Books by Dr. M

Girls: What's So Bad About Being Good?, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Girls: What's So Bad About Being Good? How to Have Fun, Survive the Preteen Years, and Remain True to Yourself

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Kids

— January 15, 2018 —

Hi! I hope this question is not silly. but, there’s only one way to say this. I like playing with and collecting American Girl dolls, but I'm afraid people will judge me for it. My friends at school always say how weird they are. Should I give up my obsession or have to face being the least popular person in my school by doing what I love? is it normal for me to love American Dolls?

— Doll Dork, 10

 

Dear Doll Dork,

When I was your age I was obsessed with American Girl dolls, too (and a lot of other dolls, but American Girl Dolls were my favorite). At that time, all the 10-year old girls were still really into them, but there were other dolls that a lot of my friends thought were for little kids that I still liked. You don't have to give up your interest in American Girl dolls just because you friends don't like them. But you might not want to talk about them with your friends. You can also think about what you like about American Girls dolls and what other things might have the same appeal. For example, I loved the American Girl doll books, so when I started getting too old for them, I started reading other historical fiction books that were for an older age. And I got the imaginative play part of the dolls from playing computer games that allowed me to create different characters.

signed, Liz
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— December 31, 2017 —

I am scared of the news on TV about war, and it frightens me that the USA will get attacked. Please help. I don't know what to do or what to believe on TV anyway! Sorry this was short, hopefully this was good enough.

— Anxious, 14

 

Dear Anxious,

The world today can be very scary, and with the contradicting voices of media and politics, it’s hard to know what to believe at all—let alone what to do about it. And if you aren’t good at knowing what to focus on, it’s easy to get side-tracked by global events and activities that are competing for attention. As human beings, we always have concerns closer to “home,” and sometimes global anxieties act as an escape from them. I would suggest that you identify the extent to which you may be escaping, and work on issues that you face more directly. Consider the things in your life that you need to keep up with and manage, such as your school work, your developing hopes and dreams for the future, and your important personal and social activities. With that said, it doesn’t mean that “escapes” or world and political events aren’t important. While we can’t control them, there is a lot we can do to contribute to making change in the world. However, we must also manage our personal lives so that we can. Since you mention not knowing what to do or believe, rather than just feeling scared, keep up with the news through a variety of sources and become well-informed. Find people with whom you can share a genuine dialogue and learn from them. If it seems like you need to take action, research and practice being “a good citizen,” and get involved in your community, or join an activity group or club that is meaningful to you. Think about how you can learn more at school as you continue your education. Developing your interests and skills in balancing personal and world concerns in your life will enable you to make important contributions and serve as a well-rounded, engaged global citizen. And at this challenging time in history, as with any other time, each of us has a duty to be as good a citizen as possible in our community and in the world.

— Síoċáın

 

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— December 16, 2017 —

Hi, I sent a letter a while ago but you didn’t respond. Basically my problem has gotten worse. I am busy every second of the day and I never have time to finish my homework until really late at night. I have soccer practice and dance classes, both twice a week. I never get to hang out with my friends or do fun things like that. And homework, and three instruments—lessons plus practicing all of them. And I also need to practice Hebrew for my Bat Mitzvah, which I am behind on. The thing is if I don’t do all these things because I physically can’t finish them all, everyone gets mad at me!! It’s way too much pressure and I am so stressed out that I cry like every day. When I tried to explain the situation to my mom she got mad and said that I was complaining and I was very lucky to be able to do all these fun things. I know I am but there’s so much riding on all of it. What can I do to cope? Please help!!

— Over-scheduled, 12

 

Dear Over-scheduled,

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don't have a moment to relax, that might be a sign you need to step away from certain activities. The best advice I could give is to make a list of activities from the most important to the least. Those items that are toward the end of the list may be ones you can stop doing to take some weight off your shoulders. Although you may want to be involved in so many things, it is hard to genuinely enjoy doing everything and have enough time to dedicate to them. If there are events or hobbies you feel you should leave behind, explain to your parents and others that you are feeling overwhelmed. Show them your schedule to demonstrate that what you’ve been trying to do is impossible, and explain how you’ve chosen to drop certain activities because it’s not healthy to be constantly sleep-deprived and to feel anxious. Instead, you’re focusing on the what is most meaningful to you.

signed, Emily

 

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— December 2, 2017 —

Hi. I am in middle school and have ADHD but my teachers say I have to figure stuff like organization on my own and I am also very shy. Any advice on how to overcome shyness and organization issues?

