyfriends. I try so many different things to make myself look more approachable and attractive—buying expensive make up and designer clothes. etc., and nothing seems to be working. I’m just so depressed because I hate myself so much and if I’m honest I’m really stuck about what to do from here onwards. But I have to admit sometimes I've looked in the mirror at home and thought I actually looked nice, then I would go out and realize how bad I really looked! I just really need help. I’m confused.

— Chloe, 15

Dear Chloe,

It sounds like the problem is not your appearance but the way you see yourself. If, even you admit that sometimes you look “nice,” you need to focus on improving your self-image rather than spending money on expensive make-up and clothing. Since you’re already seeing a counselor, describe to her what you’ve told me. If you feel that your therapist does not understand what you’re going through and is really not helping, it might be time to find someone else, maybe someone who specializes in “body dysmorphic” issues, which are related to a preoccupation with perceived physical flaws. While you’re getting that help, you might consider doing volunteer work that encourages you to focus on helping others rather than constantly scrutinizing your appearance. In addition to the good feeling you’ll get from helping others, you’re also giving yourself an opportunity to meet new people.

signed, Dr. M.
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— February 29, 2016 —

I go to a small school with an even smaller class (we only have 4 kids including myself). It goes from preschool to 8th grade and in 3rd grade a girl joined. In 5th grade I think, I started to have a crush on her but I thought it would just pass. I was wrong. It has been four years now and the feeling only has been getting stronger but I don't know how to tell her because I feel like I would lose her as a friend. I feel like I have had this crush for so long that if I do not tell her now (or by the end of the school year) I will never tell her. We are going to the same high school but so is the only other boy in the class who might like her and/or she might like. I have a very difficult time opening up to anyone so just doing this is big for me let alone telling my one and only person I have ever had a crush on that I like her! Please reply, you are the first person I have ever told and it is mostly because of my inability to see your face. This crush has bean driving me out of my mind, lowering my grades because of trying to figure out how to tell her, and all in all making me lose sleep and replace it with failing courage. I beg you please help me. I can’t take it anymore.

— Colin, 14

Dear Colin,

You’ve tortured yourself long enough. It’s time to find out whether this girl likes you. Hard as it is to tell her how you feel, you need to find the courage to do so. Try not to overwhelm her by saying how long you’ve had a crush on her. If she lets you know that she shares your feelings, then the two of you can start a relationship. But if she wants to simply maintain a friendship with you, then you’ll have to accept that fact. Although you will feel sad and disappointed, at least you’ll know and can stop fantasizing about a romance that will never be. Although you might not be able to imagine it now, letting go of your feelings will allow you to eventually move on and pursue a relationship with someone who will return your feelings.

signed, Dr. M.
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— February 14, 2016 —

Hope you could help me out a bit. I'm a sophomore in high school now and it's been ok, except I've come to realize that I truly only have one close friend, and everyone else is just an acquaintance. I drifted away from my other close friends after we didn't have any classes together and now I see them on social media, at parties with other people, and I get really upset. It seems that no matter how hard I try, I can't make friends with other people as they just regard me as an “acquaintance.” As a result I spend time with my one close friend but she's the opposite of me. She's not very social and she likes having a small friend group but I like talking with a lot of people and hanging out. I've been going through bouts of "depression" where I don't feel like trying at anything anymore. I'm an A+ student but my grades have been going down as a result. All I'm saying is that I want more social interaction in my life. I'm a social person, I just can't move past the acquaintance phase with people. Help!

— Never Close Enough, 15

Dear Never Close Enough,

You can be as social as you allow yourself to be. If you go to a party where you know people, it's the perfect opportunity for you to reconnect with old friends. And you don’t have to be friends with just one type of person. You can have friends who party and you can have friends who would rather stay home. Having a variety of friends actually keeps you balanced and less stressed. You'll be able to go to parties sometimes but still stay home and focus on other priorities, such as school, when you need to. It's all about putting yourself out there. If people see that you're making the first move and putting effort into understanding their perspective, it will help them feel comfortable with you and make it more likely that they will move past the acquaintance phase. Friendships take time to develop, so be patient.

signed, Emily
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— January 31, 2016 —

My ex has this stupid idea that we should hook up on his birthday but he has a girlfriend and loves her. I just don't want him to do something he'll regret. What should I do?

— Soph, 18

I think you already know the answer to your question by the way you started your question: “My ex has a stupid idea." Maybe you are tempted because you miss him but if he has a girlfriend he truly loves, he should NEVER be asking you to hook up with him on his birthday or any day.

I would not for one second be worrying about what he will regret. If he even asked you about this, he is not thinking about his girlfriend or you, but only himself. The more important question is what would you regret, and how you would feel if you were his girlfriend.

