Drinking Concerns

Dear Sara,

I had a horrible childhood. My parents were both alcoholic and I was abused and neglected. I am totally against any kind of drinking. My eighteen year old son has shown signs of drinking. He has come home smelling of alcohol and cigarettes several times. He was not raised this way but he has always been rebellious and angry. He has graduated from high school but hasn’t left our home. He has a part-time job but can’t support himself. I really can’t tolerate his behavior but I don’t know if I can make him leave. Should I give him an ultimatum “give up drinking or leave?”

Dear Ella,

It sounds like you had a rough childhood and are still feeling the effects of it. Your son is being defiant and doing things that you really can’t tolerate, so you would be justified in asking him to leave but it’s possible that his drinking would get worse if he left your home. Why don’t you see if he would go to counseling with you so that he could have a safe place to vent his anger. Let him have his say and maybe you would have an opportunity to let him know how horrible your childhood was. You both need a safe place to let off steam. Don’t give up on him yet.

Stressed About Money

Dear Sara,

I am really stressed out. I have three teens who are on the go all of the time and I have a really stressful job. I need a rest but there is never time. I’m divorced and my ex is never around and I’m lucky if he pays child support on time, so I really need my job to pay the bills. If my kids decide to go to college I don’t know how I’ll pay for it. I’m really overwhelmed and I just want to sit down and cry.

What should I do?

Dear Maya,

Well, sit down and have your cry and then gather your kids around for a talk. Don’t yell at them but let them know that you are at the end of your rope and that if you continue in your job which benefits them, then you need their help. You need some time to rest and relax. Let them tell you what they would be willing to do and then tell them what you need. Try to stay rational and not emotional. Write down a list of what each of them needs to do to help out and post it on the refrigerator.

As far as college goes, they may need to apply for scholarships, pay their own way by working part-time or borrowing money (not the best way but lots of kids are paying off loans twenty years later.) If you can’t afford it they will just have to accept this.

Take care of yourself.

Replacing The Family Pet

Dear Sara,

We have three children ages five, seven and nine. They are very attached to our thirteen-year-old golden retriever who is like part of the family. She’s having trouble breathing and the vet says she has a tumor that can’t be removed. I love this dog and hate to see her go but I can see that this will happen soon. I want to get a puppy now so the kids will have a dog to care about when our beloved dog dies. My wife doesn’t agree and thinks we should wait. What do you think is the best option?

Dear Trevor,

There probably is no “best option.” The kids will grieve for their beloved pet no matter what you choose to do. This will is part of having a pet. You will probably outlive them. It may be somewhat easier if the kids have a new pet to love but either way, the kids will grieve and miss their old companion. Be there for them and help them the best you can.

Parents Don’t Approve

Dear Sara,

I am nineteen and have been going with the same boy since I was in tenth grade. He’s almost twenty-two now and wants to marry me. I love him and want to marry him but my parents don’t think he’s good enough. He works hard and has a good salary but my parents think I should marry someone with a college education so I will have a better future. They both have college educations and my two brothers are both in college. They have decided that if I marry him they won’t pay for or attend my wedding. This is tearing me apart. Is there any way to deal with this?

Dear Phoebe,

It doesn’t sound like you would be happy if you follow your parents’ wishes. They shouldn’t be able to control your future but they somehow feel that they have this right. They must feel like you are making a really big error in judgment. They don’t seem to have any problem with your young man except that he is not college educated. Some young people have found that even with a college education it’s difficult to find a job.

You have been dating your boyfriend for long enough to know what your feelings for him are. When you feel you are ready, do what’s best for you.

Sexually Active Teen

Dear Sara,

I have a fifteen-year-old son who has been reasonably free from problems up until now. When I was doing the laundry I found a condom in his jeans pocket. I had no idea that he was even thinking about being sexually active and I don’t have a clue what to say to him. Or should I just ignore this? How do I deal with this?

Dear Leah,

Your son is probably a little young to be sexually active but he’s at least trying to protect himself and his partner if this should happen. It would be a good idea to let him know that you found his condom even though it could be uncomfortable for both of you. Let him know that even though he uses a condom that they are not 100% foolproof and that if he has sex with a girl and she gets pregnant he will have to bear the responsibility for his child.

He may deny that he has had a sexual relationship and that he just wants to be prepared. Listen to what he has to say and try not to be judgmental. You can’t control what he does when he’s not with you so you have to start letting go and hope you have instilled some good judgment in him.

