Books by Dr. M

Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years

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Young Adults

— July 18, 2017 —

I have had a huge crush on this guy for nearly a year. I finally got the courage to tell him that I liked him about a month ago. I set up a meeting and told him right then and there. I found out the feelings were not mutual and he just wanted to be friends. We became good friends but I never let go of my feelings. Then he started doubting what he felt for me and told me that he regretted saying no. We have grown pretty close as friends but I still want more. He is driving me insane with his doubts. He gave me a semi answer when I asked for clarity. It came down to: not now but I’m not saying never. I think I might be in love with this guy. How do I deal with this? I haven’t been eating or sleeping properly in weeks. I do have to add that there are some issues in my life that are not related to this. I ran away from home in September and I am still in a very bad place with my parents. That could explain some of the bad nights and eating habits, but still….

— Helpless Romantic, 18


Dear Helpless Romantic,

Romantic feelings between friends can often be confusing and frustrating to deal with, especially when one person or the other is less than certain about their feelings. Ideally, you want to be able to remain friends if the relationship does not progress to a romantic one. No matter what happens, it's important to be open with each other. To that end, you may want to consider talking to him and telling him that you still have feelings for him, but that the uncertainty of his feelings towards you is very difficult for you and that if he's not interested in a romantic relationship, it's okay and you would like to still be friends, but it's not fair to you (or him really) to keep things in limbo. And if he still can't decide what his feelings are (which is certainly possible—feelings between friends are tricky!), you may have to decide how long you're willing to wait to find out, or decide for yourself that it's time to move on and think of him as only a friend and no more in order to have certainty and closure for yourself.

signed, Rob


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— June 30, 2017 —

I got in an argument with a friend recently and things have not been the same since. We were never really close but she was a long time member of my friend group and we started hanging out more because we shared some classes. After she got into her dream college (a near ivy League) she started acting a bit different. Nothing dramatic, just often mentioning the school, internships she was gonna get because she knew some people and where she was going to travel. That didn’t bother me at first but she kept bringing it up at insensitive times like when me or my other (lower income) friends would discuss our struggles applying to and financing college. But this was just the start. She began becoming more fixated on guys, her rich old schoolmates’ lives, losing a dramatic amount of weight to fit in a prom dress, going to parties with strange guys etc. When I try to confront her about her new (somewhat concerning) behavior, just asking her to calm down, she basically calls me and my life boring and simple, knowing full well I can't travel or go out all the time if I wanted to. One day she said some things along the same vein that she had been saying and I went off (in a calm, biting sarcastic tone) stating when she got out in to the real world her bubble would pop and her blind optimism and money could not protect her. We argued shortly and she just left. I later regretted confronting her fearing it would strain the dynamics of our friend group but we never mentioned it again and simply don't talk. I know that friendships fade but I fear that I confronted her for the wrong reasons. Should I have said anything or just let it go? Do you think this is a result of jealousy or a deeper issue within our friendship? How can I prevent having a confrontational approach to addressing issues like this in the future?

— Complicated College Girl, 19


Dear Complicated College Girl,

It sounds like when you initially confronted your friend, you did so out of concern, but your friend may not have understood that and probably got defensive because it's hard to have someone tell you what to do or criticize you. It's also understandable that you ended up snapping at your friend later—you were probably frustrated with her behavior and with how she reacted the first time you talked to her when you were just trying to help. At the same time, your reaction likely made the situation worse. If you want to continue being friends with her, you should apologize, but also explain why you were concerned about her and why some of her comments were hurtful to you and your other friends. As for the future, you now know that it's important how you say things when you confront a friend (or anyone else) about an issue you have. It helps to pick a time when you're calm to talk to someone, rather than saying something in the moment. And it's important to frame things in terms of why you're concerned and explain how the situation seems from your perspective and how it makes you feel, and then give the other person a chance to respond with their perspective before telling them how they need to change.

signed, Liz


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— June 17, 2017 —

I don't know who else to ask or what else to do at this point. I have just about wrecked my relationship with my mom. Last year, I got into a relationship with a man who was older than me and in the military. I ended up lying to my parents about it, but later told them when he deployed. After we ended up breaking up, I started to secretly hang out with one of his friends behind my parents' backs. When my mom found out, she was, understandably, livid. I felt so bad because I almost ruined our relationship, but I was so blinded by my "feelings" for this boy that I continued to sneak around every chance I got. And, to make matters worse, I was sort of messing around with him casually and talking to another guy that my parents didn't know about. This is all so awful and wrong, and I feel so terrible about it because my mom truly is my best friend and I don't want to ruin our relationship. So, I straightened up and didn't lie to her and we finally started to rebuild trust. But, a few months ago, another guy who is also in the military asked for my number and we started talking. We started off as friends, but very quickly developed feelings for each other. I didn't think my mother would approve of him, so I snuck around with him a few times, and we got very close and I really really really like him. I decided to tell my mom, and she even agreed to meet him and consider letting me date him, despite the fact that he was in the military and two years older than me. But she found out that I had lied, and of course, the possibility of her ever approving went down the drain. She took away my keys, phone, and privileges, which I totally understand. She also says that I have destroyed our relationship, but I can't stand the thought of life without my mom. I am going to college in a couple of months, and I have made it clear that I plan to continue my relationship with this man while I am in school, and we both agree that she will not have any control over me after I move out, but I want her to be able to trust me at school. I guess what I want to know is why I continue to lie to her about these things. I know it is my fault and I need to stop, but she also makes me feel like I can't talk to her sometimes and that I am a disappointment. She controls everything that I do, and frankly I am sick of living my life in constant fear that I will disappoint her. I want to have a relationship with her, but I am 18 and I'm about to move out. I need to make my own path and my own mistakes, even if my decisions aren't necessarily the same ones she would make. Can you give me any insight into why I keep lying and how I can fix this? Please—anything.

— MEB, 18


Dear MEB,

Your letter gives two pictures of your relationship with your mother. On the one hand, you describe your mother as your "best friend" and you definitely "do not want to ruin your relationship" with her. You say you cannot stand the thought of life without her, and that you understand why she has been upset with you. But on the other hand, you say she is controlling and "frankly I am sick of living my life in constant fear that I will disappoint her."

Every mother-daughter relationship has its own complexities (and all of them have pluses and minuses!) but you are telling me that the main problem in your relationship with your mother is due to your lying about your boyfriends. If you feel you "have to be perfect" so as not to disappoint your mother or that she tries to control your life too much, then maybe lying about your boyfriends is your way of showing your mother that you are old enough to do what you want to do.

It is very important that you separate in your own mind whether you are dating military men who are a year or two older than you because you have found each of these men appealing OR if you are partly doing this to rebel against your mother and the rules and restrictions you face at home. If it is truly because you have liked each of these men (and you mention four different men from last year to this one) then you are right, once you are in college whom you date is your decision. However, if you think it is possible that dating these men is a protest against having to be perfect or against your mom (even if unconsciously), then you should take some time to reflect on your own motives and emotions. As long as the dating does not lead to bad consequences that harm your college experience and future opportunities, it is all part of maturing and learning.