The only right answer to your question is to tell your ex to spend his birthday with his girlfriend, and please do not ask you to hook up with him again, on his birthday or otherwise. Honestly, it sounds to me like there is a good reason he is an "ex." You deserve to meet someone who would never ask you that kind of question!

signed, Dr. B.
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— January 16, 2016 —

Hi. Thank you for reading this. I suffer from depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and OCD. I see a therapist twice weekly but I don't know how to tell my friends about my struggles. They've noticed my unhappier attitude but I don't know who to tell my struggles to and what to tell. Thank you for your response.

— Willow, 13

Dear Willow,

I am really glad that you’re seeing a therapist—that’s an important step in feeling better. In terms of who to tell and what to say, start by confiding in a very close friend, someone who really cares about you. Tell her that you want to share something about you that is important. Give her as much information as you feel comfortable with. Her reaction will let you know how much more to say. Let her know that she might have questions, and then it’s up to you to decide what to share.

By sharing your struggles, you’re actually helping other people (including friends and classmates) who themselves may be keeping their challenges to themselves. You’re letting them know that it’s okay to be open, and that you’re still the same person, just more honest than others might be. Anxiety, depression, and OCD are very common—you’re helping to remove the stigma by talking about them as you would if you were dealing with asthma or diabetes.

signed, Dr. M.
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— January 1, 2016 —

My dad went to jail for 3 years, and he's out on parole now. Last night we got into a argument and I texted my mum, and he went off at me and started abusing me and calling me names and threatening me, so I texted my mum about that too and he went off at me again, So I stayed in my room all night, When my mum got home she treated it like it was nothing, and she's still doing it. He's trying to hide things from her and she's so blind to it, I'm trying to tell her but she won't listen.

— Kelvin, 13

Hello Kelvin,

There are many forms of abuse, and from your message it sounds like you are experiencing quite a few. Your father’s abuse is more direct, but when your mom doesn’t take your concerns seriously, that makes the situation even worse. At your age, you should be enjoying life and having fun with your friends. Avoid arguing with your dad because this escalates the situation, and see if the problems go away. If you feel that you are in an unsafe environment, I would suggest reaching out to another adult who will listen to you (perhaps an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or teacher). You should also consider speaking to a counselor on a regular basis about how you feel. You could have some resentment towards your father for his absence as well as his current abusive behavior. Ask your mom if she can set up some counseling for you and the family. This will be a great way to sort things out and move forward in a healthy direction. If she doesn't follow up, talk to another adult whom you trust about how you feel.

— Velben
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— December 20, 2015 —

Hi! I recently got a boyfriend, and I am just so happy with him. I have been talking to my friend about it for a few weeks and today she got really mad and said that all I did was talk about him. I was appalled and she's my best friend. She should be happy for me, right? Why is she acting all defensive?

— Noelley, 16

Dear Noelley,

While your best friend may be happy for you (and hopefully she is), that doesn’t mean she wants to spend most of your time together being regaled with stories about you and your boyfriend—particularly if she’s not in an exciting relationship herself. Think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed. So let her know that you realize that you’ve gone a bit overboard with talking about your boyfriend and appreciate her honesty in letting you know that. If you want to keep your best friend (whom you will absolutely need if you and your boyfriend break up), try to tune in to her feelings and topics that are important to her, while not leaving her out on major aspects of your life, including your boyfriend. It’s about finding the right balance.

signed, Drm
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— December 7, 2015 —

Hi, can you help me? I don't know where to turn. I thought of going here. My problem is that I have a friend who is very nice and kind, and we're close. I feel disappointed in her sometimes because whenever I tell her a problem she is like "meh" or sometimes she even gets irritated or she simply changes the subject. But whenever she has a problem I always comfort her and she ignores my advices. What should I do? Please help me.

— Clara, 14

Dear Clara,

It's possible that your friend is not very sensitive when you talk about your problems because she is so caught up with what's going on in her own life. The problems she talks about with you may not seem like much, but sometimes a lot of little things can end up feeling overwhelming, or there might even be some bigger issues that she's not talking about. It also may just be that she doesn't realize how you feel when she downplays your problems. I'd suggest talking to your friend about how you feel. Tell her that when there's something difficult going on in your life, you'd like to be able to talk to her about it. In terms of her not following your advice, you might want to ask her if she wants advice when she has a problem, since some people prefer to just vent about their problems and then figure out a solution on their own.

signed, Liz
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— November 23, 2015 —

