Q: I am a 12-year-old girl. I know these really nice 13-year-old girls. They seemed like good people until they started bringing vodka and beer to school. They even smoked cigarettes at their bus stops. Sometimes these girls walked out of classes to smoke. They bragged about getting drunk at parties and what they did.
These girls want me to be part of their group. I know I shouldn't be, but I want to help them. What should I do?
A: Maybe it's kind of flattering that these older girls want you to be part of their group even if you're not so sure you like what they do. You did say they're nice and maybe you're even a little bit intrigued by their drinking and smoking. I really doubt that you could help them by joining the group. More likely you'd be very tempted to do what they do even if you think you wouldn't. Usually, people in a group feel pressured to do what the others do. So I'd advise you not to join them as it would be much more likely that you'd start drinking and smoking rather than convince them to stop.
Q: I am 9 years old. My problem is I'm not cool. There's this girl at school that I think is so cool. She wears the coolest pants outfits. I usually hate pants but would like to wear some like hers, only you're supposed to be yourself and I'm afraid they'll laugh. Help.
A: You could be so used to seeing yourself as uncool that it could be scary to change a little. Maybe you think you have to keep dressing the same way but really like other ways of dressing, too. You would still be yourself if you tried some new pants outfits, and if they look good, no one would laugh. Your classmates might even tell you they like the way you look. So try on a few different outfits and give yourself a chance. It could be fun.
Q: I am 11 years old and feel like I'm living in my dreams. I always think of things that could not happen. Sometimes I don't pay attention to people when they're talking because I fall into my dreams.
A: It's right for you to be concerned about yourself. There may be reasons you prefer your dreams to living in the real world. Perhaps you're unhappy with yourself, your day-to-day life, your family and/or friends and don't know how to change these things, so turn to dreams. But even your dreams don't really make you happy, and they interfere with your listening to others. No wonder you want help. I'd suggest talking to an adult you trust to see whether they can help you decide what to do. You may need to talk to your parents and perhaps consider seeing a therapist if the dreaming makes you very unhappy or interferes with your schoolwork, friendships or family life.
Q: I'm an 11-year-old girl who was going out with a 14-year-old boy. I used to live next door to him, but I moved. After I moved, he started to ignore me. I want to know what to do.
A: There are at least several reasons he may be ignoring you. One may be that he's angry that you moved even though you had to, so expresses this by ignoring you. Or, he finds it harder to reach you and continue the relationship now that you're farther away. Or, he may no longer be interested in you as he is 3 years older and could be starting to like older girls. To find out for sure what's going on, you need to talk to him. Otherwise, you'll continue to worry and won't have any answers.
Dr. Sokal is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist practicing in Baltimore. If you have a question, send it to Kids Ask, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.