— J, 12

 

Dear J,

Is there anyone you trust with whom you can talk about these problems, like your parents or a school counselor? My friends who have ADHD have told me that it was really hard for them at first to deal with ADHD but after they got helpful suggestions from parents, teachers, or doctors, they were able to focus and organize themselves a lot better. For your shyness, I'd also recommend starting with people you trust. These people won't judge you for asking for help, and in fact would probably appreciate that you trust them enough to ask them for help.

signed, Anil
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— November 19, 2017 —

I am so frustrated! For my age, I feel like I am surprisingly calm and I hardly ever cry, but recently my now 14-year-old brother came back from holiday and he is driving me NUTS! He steals things, he bullies me, hits me, and shoots really personal, hurtful insults at me on a daily basis. The most annoying thing is my Mum doesn't even notice it! I have tried talking to her but she just gets angry at me for even bringing it up. All my friends either are the eldest or only children so they don't understand either. Another thing that is annoying is people saying: "I understand what you are going through. You will be friends eventually!" And I think: Do I really want to give him the chance? After so many years of being bullied, upset, and ignored I'm expected to FORGET ABOUT IT ALL AND BE HIS FRIEND?!? I don't want a THING to do with him when I'm older! So my main question is: What do I do? If my teenage brother isn't ignoring me he is making me want to scream!!

— Ravenclaw Nerd, 12

 

Dear Ravenclaw Nerd,

The way I see it, you don't have just one problem. You actually have two: your mom and your brother. Your mom really should be listening to you when you say that your brother is being really terrible to you. I'd suggest that the next time your brother bullies you, go to your mother and insist that she listen to you. Tell her you need her help and that she'll actually be less mad overall because your house will be quieter and more peaceful. In addition to that, I recommend you ignore your brother. He might like bullying and annoying you because it's fun for him to see your reaction. By ignoring him, you'll remove the fun that he gets.

And no, you don't have to like your brother or get along with him when you're older. You should never feel forced to be nice to someone who isn't nice to you. But, if you’re lucky, your brother will change for the better as he matures and be there to support you when you’re both out of your teenage years. If he doesn’t, it will be his loss since he’s missing someone who could be an important ally to him.

signed, Anil
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— November 4, 2017 —

My parents are thinking about moving. I want to, but I'm in 5th grade so that would mean going into middle school without knowing anyone! I'm really scared. I know my parents won't listen if I ask to stay one more year, but I don't know what else to do. PLEASE HELP!!!

— Juli 11

 

Dear Juli,

Moving can be scary, especially when you think about having to make new friends and getting used to new routines. it’s important to know why your parents made the decision to move. There is probably an important reason so you should reach out and ask them. You should also talk to them about how you feel about moving this year. A compromise might be possible, but if it’s not, ask them to help you deal with your concerns about moving someplace where you don’t know anyone. And remember that you were able to make friends in your old neighborhood, so you should be able to do the same in your new community, but give yourself some time.

signed, Emily

 

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— October 22, 2017 —

I've been diagnosed with OCD, I was wrongfully labeled a bully by my peers, and my parents fight so much I am scared they may divorce. I need someone to talk to about this. My mom found a therapist and I've already had a few sessions with her. But I hate her! She interrupts me, judges me, and says I am living my life all wrong. So my problems never get solved. I beg my parents to let me switch therapists but they won't let me and think I am lying when I tell them what this therapist does because she acts different around my parents. So I've started hiding my emotions only to blow up at random. Should I keep going to the therapist or take action? WRITE BACK!