Hi! I am a high school student in Korea. I have a problem, so I want to get some advice from you. I am worried about sleeping too much in school. Since entering high school last year, I have been so tired every day that I sleep in all classes of the day, even during evening self-study time. Regardless of whether the class is boring or interesting, I fall asleep and I don't even know when I fall asleep in class. But teachers who don't know about my problem often misunderstand me because I sleep so much in their class. For example, last year, my math teacher became very angry at me. Thinking that my sleeping reflected a bad class attitude, she reduced my score to almost the lowest for my attitude in class, thinking I was ignoring her. And last winter, I couldn't go to China to experience its culture through a school program because some teachers kept me from joining the school program because they think I have a bad attitude in class. I try hard to break my habit of sleeping in class. I sleep at midnight, and wake up at 6:30 am every day. And I sit in front of the classroom to avoid sleeping in class. But I still sleep in class EVERY DAY! My friends have counseled me about my worry several times, but I only get the same answers every time like 'go to sleep early', 'sit in the front row', etc. I know if I sleep in class, I won't achieve my dream and improve my grades. But I can't seem to avoid falling asleep. I await for your sincere advice. Please help me!

— Sylvia, 17

Dear Sylvia,

Although you may be trying to get more sleep, six and half hours may not be sufficient for you. Most teens need at least eight or nine hours to feel rested. A student might fall asleep in class once in a while because the material is boring or the classroom is warm or she/he hasn’t slept enough the night before. But there also might be a physical or psychological reason for your constant sleepiness. Make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible to check out the various possibilities. What you do next really depends on what, if anything, a doctor finds. And if the problem is simply that you’re not getting enough sleep, arrange your schedule so that you go to sleep earlier than you do now and make sure you’re not doing anything (like drinking coffee or watching a scary movie) that will prevent you from getting to sleep at a reasonable hour.

signed, Dr. M.
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— October 18, 2015 —

So I really like this guy, and have for a long time now. I've seen him in track meetings from another school but never talked or acknowledged him because I am VERY shy and don't really have experience talking to guys. I saw him while at “sky zone” for my cousin’s birthday—I played in the adult’s pit and saw him. Though I was nervous I worked up the courage to approach him to ask if he was the same boy I saw and liked. Turns out he was and so we talked on the topic of sports, and he was so very nice and approachable, I liked him even more. But I noticed my uncle staring at me like a hawk, and I felt awkward so I gave my crush the cold shoulder as I nicely tried to end the conversation very quickly. I think he noticed that it seemed rude and that it was because my uncle was there. So I never saw him again till he went to my high school. I want to talk to him, but have no idea where to start, or how to talk to him, Please help!

— Cassidy, 14

Dear Cassidy,

The best thing to remember in this situation is that both parties are usually equally nervous and shy! Boys can be just as quiet as you are, so by you working up the courage to talk to him already gives you a head start. You're definitely not afraid to go outside your comfort zone, which is what a lot of guys look for! When seeing him again, bring up the first time you both met each other, and say something to the extent of "sorry our conversation was cut short, I needed to go back and be with my family. I hope you didn't think I was being rude." He will more than likely completely understand and respect your family values. You sound like a very polite yet adventurous girl, so use both of those qualities when talking to him and just be yourself. The “best you” is the real you.

signed, Emily
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— September 30, 2015 —

Even though I am only a sophomore in high school, I really want to get into a good college and get good grades. Part of that is taking AP classes, and this year I am taking my first: AP Chemistry. I'm the only sophomore in a class full of seniors, and most people in my grade will take regular Chemistry Honors or college prep. I don't understand some of it, but can go in for extra help. Main problem is I know no one in my class and they all seem to dislike me because I am the youngest. My teacher also said that there will be a lot of group work, and I don't have a group to work with! I'm an independent, somewhat shy person who doesn't open up to new people easily. How do I make friends with seniors who seemingly hate me? I don't want to sacrifice taking the AP class because of the high level of the class, but I'm so lonely in class and feel like I'm being ostracized by the seniors.

— Keira, 15

Dear Kiera,

First, I want to say that I'm rather impressed that you want to take AP Chem as a Sophomore. Second, I want to say that I wouldn't think that the seniors in your class hate you; more likely, it matters little to them whether or not you are in the class.

To answer your question: I think the best way to become friends with these seniors is the same way you would normally do that with others. Most seniors won't bite—I promise! If all else fails, you can ask your teacher to help you. You would ask him/her to set you up in a group, and hopefully from there, you'll get new friends.

signed, Anil
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— September 7, 2015 —

Hello. I was hoping you could help me in my teen social life. Here's the background info. I have a Taiwanese heritage, but I live in the States. Every summer, I go to Taiwan to study Chinese at a summer school. Last year, I met a girl there, but we only know each other by our Chinese name. When the school ended, I never got her English name, but I still wanted to contact her. By a stroke of luck, her friend told me her English name and I found her on Facebook. Now the problem is that if I add her on Facebook, will she be creeped out I found her English name when she never told me her English name? I'm scared I'll make the wrong move. Hope you can help.