So, the big question for you to think about is "why are you lying?" Is it to show your independence? Is it because you are not sure you are making the best dating decisions and are worried or embarrassed? Is it because you are afraid of what your mother will say? Lying, like lots of things, can become a habit. The best way to break a bad habit is to understand why you are doing it, be conscious of it before you do it, and stop it in its tracks. If you stop the lying, it sounds like you will have a stronger relationship with your mother. And that will definitely help you cope with the rest of life.

It is interesting that in your letter, you talk about your "parents" a number of times but only discuss a relationship problem with your mother. Is that because you have always been closer to your mother, and more likely to confide in her? Or is that your father reacts differently, is more accepting of your boyfriends or is more distant with you and for whichever reason, your relationship with him is not affected by the lies. Answering that question will also help you figure out the reasons for your behavior.

signed, Dr. B.


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— June 3, 2017 —

I am now a sophomore in college and transferring to another school next year. Back in October I met this guy—he's my roommate's good friend and she never had a problem with me getting involved with him. The night I met him was so amazing and one of the best of my life. I had so much fun with him and as weird as it sounds I knew that I might fall in love with him. He kept saying he was going to visit me at my school, which is 2 hours from him for all of first semester. He never did. He said he had family stuff going on but wouldn't tell me and I knew that it was personal and had to do with his dad so I didn't push it. We stayed in touch all year long. I always thought of him and he flirted with me sometimes. Randomly he Snapchatted me and said that he was coming down for St. Patrick's Day weekend. He came for one night and he stayed with me and my friend. We ended up hooking up and he slept in my bed. We really bonded even more and I couldn't stop thinking about him. It worked out for me to visit him the following weekend at his school. It was one of the best weekends of the year. I met all of his friends and his brother and they all really liked me. The last night I cried and he did too because we didn't know when we'd see each other again with me transferring and living far from him. It's been the hardest thing for me to accept that I met the right person at the wrong time. I lost my virginity to him that night, which also makes me attached to him, and didn't complicate my feelings for him. We kept in touch and talked all the time and I was just so happy, happier than I think I had ever been. But we weren't together, and to my knowledge he wasn't hooking up with other girls and I wasn't hooking up with other guys. After I saw him at the end of March, he came and spent another weekend at my school. The first night he got so drunk, it was really bad. He was really gone and said that he had been in a lot of relationships, and that I was his girlfriend and he was my boyfriend and he said I love you. I was sure he was kidding. The next morning we were cuddling and he asked what he said that was stupid and I told him everything except for the I love you part. Later in the day after asking my roommate about it, I said, “I know you were really gone last night and I know you said this because you were drunk and didn't mean it, but you said I love you" to me. He said he was sorry and didn't mean to make me feel uncomfortable. As long as I have known him I haven't ever felt uncomfortable around him I have always felt like I can tell him anything and I'm never nervous around him. Anyway, later that day we went to a day drink and he got arrested. It was a crazy ordeal and when I was on the phone with him in jail he told me “I love you” again. I knew it was because he needed reassurance because he was scared but it was just strange to hear it again the next day. We hooked up after we got him from jail and he slept in my bed, and the next morning I didn't want him to leave. It was so hard to say bye to him. I cried when I went back to my room and I thought that I had fallen in love with him. I thought about that for about 2 weeks and was so confused and I still am. I know we aren't going to date or anything but I don't know if I'm in love with him or how to go about this. About 2 weeks later, he drove down to see me just for the night and was gonna leave early in the morning. We barely hooked up and hung out and his brothers kept calling him and he had to go back after an hour and a half. I thought he just came as a booty call and he said no and made sure I didn't think that. He felt so bad he had to leave and said how much he cared about me. About 2 weeks later I was going to go down to visit him. I thought I had fallen in love with him and that I needed to tell him and just talk it out with him. I was going to go down and couldn't because his dad was coming. But he said it was a false alarm and was angry that he had told me not to come and we didn't end up seeing each other. I called him and was gonna tell him how I was feeling and I just couldn't do it. I think he knew I was holding something back. Ever since that day he's slowly stopped Snapchatting me as much and hasn't called me or FaceTimed me and we always used to. I know he's pulling away. But he's breaking my heart and he's the one who said he didn't want his heart broken again. I just need to talk to him and have an open and honest conversation. Last night I was drinking and called him and said I fell in love with him and he just said “ok” and wanted to make sure I was ok, I also woke him up from sleeping so he was really tired and don't blame him for not saying much. I didn't expect him to say I feel the same. He texted today and said that he appreciated me putting myself out there and that things won't work with the distance. I texted him back and said not to read into it and said I am confused and don't know if I ever felt the way I said I did and he hasn't responded and it's been half a day. I'm not going to bug him about it. I know he's pulling away and not flirting with me and stuff, but how do I get him to talk to me? Like just have an open and honest convo? I don't want to ask him and seem desperate and I'm sure he's confused. What do you think about the situation? I don't know what to do because I have feelings for him still even though I know it won't work right now but maybe it will in the future.

— Emma, 19


Dear Emma,

The situation you’re in sounds very difficult and may become endlessly painful for you unless you deal with it now. I hear in your description a lot of mixed signals and confusing communications from both you and him. Clearly, having him be your first full sexual experience makes things all the more intense for you, which can distract you from figuring out next steps. That deep infatuation and chemistry can be confused for sustainable love, but having said that, losing this guy is a big loss and not one that will be easy to handle. It's hard to accept the loss, particularly when there has not been a clear “goodbye,” but rather what you call a “pulling away.” There is a lot of heat between the two of you, but you don’t know yet know him well, except that there is something distracting him at home and that he was put in jail for drinking. I would see those things as red flags.

The important thing is to not blame yourself. Try not to think that if I only said or did this or that then things would be different. It might be helpful to talk to a counselor at school, and hopefully you will be able to make new friends at your new university.

— Mrs. B.


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— May 21, 2017 —

I am graduating high school in less than two weeks. I have a boyfriend who I have been with for almost two years. He works every day and the only time I get to see him is on Saturday and Sunday. My question for you is how do I tell my mother who is very strict and protective that I'm spending the night at his house graduation night or whenever he invites me. I don't want to lie and say I'm going to a friend’s. I want to be open and honest with her but she is likely to get very mad and judgmental. And honestly I'm scared to ask her but I want to tell her the truth. I want her to respect that yes, I am 18 years and want to start being able to stay out late especially with the summer coming around. I want to be able to stay the night at his house and go on trips with him to see his family and friends. How do I tell her?