— Lost, 12

 

Dear Lost,

I can only imagine what you are going through. You seem to have a lot on your plate at once and that can be overwhelming. It doesn't help when you feel unhappy in therapy, a space that is intended to serve as an outlet and make the client feel safe and supported. As a therapist, we were taught that the client-therapist relationship is one of the most important components that makes therapy effective.

That being said, I strongly recommend that you first discuss these feelings with your therapist, explaining that you are concerned that she may not be a good match because of the reasons you stated. Often times, therapists are willing to explore this and will try a different therapeutic approach. If you still believe you are not getting anything out of therapy after a few more weeks, there is nothing wrong with asking your parents to get a referral for another therapist, preferably one who specializes in OCD in adolescents. Give them specific examples of why this change is needed, and make sure you note that you recognize that therapy will be helpful if you find a person who is the best fit for you. Stay calm, which will make it more likely that your parents will listen to you.

— Kim

 

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— October 4, 2017 —

My mom says that when I was born, she was trying to hurt herself. She was in a manipulative marriage, and I was an anxious baby. That when I was four weeks old, my parents had a huge fight and I was almost physically damaged. I saw traces of that relationship as I grew up, but two summers ago, they got divorced. I found a document that said the were supposed to get divorced when I was two months old, though. When I was five, my grandpa died, and when I was eight, my best friend's mother had a stroke and a tumor. If I had to choose a second mother, it would be my bestie Jen's mom, and watching her get sick was the last straw. When I was ten or eleven, I started intimidating other people, and isolating myself. In sixth grade, I had horrible nightmares and started hurting myself. It took a caring (but kinda nosy) school counselor, and one intuitive friend to get me to talk to my parents last Mother's Day. I got them together for breakfast and had a talk about how I'd cut myself and scratched my arms, but had never been able to bring myself to go in for the kill. I was scared. I still am. I feel like some people at school have figured this part of my life out. I try to keep going for my little brother, but I don't know how long I'll be able to hold it together. We've seen a therapist, and I've written letters to myself and to others about how I feel, but I've never actually given them to anyone. I'm afraid of myself now. And afraid of what I will do. I'm missing a key part of human nature. The will to survive. Please help me understand how I feel and what to do next.

— Ashton, 12

 

Dear Ashton,

Let me begin by talking about something more important than anything: your thoughts of not surviving. Please, if you feel that you can’t figure this out alone, know that there are helpful volunteers you can contact for free. They believe so strongly in helping you to get through this extremely difficult time in your life they are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—anytime you need them. You can go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/contact-the-lifeline/ and you will find many different resources. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can also text LIFE to 61222 (https://txt4life.org/) and get immediate and free help by text.

You have endured a lifetime of very challenging events. I am truly impressed with your sensitivity and determination to find a way past all of the bad memories and grief. I won’t lie. I can’t take them away from you, but I can give you some ideas so you can decide what is best for you going forward.

You share that your mom has struggled in the past and this is important information because sometimes there are difficulties, such as anxiety or depression, that can be inherited, but also can be treated with medication or therapy or both. You mentioned that you were an “anxious” baby. Figuring out if you even have anxiety or depression can actually be tricky, but professionals can offer testing and options that may help.

It seems you have been able to recognize qualities that you admire—such as the reasons you miss your grandfather or your best friend’s mom. These people imparted good, positive lessons to you that can help you now. And just imagine how much they would want you to use that help. You may have lost these important people in your daily life, but remember that love doesn’t die, and you feel pain because you continue to love them. There are still ways to keep them in your life. You can honor their memory by recalling lessons you learned from them or even jokes they told, and sharing them with others.

You clearly convey that you feel you are missing something that is a key to your happiness. I suggest that you try to look at it differently. You actually hold the key to your happiness! We often make the mistake of expecting other people to make us happy when in reality only we can choose it for ourselves. Only you can determine the story of your life, Ashton. I believe that your past painful experiences are actually going to mark your character in a unique and positive way if you allow yourself the time and hope necessary for it to unfold like a beautiful pair of wings that will not only lift you up and out of pain, but also those you choose to help in the future. You have earned wisdom at a very young age and while the past is the past, it can still serve to help us see what to reject and what to pursue. The past only defines us by what we learn from it to shape the future. Please, keep in touch with us at Ask Dr. M. while you reach out to a professional therapist who can guide you as you deal with the challenges that face you now.