Divorce Over Finances?

Dear Sara,

My husband and I have big financial problems and are facing bankruptcy, mostly because of his gambling problem. We have two kids in grade school who are somewhat aware of our problems. We are about to lose our house because we can’t pay the mortgage. I am looking for a rental but it won’t be in the same neighborhood we live in now because we can’t afford it. The kids will have to change schools. I have a job and I don’t think I can depend on my husband to provide for us anymore. I don’t believe in divorce but if he can’t give up his gambling, I don’t want to be responsible for the debt he racks up. What should I do?

Dear Cara,

If you continue to live with a husband who is addicted to gambling your life will stay the same, always scared because you can’t pay the bills. Do you want you and your children to live this way? The only thing you can do is to give your husband a choice. You and the children or his gambling. You need the stability and peace of financial security.

If possible go to counseling and talk about your problem with someone who can help you look at things objectively.

Good luck.

Mixed Feelings

Dear Sara,

I have been best friends with the man I am dating since we were in grade school. Our parents are friends as well and our families usually end up together for holidays and vacations. I haven’t really dated anyone else. We are in our twenties now and he is starting to talk about marriage. I like him a lot and enjoy his company but he is more like my brother. We haven’t had sex and I really don’t think I feel that way about him. The physical attraction is just not there for me. If I broke up with him I would not only hurt him but our parents as well since they expect us to marry. I want to get married and have children but I don’t think I want to marry him. What can I do?

Dear Ginny,

You have to be honest with your friend. He has been with you so long and you haven’t really had the opportunity for other relationships so you don’t even have the experience to know what is right for you. If you marry to please everybody else, it could work. You could find that you actually do love him. The problem with this is that if you find you just married to please everyone else and you actually find someone that you truly do love you will be faced with even bigger problems like divorce and children whose lives will be affected. It’s probably best if you deal with things now and let your friend know how you feel.

Researching Birth Parents

Dear Sara,

I was adopted at birth in a private adoption and I have always wondered about my birth parents. I am about to get married and I have no clue about what my children might inherit from their unknown ancestors. My parents refuse to help me saying all of the adoption information has been destroyed and I am their child no matter what. My parents are wealthy and I’m pretty sure they could hide or destroy any information related to my adoption. What can I do to find out what my heritage is?

Dear Mark,

Your parents seem to be determined to keep your adoption information to themselves. There may be something in there that would be embarrassing or harmful to you. The best thing you can do is to get genetic testing which is readily available now. This would a least give you some basic information about things your children might inherit but it won’t keep you from wondering who your birth parents were. If your parents won’t change their mind you’ll just have to let it go.

Breast Cancer Fears

Dear Sara,

I am a forty-year-old Mom with four kids. I found a lump in my breast and I am scared to death. My Mom died of breast cancer when I was eighteen and that was really awful for me. I don’t want my kids to go through this. I’m scared to go to the doctor and find out that I have cancer and I’m going to die too. How do I get through this?

Dear Claudia,

I think you know that you have to get to the doctor right now! You need to know if your lump is malignant or not especially since you have a family history of breast cancer.

Age forty is time to start your annual mammogram anyway according to the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging. An annual screening mammogram is recommended because breast cancer is treatable if caught early. 3 D mammography has been shown to improve the detection of breast cancers decreasing the number of women asked to return for additional testing.

The sooner that you can get this checked out the better. There are more ways to combat breast cancer than when your Mom was treated and the outcome is also better. If you have breast cancer or not you won’t know unless you check it out. I hope for the best outcome for you.

Getting In Too Deep

Dear Sara,

I am thirty-five and I haven’t ever been married. I am dating a man who has three children ages eight to fifteen. His wife died three years ago. I really like (maybe love) him but I am not sure I want a ready-made family. I’ve met his kids several times and they seem cautious to say the least. If we married I would be their stepmother. I want a child of my own but this seems overwhelming to be responsible for four kids. What should I do?
-Mary Ann

Dear Mary Ann,

It sounds like you need to take your time and get to know your boyfriend’s children better. It’s very difficult to go into a ready-made family and try to be a Mom to kids who don’t know you very well. Try to see if you have some common interests and be willing to do things that they like to do.

If you marry, your life will differ from what you are used to. Only you can decide if your love is strong enough to make the change.