— Second Guesser, 15

Dear Second Guesser,

When you “friend” this girl on Facebook, simply explain that her friend told you her English name and that’s how you were able to find her. Tell her that you enjoyed getting to know her in Taiwan and would like to stay in touch. Her reaction will immediately tell you how she feels about keeping the connection alive. If she doesn’t feel comfortable, she will either not accept your friend request or will reject it. On the other hand, she might welcome your reaching out to her.

signed, Dr. M.
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— August 20, 2015 —

I was raised very dependent on my parents. While some kids were already doing some things like cooking or cleaning for themselves at age 12, my mom and dad always did things for me and my brother. That's not bad, except that now I'm almost 18, and worried that I won't be able to do much for myself or live on my own after high school. Help!

— Too Dependent, 17

Dear Too Dependent,

While many kids would have loved to have had a childhood with no responsibilities, you are realizing that it’s put you at a disadvantage. But it’s not too late to start developing the skills you’ll need to live a rewarding, independent life. Put together a detailed list of everything that you need to learn—from cooking to cleaning to managing money. Then decide who can help you in each area (friends, parents, and even television and the internet) and figure out a realistic time frame. Try not to expect perfection right away. The more you practice (and make mistakes), the more you’ll learn.

signed, Dr. M.
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— July 29, 2015 —

All of my teachers, friends and relatives are asking me continually what careers I am interested in and I'm struggling to make a decision. I'm not even sure what subjects I enjoy because I'll enjoy anything if I'm in a good atmosphere surrounded by the right people. Currently I'm on course for A’s in my art, English and Spanish exams, and A’s in math, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics and religious studies—still with a year to go until my exams. I've always enjoyed and understood science—particularly chemistry—and have recently become very interested in psychology. Initially I thought I could combine the two and possibly study medicine and then psychiatry. However I am unsure as to whether psychiatry is the right career for me and whether I would enjoy it. I guess I would almost prefer to work in a lab rather then directly with people, although the concept of being a teacher strangely appeals to me. When I am older I would like to have a family. Do you have any ideas about what career path I should choose, where I can find out about different careers and what the next step should be on securing a good place at university?

— Mary, 15

Dear Mary,

First of all, don’t let all the questions about careers and interests cause you to panic. Most of the time people are just trying to “make conversation,” and since they think someone your age “should be thinking about such things” they are projecting that on you as well. It sounds like you are doing well in school and have many options open to you. Be patient with the process and don’t push yourself to decide anything until you “feel” ready, which might not be for a some time. While only you can know what career path you should choose, other people can sometimes see things about you that you might not be aware of and this could be very helpful in deciding on a career path. Also, remember if you make a “mistake” at some point in the future, you can learn from it and change course with a clear knowledge of what didn’t work for you—mistakes are often our most useful tools!

Here are some other thoughts and suggestions to help you find your way: To get the feel of a career, “play” with the possibilities. Learn about the career through the courses you take, from your teachers and by seeking out people in the fields that interest you. Ask questions of professionals including what they love about their work, what they don’t like so much, and about their life/career balance. Permit yourself to fully explore the idea of what your life would be like as a psychiatrist, lab researcher, or teacher. Consider the good things and the bad.

Also, some schools have career guidance counselors or departments, and if yours does, be sure to take advantage of them. If it doesn’t, talk with teachers and administrators about your interests and get their suggestions. If you are up for it, you could also ask them about starting a club or organization, which would be a fun way to share career exploration at your school and work with a team to create events that inspire everyone as they bring in professional guest speakers.

signed, Siochain
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— July 13, 2015 —

I just found out I have to retake Algebra 2. I feel like my world is ending. I used to be a straight A student, but now I can't even get through a math course everyone else says is the easiest thing in the world. I can't tell my friends, they'll lose all respect for me. I don't want to have to deal with my teacher again for another year—every class will be an unrelenting walk of shame. What college will want me? My GPA's a 2.7. I don't know what to do.

— Gregory, 14

Dear Gregory,

It might feel like your world is ending, but try to focus on actions you can take now to recover from this one situation. Use the summer to start studying Algebra 2 and figure out why it gave you so much trouble when school used to be easy for you. Instead of waiting for your friends to find out that you have to retake the course, tell them—the sooner the better. Then ask them what they did to do well in the course, and maybe they’ll have some tips for you that you can use. When you do take the course again, don’t wait too long before getting extra help. As soon as something comes up that’s not clear to you, ask your teacher about it. And if tutoring is available at your school, take advantage of it. If you learn anything about how to do better in school—then you really haven’t failed—you’ve discovered new ways to study, pay attention, or manage your time. And if the college that is your first choice doesn’t accept you, there are thousands of other schools out there. College admissions people typically look at everything about you—not just the one course you failed. And it will be impressive to them that you bounced back to a high grade the second time around.

signed, Dr. M.
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