— Molly, 18


Dear Molly,

I can understand why this is a difficult discussion to have with your mother. She’s strict and protective, and she’s probably not ready to see you with grown-up issues and questions. However, I am impressed that you don’t want to lie to her, which many young people would do to avoid the confrontation that is sure to happen. Explain the situation to your mom the same way you did to me. Tell her that you want to continue to have an open and honest relationship, and that what you have to say may not be what she wants or is prepared to hear. To make your case even stronger, stay calm no matter how angry your mom gets, and let her know how responsible you and your boyfriend are and will continue to be.

signed, Dr. M.
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— May 5, 2017 —

I am having trouble deciding how to tell my friend that the way he treats me angers me. We are friends but a bit more than friends as well. Like we are caught in the air between a relationship and being best friends. I don't really have a problem with that except for the fact that it isn't a stable “relationship.” We will talk for 2 to 3 weeks and then he won't text me back or call me back for 2 more weeks. It's almost like our friendship is conditional, we can be friends and have a "relationship" when he feels like it but when I want to, it's like he disappears. We've gone through so much together and I'm not sure If I am ready to lose this friendship, but I hate how unfair the situation is. What do I do??

— Danielle, 18


Dear Danielle,

In your letter, you are seeking clarity about your situation, but it seems that you have a pretty keen intuition about what makes a healthy relationship. The challenge for you is to identify your perception of the relationship you’re in and if this current state of affairs between your special friend and you is healthy or not.

Relationships are never some cookie-cutter arrangements, right? There are just too many variables. Identifying the most important aspects of a relationship for you might be helpful. One element is mutual trust. Value is also a good thing to think about; does this relationship add value to the quality of your life MUCH of the time? Another important factor is communication. You have already sensed that the two of you seem to be on different pages. You’ve noted that communication feels conditional, and you may not be comfortable with such an arrangement.

It’s obvious that you care about this relationship, so find the courage to communicate honestly about it—in person or in writing. Sometimes writing your thoughts in a card or letter helps to clarify and express everything you hope without being distracted by a face-to-face sit-down. Determine how you prefer to communicate and just do it. His reaction will tell you a lot about how you want to move forward. And keep in mind that relationships change and evolve as do people over time and with experiences.

— Amy


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— April 14, 2017 —

I'm 19 and just got into University this year. I took my College Acceptance Test, did really well, and was admitted to a few great Universities. But I decided to attend a school for the scholarship because my parents cannot support the whole tuition of a university. I don't have any complaints about my school, and my school is also well known in the city, but sometimes I feel so jealous of my friends who are attending another school I was admitted to. Also sometimes I don't know what am I doing and why am I here in this school. My major is Software Engineering, but what I always wanted to study Nursing. Luckily, I do enjoy my school and my major but I still cannot get these thoughts out of my head. Any advice?

— Naturepark, 19



I wouldn't worry about what you're studying in college that much: you may change major several times in college—I know I have—so it's not worth really stressing about that right now. I also understand the pressure of finances, and I think you're doing a responsible thing by going to the school that's giving you a scholarship.

I definitely understand how you feel—that you might be missing out because of the decision you made. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your university, by taking the time to learn more about the city you’re now living in and to explore college clubs that coincide with your interests. There's always more to learn and new people to meet.

signed, Anil
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— April 2, 2017 —

My mom used to be dating this guy who was on really bad and hard drugs. While he was using he would leave our house and not come home for days, he would constantly fight and yell at my mom to where I was scared of him, he would cheat on her, and he abused her in front of me. So my mom didn't want anything to do with him. Then he got clean and not even a few months later he was living with us again. So they've been together for just over 2 years. They got married a few months ago. While we went on vacation in Mexico (where they got married) he was drinking a lot one night and we got into a fight so he called me a bitch and made a scene in front of everybody. Ever since he abused my mom and called me a bunch of names and stuff I can't get over it. I hate him so much but I do not know how to tell my mom that without hurting her feelings or making her decide between me and him. I don't know what to do. I need help.

— Cassey, 19


Dear Cassey,

That sounds like a frustrating situation, as it seems like this guy still has some aggressive qualities that would make anyone uneasy. Often times, recovering addicts can be very unpredictable and should stay away from substances that may trigger bad behaviors. Unfortunately, the only thing you have control over in this situation is the way you respond to it. There are various options. If you notice him drinking, try to avoid any kind of confrontation, as there is no reasoning with a person who is intoxicated. Address any issues in a calm manner when he is sober. During this discussion, make sure you express your feelings without criticizing or placing blame. For example, you might say, “I feel hurt when I’m called XYZ; I feel scared when you drink too much because I fear for my safety.” By expressing how his actions impact you, and listening to him talk about his feelings as well (even if you don’t agree with them), he may empathize without becoming defensive.

Since it sounds like he is not leaving the family any time soon, you can choose to hate him forever, or figure out how to interact with him in ways that will not hurt you. Doing something fun with him and your mom and finding common ground might help you to tolerate his presence while also increasing his compassion towards you and vice versa. If he is not receptive to these interactions, you should definitely let your mom know that his behavior has been impacting you, and that you are finding it difficult to have a good relationship with him because of it. Phrasing it in a way that expresses your concerns and seeks her advice is a guilt-free way of saying what needs to be said. If moving out is not an option, I highly encourage you to spend time doing things you enjoy outside of the house, and consider seeing a counselor for individual or family counseling. There are also support groups for families of alcoholics/addicts you can look into. They can provide coping skills, peer support, and education on addiction. Understanding what to expect and learning how to deal with it will likely reduce your frustration and anxiety.

— Kim


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— March 18, 2017 —

Last year, I was a freshman in college, living on my own and making my own decisions without having to ask my parents if I could do something. However, during this summer break I decided college wasn't for me; not because I couldn't do it (I was on honor roll and passed my classes with flying colors) but it just wasn't for me. So I made the decision to leave school and go to cosmetology school, a 9 month program. This means I have to live at home because I have to pay for it myself, which is fine. At the beginning of summer, my parents told me they wouldn't be on my case about things and that they would give me freedom to do what I wanted to do. Then my parents found out I had stayed at my boyfriend's house a few times and that's completely taboo in my house. Now keep this in mind, my mother is a pastor, so just imagine what's going through her mind at this point. They flipped out, as any super religious parents would do if their "baby girl" stayed at her boyfriend’s house, and I didn't expect anything other than that. However, he had stayed with me out at school since the beginning of our relationship. Me, being my own person with my own choices, thought "it's my life and I make my own decisions.” Without any surprise, they grounded me and it's been a month and a half. Now I am not allowed to stay at my friends’ apartments, and I have a curfew which I understand, but I feel trapped and angry all the time. I know that I can do what I want, but I've realized I made a mistake and disrespected their morals, but should they have complete reign over every decision and choice I make? I have grown up and sure I'm not perfect and I will obviously make some poor decisions, but I feel like I need to make my decisions myself and not have to check in 24/7 or ask permission anymore. I need to learn from the mistakes I choose to make. How am I supposed to grow up? Also, my friends feel neglected. It looks so childish when I say "I have to check with my parents first" or "I'm not allowed to." The memories I have with my friends at my age are so important to me and I'm losing time. Who knows when something might happen? Anyway, sorry I dragged on, but you have to see some of the background to fully understand what I'm going through. Any and all advice would be great.

