Q: I'm 8 years old. I live with my grandparents. My sisters live with my Dad. He wants me to live with him because he's abusive. My sisters told me. I also know he wants my Social Security check, which is $375. They only get $4 of allowance out of the $375. What should I do?
A: You must be scared that your Dad will convince your grandparents to hand you over to him. It doesn't sound as if you know him very well, and you've only heard scary stories about him from your sisters. So no wonder you'd rather stay with your grandparents. Only it's not clear what's going on in your father's home and how dangerous it is.
You and your sisters need to let an adult know what your father is doing. See if your sisters will agree to talk to your grandparents with you there to let them know about your father. Maybe your grandparents are not considering letting you live with him. Or if they are, they may change their minds if your father is being abusive.
If you and your sisters are scared to talk to your grandparents, I'd suggest talking to a teacher, relative or school counselor who could then find out what's going on. If your father is beating your sisters frequently, or sexually abusing them, or not providing food, clothing and shelter, the adult you talk to may need to report him to Child Protective Services.
Then someone from these services will talk to everyone in the home to see if it's safe for your sisters to live with your father. If not, they may need to live with relatives or in a foster home while your father gets help. Though this can be scary, it's better than being hurt or not having enough food and care. It would also be important for your sisters to get therapy if living with your father has been scary or harmful. They could call the youth crisis hot line at (800) 422-0009 or ask their school counselor to help find a therapist or clinic.
Q: I am an 11-year-old girl. I'm going with a boy one year younger than me. He hasn't been talking to me or calling me. He told my friend that he isn't mad at me, but he won't talk to me. What should I do?
A: Maybe he's afraid to tell you he doesn't want to go with you anymore. If he won't talk to you, you'll just have to guess that he's no longer interested in you. Besides, it's no fun to go with someone who won't talk to you. So, even if it hurts, try giving him up; it already sounds as if you're not really going together anymore.
Q: I am a 12-year-old girl with a problem. I have trouble with boys. I have curly hair and a skinny body. My legs are very pretty and my arms are skinny. But why don't boys like me? I am confused.
A: You may be less physically mature than your friends or perhaps you're shy with boys. Over time your body will change and fill out like your friends', and you may feel less shy as this happens. In the meantime, ask your friends to help you by suggesting different hairstyles or clothes. Also, if you are shy, talk to your more outgoing friends for help in thinking of ways to start conversations. Don't always stick around these friends, though, as they may not give you a chance to talk. And don't be discouraged -- because your relationships with boys could be very different in a few years.
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.