Dear Margo: When a Teen Needs to Grab the Reins

Dear Margo: I’m a 16-year-old girl with no life of my own. I live with my mom, her boyfriend and my 3-year-old brother in a two-bedroom apartment. My mom is on a bunch of meds for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and diabetes. She sleeps a lot, so I end up taking care of my brother most of the time. He has even started calling me mommy. I come home from school and have to fix supper and clean the apartment because my little brother has trashed the place all day. I have started applying to different colleges because I want to be a nurse.

My problem is that my mom won’t take me to visit any colleges, and she won’t agree to anyone else taking me. I feel like she wants to keep me trapped here forever. I am not allowed to go anywhere with friends or to have a normal teenager’s life. I wanted to get a summer job to earn money for school, but I was told no. I don’t want to have kids of my own because I have already been a mom to my little brother. How can I make my mom see that I am feeling suffocated? — Hopeless Teen in Ohio

Dear Hope: You don’t need me to tell you that what is going on at home is not good for you and most unfair. You will not make your mother see anything, but here are possible ways to improve things.

Because you describe no social life at all, if you’ve made a good friend at school whose family might let you live with them until you graduate, that would be good. (This happens more than people think.) And because you are not able to visit colleges, I would ask the guidance counselor how to proceed — perhaps with an appended letter outlining the reasons for being unable to visit. I worry about your little brother, too. Unless your mother’s boyfriend is a solid guy, you might have to involve the department of child services. I wish you luck, and I predict a better future. — Margo, hopefully


Treat a Disagreement as Just Another Subject

Dear Margo: My girlfriend and I communicate very well. The only thing we don’t do well is fight. We both prefer to avoid conflict and confrontation. Of course, we have differences and disagreements. I am wondering how we can get to be as good at talking about our differences as we are at talking about everything else. — Wanting To Improve

Dear Want: Let me just say this: A relationship in which there’s conflict avoidance is far preferable to the neurotic couples whose common bond is going at it — and each other.

There is such a thing as “good fighting.” It is essentially fair fighting, and it involves dealing with the issue without personalizing things. It involves rational discourse, not hollering, and it requires that you stick to the subject. That is, if you’re differing about domestic chores, stay away from side issues, such as throwing in, “And I never liked your sister!” I do think you are wise to want to find a way to work out differences. Just stay on the topic as two grownups trying to iron out a difference of opinion. — Margo, peacefully


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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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