— Abbey, 19


Dear Abbey,

I understand why you made the decision you did about leaving college, but I hope you’ll keep an open mind. If cosmetology school doesn’t give you the kind of opportunities you had hoped for, consider going back to college. But, that wasn’t your question. What you’re trying to figure out is how to live a rewarding life, including having a good relationship with your parents as well as with your friends and to creating a satisfying work life. That doesn’t sound impossible to me. But your first step is to undo the rift that has developed with your parents. They probably felt betrayed not only by your actions but also because you failed to communicate with them before making the decision about staying over at your boyfriend’s home. You can’t turn the clock back, but you can work on moving forward in a mature way. Hard as it is to have an open and honest conversation with strict parents, you do need to tell them how you feel about their rules and to try to work with them to develop a different kind of relationship, one based on mutual respect. Perhaps a compromise is possible—your boyfriend won’t stay over at your house and you’ll let your parents know when you plan to spend the night somewhere else. You are right that you will make mistakes (everyone does), but what is important is learning from them.

signed, Dr. M.
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— March 5, 2017 —

My best friend has liked the same guy for 4 years, and I've known the whole time. They are extremely close and spend a lot of time together; however I've asked him multiple times in the past if he would ever pursue something with her, and he has always responded with a strong no, he likes her strictly as a friend. She's said time and again she's "over him" knowing their relationship will always be platonic, but I know she's lying to me and herself. I'm good friends with this guy too, but haven't known him as long—maybe two years. We've definitely become a lot closer this year, but I didn't realize how close until this past week. We were at a party together, and I'll admit we were flirting. One thing led to another, we ended up in the same room together alone, and I asked him point blank if he was into me, to which he responded yes (we both had had a few). We kissed for a bit before I pulled away because of my friend. He's casually brought it up with me since, but I've acted like it was the alcohol talking and that we should both forget about it. Neither of us have told anyone. I don't know if my friend would forgive me if she found out. I realize now I've liked him for a long time too, but have suppressed my feelings knowing how she felt. Knowing that he feels the same way about me isn't helping me resist. My loyalty always has been and always will be to her, but I can't help but feel I'm missing out on something real. She and I both know things wouldn't work out between them, so can I tell her that I've developed feelings for him too? I don't want to hurt her, and a guy isn't worth ruining our friendship. Am I being a bad friend for 1) not telling her what happened that night and 2) wanting it to happen again? Do I have any right to bring this up to her?

— Lila, 21


Dear Lila,

If there ever needed to be an unspoken rule among female friends, this would be it. I’ve seen this happen so many times and rarely did it leave the friendship intact. Also, rarely did the guy stick around after the friendship was ruined. Trust me—there are many guys with whom you will find a great connection—you’re only 21. You also stated that you can tell that your friend is still interested although she acts as if she isn’t. If you want to show your loyalty to your friend, you should consider him off limits. It may be best to examine the reason you pursued someone you knew your friend was interested in. The mere fact that you are questioning whether to pursue this guy shows that your intuition is intact. Your intuition is already telling you that there may be something wrong with pursuing him. To find the answer to your questions it’s best to place yourself in your friend’s shoes.

— Velben


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— February 20, 2017 —

My mom said she was ok with me being gay. But whenever I go home now for dinner she is always trying to set me up with blind dates! Girls! There is always a random girl at dinner. And I have a boyfriend. The other day I asked a girl about it and she told me she didn't know I was gay, my mom had invited her over telling her I was single and she was told my boyfriend was my cousin. I am so mad! My poor boyfriend has to put up with women throwing themselves at me whenever we go home for dinner. It is unfair to me and to my boyfriend who I love very much and feels like a slap in the face to our relationship. My boyfriend says the dinners don't bother him but I know they do. He was upset for days about the cousin remark. Apart from all the random women, my mother is lovely towards us. How can I make her realize how offensive and degrading to my relationship these dates are? To call my partner my cousin? To tell women they have a chance? These are meant to be family dinners and they don't feel like family dinners.

— Mat, 22


Dear Mat,

Your mother is evidently not totally okay with you being gay. Although she is “lovely” toward you and your boyfriend, she seems to be hoping that one of these women will change your mind. It’s time to educate your mom about sexual preference—through in-depth discussions as well as with some more objective books or research studies. Let her know that you and your boyfriend are committed to each other and feel very uncomfortable with these “blind dates.” Tell her that her actions show a lack of acceptance of your boyfriend as well as you. Inform her that you’d like to continue to get together for family dinners but that can only happen if she stops springing random women on you. It’s not fair to you, your boyfriend, or those women.

signed, Dr. M.
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— February 4, 2017 —

I want to travel solo this summer for a week in a state near my house. However, my parents won’t let me. So I emailed my mom suggesting I prove myself responsible and perhaps try a shorter trip at a place closer to my home. She didn't reply back. Because the last discussion about me going on a longer trip alone led to a fight, I am too afraid to ask her about the shorter trip closer to my home. These trips mean a lot to me and I want them to happen. How can I ask my mom about the shorter trip without angering her and causing a fight? I also emailed her all the reasons why solo travel is fine and beneficial, by the way.

— Sunayna, 23



I know from experience that no matter how old you are, or how prepared you believe you are to travel independently, mothers will always worry about their children. Aside from the inherent dangers of traveling alone, it sounds like there may be other reasons why she is in such opposition to your trip. Using communication techniques, such as active listening, validating her feelings (empathizing and letting her know you understand where she is coming from), maintaining a calm tone, and avoiding the urge to criticize her or victimize yourself, will be important in understanding her perspective while getting your point across as well. Whatever is holding her back from approving this trip, it may help to come up with solutions to her concerns and a plan that she can be involved in (daily video chatting or providing her with an itinerary, for example). By placing emphasis on how much you respect her opinions and feelings, she may be more receptive to you in return. It seems that you are open to compromise, which will serve you well in this situation. Lastly, timing may also impact her mood during this conversation, so it may be beneficial to talk to her in person and in a relaxed atmosphere. Early 20s is a time when many people get the urge to explore and find themselves—a scary time for most parents. Reiterate to your mother why it is important for you to travel solo and let her be part of this journey with you until she feels comfortable giving you more independence to plan this on your own.

— Kim


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— January 22, 2017 —

My mom and dad let my seventeen year old sister have her boyfriend sleep over. They are still in high school and yet our parents are completely fine with it. I am in college and decided to bring my boyfriend home for the holidays. I met him as we take some classes together and ended up working together as well at a cafe. But even though my boyfriend and I are both nineteen and in college, my parents make my boyfriend sleep on the couch and never let us alone together, even though they don't bat an eye at my sister and her boyfriend who are both younger. This really annoys me because the only thing I can think of is that my parents might not be as comfortable with me being gay as they claimed they were when I came out. What else could the difference be? When I visit my mom and dad I try and follow their rules out of respect. But this one really bugs me. Will it be wrong for me to sneak my boyfriend up to my room when everyone is asleep? At this stage I don't care if we are caught as we have our own apartment near college. Sure, it would suck to change flights, but if my parents get mad over the bedroom thing I honestly just feel like packing up and leaving.