— Amy

 

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— September 24, 2017 —

I have a huge problem! So here's what happened, I told a lie to my mom, and she no longer trusts me! I feel so bad about it! She said so many things in that argument, too many for me to list. I just feel so depressed all the time! My mom is not like the kind of mom that will just be nice to you all the time. She will speak her mind, and then today my mom and I fought again! I was playing some games, and I saw a sanskrit primer and I walked over to it, and my brother took it and my mom shouted at me for arguing over the primer with him! I feel like she doesn't care for me anymore. She said the only things I could do in life were painting my nails and watching TV, and that I should stick to that because it’s what I do best. She said herself that it was a burden to care for me sometimes!!! I don't know what to do! Please please please help me!😭😥😢

— Don’t Know What to Do, 10

 

Dear Don't Know What To Do,

Parents and children will forever have the most complex relationship. Even though we don't mean to, sometimes we take out our stress, anxieties, and fears on each other, just because it’s such a safe and strong relationship. Your mom clearly cares about your future and rather than taking her comments as a negative turn them into a positive by recognizing that she only wants the best for you and is suggesting that you make a little more time for studying or preparing for school. Sometimes it's hard for parents to express directly how much they care about their children. Even through all the fighting that has and will happen between parents and their kids, at the end of the day they truly love their kids. Don't let an argument tear you away from your mom or cause you to think she no longer cares about you. She will constantly be caring and worrying about you whether you're 10 or 40. Try talking to your mom about how her comments make you feel. Parents sometimes need to listen just as much as they need to talk and give advice.

signed, Emily

 

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— September 10, 2017 —

I am in grade four at school. There is this girl in our class who cuts her hair really short and says she is a boy and wants us to call her by a boy's name. She is into sports and acts like a boy and is the best in our class at soccer. Our teacher has been refusing to refer to her as a boy though and is calling her by her girl name still. And so all the other kids in our class also call her by her girl's name still. But I feel like maybe we should call her him since being called a girl and being called a girl's name seems to make him sad. And now the boys won't let him play soccer with them at lunchtime, even though he is much better at it than them. They let him play before but now they don't, and I think it is our teacher's fault as the teacher made this kid feel bad when he said he was a boy. The teacher didn't say anything really nasty or anything, he just said: “No, you are a girl and I don’t care what your parents say. In my classroom you will go by the gender you were born with.” I mean I don't even really know him. I hate sports and so never joined in when they would play at lunch time. But it kinda makes me feel bad anyway. What is the big deal about her/him wanting to be a boy? The teacher is more confusing to me than the kid. I don't get the big deal. What can I do to help him not be so sad? I saw him crying in the girls' toilet (as he is not allowed in the boys' one) and his crying has made me feel sad. What can I do? I wanna stand up for him but don't know how.

— Sarah, 10

 

Dear Sarah,

Your teacher might think that it is too confusing for you and the other students if your classmate is called by a boy's name and treated like a boy—sometimes adults, even teachers, don't realize how smart kids are and how much they really can understand. And your teacher might think that the other boys would be uncomfortable if this particular student started using the boys' bathroom. You can help your friend by trying to get your teacher to change his rule by showing the teacher that how he thinks you and your classmates feel about this student is wrong. You can do that by taking a survey of your classmates asking them what they feel comfortable with. Make sure to include a few different questions since some students might be okay with calling your classmate by a boy’s name, but don’t think he should use the boys’ bathroom. You can show the results of your survey to your teacher when you talk to him. If your teacher won’t listen, you might want to talk to the principal, and you should ask your parents to help you with that. They can get other parents involved, too and even start a petition to show the school how many students and parents disagree with how the teacher is treating your classmate. If just a few of your classmates agree with you, it might be hard to get the teacher to change his rule, but you and anyone who agrees with you can still help your classmate feel better by calling him by the name he wants to be called and using male pronouns, like he and him, when you talk about him. And the students who like sports (both boys and girls) can let him play soccer with them. No matter what happens, you have brought up an important issue for the school. Think about working with the principal and other people involved in leading the school to teach all the students, teachers, and even the parents. Maybe there can be an assembly or classroom discussions about fairness and gender. You are a role model for other students and should be very proud of yourself.

