Q: I am 9 and I have an 8-year-old sister. But she's been acting kind of strange. She says these weird words. I'm trying to make her stop. What should I do?
A: Your sister may be saying the words to get attention or to annoy you. If you try to make her stop, you'll be giving her attention or showing her you're annoyed, so she'll only do it more. Instead, try ignoring the weird words she says and spend time with her doing something fun. If this approach fails, get your parents to help.
Q: I am a black female. This point is important. My family, especially my older siblings and cousins, are heavily into black awareness, as am I. However, there is a parting in the way we all think. You see, I believe in the unity of all races. My family, on the other hand, hates all races except the black race. If I tried to get them to see things my way, they'd look at me funny and say I favored white people to my own race, which really isn't the case at all. And that's not all.
If I happen to like a boy, it's because of his character and the way he carries himself. At the present, I happen to like a white boy. I don't tell my family, because I'm afraid they'd call me a sell-out. They already look at me funny and talk about me when I'm not around. My brothers and sisters don't like to hang around me because they think I'm a sell-out. So I don't talk to them and we don't do any brotherly-sisterly things together. Please help me. All I want is a real family.
A: It must very lonely for you at times. Your family is making you feel as alienated from them as blacks have felt among whites. They have fallen into the trap of believing that any black who admits to liking someone white is being disloyal. Perhaps this is based on being angry at whites for excluding blacks, and in turn, they are excluding and isolating whites or those who associate with whites.
You are right to think differently than your family, as the more people isolate themselves from others, the less chance there is for everyone to work together and live in a more peaceful world. However, your family is your real family and you will have to decide how to remain connected to them despite your differences. If you choose to date whites, you will have to decide whether you are willing to face your family's reaction, as sooner or later they will find out.
One suggestion for now is to discuss with your parents and perhaps other family members how you feel alienated from your own family, just as blacks feel in the outside world. This may help them understand how important it is to allow family members to be different from one another, just as whites and blacks need to accept each other to live together. Also, befriend others who think as you do -- there are many who do.
Q: I am 12 years old. The kids in my class make fun of my head because it is shaped like an egg. They call me Mr. Egghead. What should I do?
A: Try changing your hairstyle to see if this helps. Otherwise, ignore the comments or try using your sense of humor to come up with good-natured retorts. You'll also find it easier to get along with your classmates if you don't take their comments too seriously. All the kids in your class are probably concerned about their looks, too, and pick on whoever looks slightly different to make themselves feel better.
Dr. Sokal is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist practicing in Baltimore. If you have a question, send it to Dear Kids, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore, Md. 21278.