— Liam, 19


Hello Liam,

I can understand your confusion; however, I don't think sneaking your boyfriend in your room is the way to handle this situation. First, try to have a conversation with your parents, explaining your concerns to them. Respectfully let them know that you see a clear difference in their treatment of your boyfriend versus your younger sister’s boyfriend. It is important to appropriately address this situation in a mature manner because it may prevent a negative outcome. Perhaps your parents are not as comfortable as they initially seemed and need more time to become fully adjusted to your lifestyle. If your parents aren't fully comfortable, at least they seem to be putting forth an effort as there are some parents who wouldn't attempt to understand. I also noticed that you stated you "try" to follow your parents’ rules. Perhaps there were some rules that you didn't follow and they aren't happy about it. Either way, effective communication will allow you to get to the source of the problem. It's important not to come to conclusions, but be open-minded and converse with your parents in a mature way.

— Velben


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— January 8, 2017 —

I met this guy who seemed interesting to get to know me, while I was helping him and my cousin's boyfriend buy a car. I'm real close with my mom (we grew up with an almost sisterly companionship), so of course I mentioned him. She asked who he was, how old he was, etc. And I told her how much I knew—I’d only met him 3 days prior at that point, that he's 22, yes, he graduated college, but I don't know much more than that. So we'll get to know each other and I'll keep you updated, and she agreed that was best. That night she woke me up just to tell me she didn't want me marrying/dating a black man, that she'd rather someone white, Asian, or Latino but not black. Mind you that everyone in our family is black or partially black. I ignored her and went back to sleep. But the next day she was yelling at my cousin, thinking that we were lying about what we knew about this guy, and we weren't, really! We hardly knew him. And she came to the conclusion that I can't stay at my grandmother's anymore, and lied and told me no one wants me here, and that I HAVE to come home with them. When I asked my parents why, they refused to say, but when I asked if they were only acting this way because this guy is black, they refused to answer. When I informed them I would not go with them, they flipped out. My parents lied to me, manipulated what my family has said to make it seem like no one wanted me to stay, and they told me I could either move with them, or be on the streets (even though I don't live at their house). I chose "the streets,"—don't worry, I am still at my grandmother's house—and they got mad and tried to physically force me to come with them, and when I refused they took my phone, and my laptop they bought me for college, and kept saying I was disrespectful and hateful, despite the fact that all I've done is call them out and tell them the truth about their behaviour. They emailed me after they left and told me that until I learn that I don't know everything and that I apologise and learn some respect, they have no reason to keep contact with me—forever if needs be, and good luck. All because this guy, that I've barely met and haven't even thought of dating, is black. I'm disappointed because my mom has almost always been a fairly reasonable person, and raised me very well. I've always been able to see both sides of a situation but I'm genuinely confused. I never yelled, swore, or got violent in this whole situation. So am I really in the wrong here? And by that email, does that mean I've been disowned? Please, I need another voice in this issue.

— Kate, 18


Dear Kate,

It seems like you are in a very confusing situation. You have a really close, almost-sisterly relationship with your mom but all of that changed just because you might date a black man. Since you are 18 years old and your family members are black (or, as you said, partly black) does this mean you have never dated anyone black before? In any case, this seems like a very strong reaction since you only mentioned this guy three days after you met him, and had not even dated him yet. What would make your mom—someone you have been so close with—accuse you and your cousin of lying, take your phone and laptop (which you would need for college) and take the extreme action of disowning you? It feels like two different sets of parents you are talking about. The first parents raised you well, as you mentioned, and you have a mom who has always been reasonable and with whom you have had a sisterly relationship. The second parents have strong negative feelings about your dating a Black man, even though you haven't even actually dated him, feel you treat them with great disrespect, physically tried to force you to come with them, and now say they have disowned you.

I do have one question. You said your mom woke you up the first night after you mentioned meeting this man to tell you she did not want you marrying a black man. But then you said your mom said you cannot stay at your grandmother's any more, no one wants you there, and you have to come home to live with your parents. Were your parents staying over at your grandmother's that night? Or did your mom wake you with a phone call that night?

At this point, you should think back to your argument with your parents and try to figure out why they reacted so very strongly, especially your mother. Is there anything you can think of that would cause such a change in their behavior? Has your cousin ever done anything that would make them worry about her boyfriend's friends? Then, think about what you said to them and if there is anything you wish you had not said. Sometimes, we say things that are hurtful in the middle of being angry but wish we had not said them later on, when our moods calm down. If there is any way you can see to try to talk with your parents, especially your mom, to try to get back your good relationship, then it is worth a call or visit. It may be possible to disagree on the topic of dating a man who is black but still show respect and love for your parents. If that does not work, then at least you will have tried. It is great you can stay at your grandmother's (you would never want to live on the streets, which is much more dangerous than it sounds), and it is important you go to college.

To answer your last question, based on everything in your letter, you are not in the wrong. It sounds like this was all about one issue—the race of the man you might want to date. The real question now is whether you want to try to re-establish good relations with your parents or whether you want to take some time to focus on college, while staying safely with your grandmother. Stay focused on what will bring you the future life that will make you successful, proud and happy!

signed, Dr. B.


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— December 24, 2016 —

In May 2017 I will be graduating from college and I am beginning to become extremely worried. I have had a rather negative college experience, not relating to many people and thus have made very few social connections. Due to this, I feared joining clubs and stepping out of my comfort zone and I am now lacking the connections that I should have made to secure some kind of future for myself. I will be graduating with a degree in Psychology and I am extremely worried that I have wasted my time with my degree. There are very few, if any, jobs that I will have a better chance of getting with a psychology degree. In order for it to be beneficial, I will most likely have to get a Graduate degree, but I still don't even know what to pursue or what I'm interested in doing. I just don't know where to start. I don't know what kind of jobs to look for because I don't know what I'm interested in doing. I don't know what schools or degree programs I should look into because I don't know what my interests are. I see everyone around me getting their future ready and I'm here completely unaware of what I want to do. I'm extremely fearful of my parents' reactions as well. I've done exceedingly well in school, and as a first-generation college student, they don't know the realities of trying to find a job for people with only a Bachelor's degree, specifically with a degree in something as broad as Psychology. They have such high expectations for me, and I have such high expectations for myself, that I'm terrified of letting both them and myself down. I'm at a loss with everything and I am so terrified of what the future holds that it starts to become crippling. It becomes all that I can think about, and I can't do anything but start crying.

— Panicked Almost Adult, 21


Dear Panicked Almost Adult,

The dreaded, "what now?" question is one of the biggest and most common concerns among recent graduates. As early as elementary school, we are encouraged to explore career interests and taught that college is the time to explore these opportunities, commit to them by choosing a major, and have a job lined up the minute we step into the real world. This understandably instills an overwhelming amount of anxiety, and it sounds like you have additional pressure to succeed as a first-generation college student. However, I have some news for you that may be reassuring: one’s major, social connections, and volunteer activities in college alone seldom “secure” a future. What is guaranteed to secure a future is an open mind, persistence, and hard work. These are qualities you have demonstrated through your progress and academic success thus far, no matter what your focus in college. In fact, according to an article in Psychology Today, less than 25 percent of psychology majors actually pursue a career in psychology, but often qualify for entry-level positions in fields such as marketing, sales, advertising, real estate, social work, child care, parole, and rehabilitation services, to name a few.