signed, Liz
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— August 26, 2017 —

Hey! I have been contacting you but you have not answered so please answer, it is urgent! So, we have a dog and she is big and stubborn! She is just a puppy so she doesn't know any better than to bite, chew, growl, and run around the house like a maniac! Recently, we bought a second dog and he is a chihuahua. You would think they aren't much work but they are because they can't do anything themselves! SO I have to take him outside, feed him, bathe him, and play with him. My mother expects me to do it. I also have 2 siblings who help out sometimes, and my mom and dad help out too, but I find I am doing a lot of the work. Now, I'm not done. My first dog, well since she is so crazy she is so hard to take care of. SO, I might be taking care of our chihuahua while my mom takes care of our other dog and she will all of a sudden act as if what she is doing on her phone is really important, so she ignores the dog. The dog runs, and chews and barks and my mom doesn't care. (My dad gets mad.) But then, I get tired of it and put the chihuahua on the floor, and go after the other dog. She is very fast so it takes awhile! When I get back, my mom is walking up the stairs and says, "Oh thank you! I need to lie down for a bit. Stress can make you sick you know and since you aren't very helpful with the dogs, I have to do it all" and then she walks upstairs. I agree with her. Ever since she starting making me do everything, I have had diarrhea everyday. I am always feeling sick, I have headaches a lot, cramps a lot, and this never ending sore throat. Yesterday I had some sort of breakdown! I walked around with the big dog and she bit me and it really hurt. Then I started crying a lot! Then my mom told me to grow up and so I told her I can't handle both dogs so she just ignored me and so I felt sick and then I couldn't stop crying and I didn't know why I was even crying!! I think it is from the stress!! Please help me!! I can't handle this!

— Kyleigh, 11

 

Hi Kyleigh,

Dogs can certainly be a lot of work, and it can be difficult if you are being asked to bear the majority of responsibility for taking care of them. One approach would be to ask your siblings directly to help out more with the dogs so that it doesn't fall as much to you. Another option would be to try talking to your mom (and your dad) at a set time (rather than in the moment when stressful things are happening with the dogs), and explain to them the difficulties you're facing, and see if together the three of you can come up with solutions that work for all of you.

Separately, it sounds like your dogs might benefit from obedience classes or even just training by you and your parents, which may be worth suggesting to your mom and dad. That should help to improve their behavior and make it easier to deal with them—for instance, if your dog responds to the commands, "Come!" "Sit!" you hopefully won't have to chase after her. Especially if your dog is biting you, it can be very dangerous, and should not be happening. It's also possible that your dog(s) have a medical problem that is causing their bad behavior, and so it may make sense to mention their behavior to the vet at their next visit.

signed, Rob

 

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— August 11, 2017 —

I'm leaving primary in a week and I'm really upset and I'm scared if I burst out crying and people will laugh. I'm usually a hyper and happy boy and it breaks my heart to think I may be sad. Do you have any advice for me? I'm also scared in case my best friend makes new friends and in case she'll leave me and I'm not very good at making friends. Please! Do you have any advice? I'd be so grateful

— Norman, 11

 

Dear Norman,

Moving on in any situation can be difficult and often emotional! There is nothing wrong with you showing your feelings, and it's completely justified given that this is a big moment. There will more than likely be other people getting emotional as well. Also, everyone goes through a time whether before transitioning to a new school or starting a new job when they're afraid they won't fit in or make new friends. Remember that you made friends during elementary school, which should show you that will make more friends throughout your life. As long as you're social and true to yourself the right friends will always come your way. Try not to worry about your friends leaving you because if they are your true friends they will always be there even if that means not seeing each other everyday. It's not the amount of times you see your friends but the quality time you have when you’re together.

signed, Emily

 

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