Dear Dr. Wallace:
My mother and father appear to be very near getting a divorce, and this makes me feel very unhappy and uneasy. They rarely say anything nice to each other, and when they do discuss something, it seems they always wind up in a humongous argument that does not end well at all.
I’m 15 and have a younger sister who is 9. I love my mother and my father very much, and it makes me very depressed to think about my family breaking apart at the seams. I used to be an honor roll student, but lately, my grades have suffered because I don’t concentrate on my studies at home as much as I used to. What’s weird is that neither of my parents even checks on my schoolwork like they used to.
Is there anything I can do to help make things better at home?
— Unhappy Older Sister,
Dear Unhappy Older Sister: I sadly receive many letters similar to yours and am very sorry to hear about the tough spot you and your little sister are in. There is no painless or easy way for a couple or a family to go through a divorce. You must remember that you are in no way responsible for the problems your parents are presently having, and at no time should you be pressured into taking sides.
Too often, when a couple is at odds, they’re so caught up in their own anger and unhappiness they fail to consider how their children feel or recognize the psychological damage they might be causing. This also includes a situation like yours, whereby the parents are so caught up in their internal strife they don’t pay as much attention to their children and their studies as they once did.
You may not be able to keep your parents together, but since you asked, I’ll suggest that you can and should tell Mom and Dad you love them both and that you and your sister want the family to remain together. Believe me, this will, at the very least, cause them to think, which is valuable and important at this point in time for your family.
There are times when divorce is inevitable and might be the best option for all concerned, including the children. But in some families with conflict, professional counseling, a will to have a marriage succeed, and the wisdom and love of the children provide the foundation to maintain a happy, functional family.
Concentrate on your studies, and maintain your good grades, because you must also think about your own future. Remain pleasant and upbeat, and do your best to make your parents proud of you. You may be the brightest spot in their lives at this time.
Dear Dr. Wallace: There’s a girl I know that I think is quite beautiful (but she is very stuck-up!) She thinks she can get any guy she wants and flirts with every cute guy around.
All the girls I know talk behind everyone’s back, and I know she doesn’t have any girlfriends. Is there any way I can help her? I think she has a lot of social potential, but she’s just going about things in a very awkward and unusual way. By the way, I’m a girl, too, and we are both 16.
— Quiet Classmate,
Dear Quiet Classmate: Yes, your instincts are correct here: Don’t talk behind her back. When all the other girls you know start talking behind her back, leave the area or just politely excuse yourself.
Don’t be involved in saying anything behind someone’s back — or standing around listening to see what juicy details may be coming next.
That is equally bad.
Since you don’t believe this girl has any girlfriends, perhaps this is an opportunity for you to do your very best to become her first friend.