As a 21-year-old “almost” adult, you are right where you are supposed to be. This is the time to dabble in various employment settings to build your resume, gain experience, and more importantly, find yourself and your interests. Don’t know where to start? Ask teachers, your parents, or friends for ideas as to what they see you doing in the future. Better yet, ask yourself, what are your values, strengths, hobbies, general interests or skills that may be applicable? From your letter, it seems as though you have pushed these introspective thoughts to the side to make room for those that have merely fueled worry and fear. While I am in no way negating the inherent angst of your situation, I do wonder how comparison to peers, reflection of your weaknesses and the pressure you put on yourself might be intensifying your current feelings, while distracting from the present moment, facts at hand, and ability to find a solution.

As for your parents, their expectations are likely a result from their own experiences and upbringing. Applying to jobs today is very different than it was when they entered the job force, and it is possible that they consequently underestimate what is entailed. That is why it is important to educate yourself, and your parents about what you can expect. Most college campuses have career centers and guidance counselors that can steer you in the right direction, answer questions you have and prepare you for these next steps.

Lastly, don’t underestimate your accomplishments and remember that very few people have their future figured out directly following college, no matter how much it seems like they do (and that is okay!). I get the feeling that your concerns about the future go beyond job searching and your parents’ reactions. Once you graduate, you will be stepping out of your comfort zone in more ways than one, something that you expressed much distress doing. I urge you to explore where this fear comes from, and what you think will happen if you do expand your horizons. Recall the times you did step out of your comfort zone and assess what you did to overcome those obstacles.

So, Panicked Almost Adult, the next time you feel like crying, think of BEARS: Breathe, Evaluate the situation, Assess the true severity of it, Restructure your thoughts, and Solve the problem. Redefine your expectations and more importantly, redefine your definition of failure in a way that is less damaging. My definition of fail is “First Attempt In Learning.” What’s yours?

— Kim


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— December 10, 2016 —

Hey to the reader of this post. I'm an 18 year old teenage boy in UK. I recently started university and met all my classmates. There was one girl in particular who I've had a crush on almost since we started 6 weeks ago. This is the first time in my life I have felt attracted to someone. I decided it was time she knew that I had a crush on her. The conversation went as follows: Me: "Hey, I don't mean to make this awkward in any way, but I felt like you should know that I've had a crush on you for the past month. I really don't mind if you don't feel the same way towards me. I just felt it was only right you knew." Her: "No that's absolutely fine, you can't help what you feel. If anything I'm flattered, so thank you but obviously I don't feel the same for you. You're still one of my mates so that fact will not change."


At this point I was totally confused, I wanted to know if she felt the same way for me when I wrote my message. (Obviously not). From what I understand from other friends this is called 'friendzoning.' After re-reading the message I guessed I had been rejected but this still left me confused as to why I was getting mixed messages from her for those 6 weeks. Is it because I'm new to the girlfriend game? Is there something I'm missing?

— Lewis, 18


Dear Lewis,

You took a risk, which impresses me, but in this case, it didn't work out as you had hoped. This girl may or may not have been giving you mixed messages. You may have wanted her to like you so you may have read something into her friendly interactions with you as more romantic than they actually were. Continue to be friendly with her, and it is possible that you will move out of the 'friend zone' and into the 'romantic partner zone' or you might just stay where you are now. In the meantime, now that you've experienced feelings of attraction, you will probably recognize them sooner and can take action without waiting weeks. Also, consider whether you have put other classmates in the 'friend zone' who would be interested in something more.

signed, Dr. M.
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— November 26, 2016 —

My mom is currently in an online "relationship" with a scammer. I showed her that reverse image search yielded the picture to be stolen and used for romance scams. Unfortunately, my mom still does not want to cut off ties with this person and argued that she enjoys their talks and "wants to give him the benefit of the doubt." She is also angry with me and warns me to back off because it is her money that she is spending and not mine. I don't know what to do anymore.

— Miles, 21


Hello Miles,

Many times we put our parents on a pedestal and assume they will always make good decisions. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now that I'm grown up, my mom has actually admitted to the mistakes she made raising me. You must recognize that your mom is an adult and can make her own decisions about whom she dates. From the response that your mom gave, she seems aware that this could be a bad decision, but she's clearly getting something out of this "relationship." If this guy is a scammer, just be there for your mom and show her your unconditional love when she finally realizes who he really is. It's clear that you want to protect your mom and for that she is lucky to have you. However, I believe you have warned her and shouldn't interfere further since it will only damage your relationship with her.

— Velben


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— November 13, 2016 —

I am an 18-year-old girl quite concerned about my mother. She is 38, intelligent and stunningly beautiful but very depressed. Briefly, one afternoon several weeks ago my mom and I walked in on a couple of men burglarizing our house. We were unharmed but left tightly bound, gagged and hogtied. We couldn't get loose and remained tied up until dad came home from work hours later. It was an agonizing experience but we seemed to have held up well. Being tied hand to foot we couldn't stand, crawl or even straighten out but we both struggled vigorously throughout the ordeal. Conversation through the gags was impossible but we managed a few garbled words. I felt proud of us both. When we were untied we embraced and mom was very concerned about my condition. I assured her I was fine. I noticed, however, as days went by that my mom seemed depressed and she finally confided that she felt very embarrassed to have been tied up, felt a loss of dignity, but couldn't really talk about it to anyone. She doesn't even go out fearing that a friend or acquaintance will mention it. I think being bound made her feel weak and incompetent, while I feel a kind of satisfaction for having toughed it out. I am hopeful she will gradually pull out of this funk but is there anything I can do? Is this normal? I am so worried about my mother.

— Mindi, 18


Dear Mindi,

Everyone reacts to trauma in a different way. In addition to your mom feeling embarrassed, she may also be feeling bad that she wasn't able to protect you, her daughter, from the ordeal you both went through, which is what parents are supposed to do. Of course, what happened wasn't her fault or yours, and the outcome might have been even worse. You might both benefit from short-term therapy. Although you feel good that you 'toughed it out,' you might experience a delayed reaction to the event at a later time. And your mom certainly could use some professional help in coping with that horrific experience.

signed, Dr. M.


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— October 29, 2016 —

My boyfriend never wears his seatbelt when he is driving. I constantly remind him and he still doesn't do it. When he sees a cop around he puts it on last minute. I don't know what else to do. I'm worried about him driving if he gets into an accident or gets pulled over. Any suggestions?

— Worried Girlfriend, 19


Dear Worried Girlfriend,

I can understand why you're worried. Not only is wearing a seatbelt required by law, but it's an important way to prevent serious injury or even death. Ask your boyfriend why he refuses to wear a seatbelt regularly. Does it make him think he's more of a man? Tell him that it's the opposite. Stubbornly refusing to buckle up shows he's more of a child than a man. If he says he's uncomfortable, remind him that he might be able to adjust the seatbelt, that he'll get used to wearing it quickly, and he won't have to work so hard to notice when police are around! Also, tell him that accidents happen when people don't expect them. If he's not wearing a seatbelt, he could be ejected from the car during a collision, which could result in gruesome injuries. If I were you, I would refuse to get in the car with him if he doesn't put a seatbelt on. you're showing him that you care about his life and yours. I know many people who have been in car accidents, and being buckled up saved their lives or prevented them from suffering serious injuries.

signed, Dr. M.


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— October 14, 2016 —

I'm living in a dorm situation for the first time in my life. This has exacerbated a problem that I've had for my whole life. I'm not sure if I'm antisocial or asocial or what but I have a hard time making friends. I came to college together with a group of friends from my high school. I like all of them, but I've always felt like I am on the periphery. In high school, it was okay, because I had one close friend outside of the group; but she went to a different college on the other side of the country. I just feel like I have no real friends. No one ever objects to my joining in their plans, but they also never invite me to join without my asking. At home I was happy to be a bit of a loner, but suddenly I'm feeling internal pressure to spend more time being social and outgoing. I've only been here for a week, but already I'm having a hard time. Any advice?

— Loner in the Dorm, 18


Dear Loner in the Dorm,

Almost every first year student has some social anxiety, and you are not alone wondering where you will fit in. Also, it is very human to feel some homesickness and to miss the comfort and routine of home.

If you can bear the discomfort and take your time to know what you want and who you like, you will probably find that by the end of the first semester you will have established some nice beginning friendships. College can be a time to explore new interests and make new connections. If you are interested in dance, photography, or sports (for example), see if there are any clubs where you could meet students with mutual interests.

Think about how you adjusted to middle school or high school and consider whether you can adapt a strategy you used then. It takes time to feel comfortable, so try to be patient. However, if you find yourself getting depressed and feeling very isolated or anxious, go to the counseling center and connect with someone there.

— Mrsb


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— October 5, 2016 —

I recently started a relationship with a guy who is also 21 years old. He recently had to leave the city for school (only two hours from me). He suggested that I stay over his house the weekends when he comes to see me. I honestly love this idea. However the problem is breaking the ice with my mother. She is very strict and over-protective of me. I understand where she is coming from, but I want to be able to make my own decisions!!! I am a grown woman and responsible enough to know right from wrong. So my question is how would you suggest I tell her? I don't want to ask or anything, I just want to tell her but honestly afraid of what she might think. Dr M

— Nacho, 21


Dear Nacho,

You had the right idea when you stated that you don't want to ask your mother for permission but rather just tell her what you plan to do. While you can't control how your mom thinks or feels, you can decide what is right for you. It sounds like you don't want her to be disappointed in you?your decisions and your actions. But that is bound to happen sometimes. When you want your mom's advice, ask for it. But when you?ve made up your mind about what you're going to do, letting her know is showing respect for her. What will be most difficult for you is hearing your mom's disapproval, but hopefully, in time, she will realize that you're an adult now and able to make your own decisions. And, in the future when you truly want her advice, ask for it'she'll probably appreciate it.

signed, Dr. M.
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— September 18, 2016 —

Me and my girlfriend have been together for 5 months now. I am still in high school. She is in college and works all the time. I go into her work and sit down at a booth and talk to her when she isn't busy and ask her if she will come see me that night. She always answers with maybe. Well for the past month that is all she will tell me because she doesn't know if her parents will let her. We are both 18 years old and her parents love me but she always tells me she will text her mom or call her and find out if she can but her mom never answers her calls or messages. I don't know if it is just her way of telling me no pretty much, or if it is something else. I'm starting to get stressed out because in May I will be moving 4 hours away and I want her for the rest of my life. And she said she wants me forever too. I'm just super stressed out about everything.

— Trevor, 18


Hi Trevor,

It sounds to me like there are a couple things going on here. The most concerning is trying to figure out where you stand with your girlfriend. You have known her only five months, but long enough to feel very close to her and also to her parents. Even though you both said you want to be with each other forever, five months is not a lot of time to know that for sure. And it sounds like'since you are both in school during the day and she works a lot the rest of the time'the only time you get to see her is at her work. If she has said "maybe" for a month when you ask to see her after work, it is possible that she is trying to let you down gently and she does not feel so strongly about you as she used to. But it is also possible she is feeling stressed about having to go to college and working so much. You need to ask for a time to talk to her when she is not at work, so you can ask her directly about what is going on. Even if it turns out she does not feel the same way you do any more about your relationship, it is much better to know that. While it will hurt, the sooner you know then the quicker you can start to recover. And if her answer is she does still really care about you but there are other reasons (something going on in her family, for instance) then you can talk together to try to work things out. The main thing is you need to get at least a half hour of private time for an honest conversation with her.

The other thing is with your moving four hours away. Your life will change in lots of ways, and not just with your girlfriend. If you are leaving the area to go to college or take a new job or your family is moving, you will have stress to deal with. Just packing things up and unpacking can cause stress! One of the best things you can do for yourself'something you need for the rest of your life?is to learn ways to deal with stress. Some people de-stress by doing exercise (walking, jogging, sports, biking) and others by talking with a close friend or a trusted adult. Sometimes just listening to music you love or reading or playing video games may help to distract and calm you down from that stressed feeling. There is always something that can come along and cause stress so it is really important to find healthy ways to cope with that super-stressed feeling. I wish you the very best.

signed, Dr. B.
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— September 5, 2016 —

Here's an ethical dilemma; Recently I arranged to babysit for a mom I've sat for before. We talked about it again the day of so I know she was planning on it. When I arrived, however, no one answered the door and her car was gone. I called and texted but no answer. A couple times she's driven up 5 or 10 minutes late apologizing that her errands had taken longer than expected. I thought this might be the case so I sat on their front porch to wait. No one came though, and half an hour later I drove home having given up and begun re-envisioning my Saturday evening. A few minutes after I got home (about 45 minutes after I was supposed to start sitting) the mom called and said she did in fact need a sitter. What should I have done in this situation? Would it have been stubborn of me to refuse, considering I had already scheduled my evening to sit? Or would it have been acceptable, considering it's not really fair for her to keep me on call all night with the possibility that she won't need me and I won't get paid?

— Miriam, 18


Hello Miriam,

At the end of the day, it depends on how you personally feel about the situation. If you decided to not return to babysit or if you informed the mom that she still had to pay for the missed 45 minutes, you handled the situation correctly. The main issue is that you don't want to feel as though the mom is taking advantage of you. You definitely need to have a conversation with the mom regarding what will happen if she's late in the future. I believe you should treat this as your business and you can't let others set the rules for how you will operate your business. Once you set some guidelines, the mom will know what to expect if she doesn't follow them. Keep in mind that you should be respectful and professional in your communication. You might want to talk with a parent or another trusted adult to help you figure out the best way to relay this type of information.



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— August 20, 2016 —

I just finished my exams and I'm really stressed about the results. My mother wants to control my life and choose the University where I'll go for my studies. I tried telling her that It's my life and that I'll be the one to decide the path and decisions I'm going to follow, but she got mad and we ended up fighting. I really wish she could understand that I'm not a kid anymore and that I want to decide about my own life and future. I know she is trying to help but she becomes really manipulative. Please tell me how should I deal with this.

— Cristina, 18


Dear Cristina,

Your mother seems to be having a hard time recognizing that you're grown up and ready to make your own decisions?as well as your own mistakes. Think about the following before you have your next conversation with your mother: What tone of voice will you use? How will you make sure you really listen to her? What arguments can you give to help your mother understand your perspective? If you stay calm and open, your mother is more likely to do the same. Let her know that you realize that she's trying to help, and then tell her how she can be most helpful to you. Also, remind her that, at times, you don't want advice, just someone who will listen in a caring way.

signed, Dr. M.
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— August 6, 2016 —

Whenever somebody points out something about me, or tells me to do something, I get overly defensive toward them. I feel like I am normally a pretty nice person, but when this happens, my typical character goes away and I become a monster. I get consumed by this obsessive need to hurt the other person's feelings and prove my point, which is again, not normal. I will scream, argue about trivial things, and take on a sarcastic tone just to reach this objective. After it happens, though, I end up feeling intense regret and hatred for myself, and have fallen onto my bed sobbing one too many times. My parents in particular are on the receiving end of this rage, but some of my friends have witnessed this too, directly or indirectly. I don't want to lose my friends, and I don't want to make my parents sick or angry. I guess I'm not good at taking criticism and jokes. Can you please help me fix this? I'm tired of being explosive.

— Turning into a Bully, 18


Dear Turning into a Bully,

The good news is that you are obviously very aware of your issues and how they affect others. The more difficult news is that you are going to have to work hard to develop more effective coping strategies that will allow you to stop a cycle of behavior once your resentment has been sparked. As a first step, start keeping a journal in which you track your defensive and extreme reactions. But more importantly, write about what you could have done differently in each situation. For instance, instead of screaming at your parents, you could have explained calmly why a particular comment set you off. By focusing on alternative behaviors, you are preparing yourself to act differently the next time a similar situation arises.

As a second step, figure out a way to alert yourself that you are about to become that "monster." Does your pulse rate increase, your breath become more rapid, your face flush? As soon as those feelings begin to emerge, use 'self-talk? to remind yourself to stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and say, "I am beginning to feel very angry, but I don't want to lash out against my friend (or family)." Then give yourself a moment to consider how to express yourself directly but without hostility. For instance, you could simply say something like the following: "I feel hurt when you criticize the way I dress" or "I feel frustrated when you remind me to do something I've already started doing." Always think about your tone of voice and try to stick to how you feel and what you have directly observed.

Changing this pattern will take time, but you seem motivated to make this important change in how you relate to others. And once you have better control, you will feel much better about yourself.

signed, Dr. M.
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— July 22, 2016 —

I'm an 18 year old girl who cares too much about what people think—I'll just put it that way. This has affected me in a few different ways but the one that bothers me the most at this point in my life is what people think about my lack of sexual experience. Having only kissed one boy in my life, I lack in experience and this puts me off experimenting. Most people my age have kissed guys at the very least and have no fears in that area but as I've only had one drunken kiss I worry that I'll be a bad kisser and I don't want people knowing that or thinking that. I am definitely attracted to guys but whenever I am around a guy who is attracted to me, I chicken out. I'll be dancing with a boy or talking with them and when I realize they want to kiss me I suddenly freak out and then nothing will happen because I shut them down—even though often I have mutual feelings and want to kiss them too. I've recently started university and am in a hostel where so many people will get with people on a regular basis. And what's weird is I get jealous! I wish that it could be me. After a night out where nothing happens but something could've happened, I lie in bed for hours completely overthinking and regretting the whole thing. I wish I could overcome this fear I have but it doesn't feel like anything can change it. I worry that I'm wasting my youth away as this is the time to experiment and have fun. Help me please! I want to be able to loosen up but there's something in the way that is stopping me. I'm regretting the things I don't do and at this age it should be the other way around.

— Overthinker, 18


Dear Overthinker,

First of all, lots of 18-year-olds have not had a lot of kissing experience, so you're not alone. Second, instead of focusing on kissing a guy, concentrate on getting to know them. That way, you'll be more comfortable and ready to do more than talk. Also, keep in mind that the past is the past. Focus your energy on the present and the future. When you start overthinking what you could have done, stop yourself, and ask the question: ?What can I do the next time I'm in a similar situation?? That way, you?ve turned the experience from regret into planning.

signed, Dr. M.
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— July 8, 2016 —

My fianc? and I are both twenty-one, and have just moved in together to a house we bought (I'll call her Emma). Emma's older sister and husband were having a baby and Emma was so excited to be an Aunty as this would have been the first born in the extended family, but the baby came too early and was stillborn. He is their first baby and they had been trying for him ever since they married in 2012. They were able to keep the baby with them for a night and Emma was able to meet him in the hospital, although his heartbeat had stopped in labour. Emma's sister and husband had a professional photographer come in and take pictures of the baby. Em's sister gave her one of the photos of the baby in a frame. Emma put it in the lounge room, which is the main part of our house. Now we have a picture of a dead baby staring at me every morning. Emma's sister gave her the photo, so I get keeping it, but displaying it so openly makes me uncomfortable. The baby doesn't really look dead in the photo. But if someone asks about the baby, what on Earth can I say without making Emma and I sound creepy? In my head I worry this will happen with a neighbor: "Oh what a cute baby. How old is he?? "He died before that photo was taken." Then they leave freaked out as we display photos of dead people taken when they are already dead. If I say anything about it, it may make Emma or her sister cry. I don't want to make Emma feel like she can't mourn him. But does it have to be displayed in the front of the house? Can't we just keep it without displaying it?isn't it a touch creepy? A touch morbid? Or am I being a jackass? I haven't said anything to anyone about my not understanding this. I've been doing and agreeing with what Emma wants as I love her and know she is hurting. That's why I haven't said anything. But it creeps me out. Would I be a jerk if a brought up the photo? How would I be able to explain how morbid and disturbing I find it in our brand new home without upsetting Emma?

— Ben, 21


Dear Ben,

You seem like such a kind and empathic individual, which is great for Emma. But you also need to think about your own feelings. If you feel uncomfortable with a photo of a dead baby displayed prominently in your home (and many people would), you should tell Emma. But you can do so in a way that is sensitive to her feelings. Let her know that you understand how sad she is, and that you are, too. Here are some suggestions that you might share with Emma: group the framed photo of the baby with many other photos of family members so that the picture is less prominent for you and your visitors; or find a less conspicuous place in your home to display the photo; or place the photo in a scrapbook with other memorabilia related to Emma's family. Instead of trying to prevent Emma from mourning, show that you understand her need to cry and grieve over this loss.

signed, Dr. M.
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