This week I’m answering questions from high school students that focus on the simple, but confusing issue of communication.
Q My mom is cheating on my dad. I said something to my mom, and she begged me not to tell dad. If I did, she said they would have to get a divorce because of what I said. Whenever I’m around my dad, I feel really bad because he acts like my mom is the best wife in the world and she isn’t. Should I tell him?
A Your mom is acting really stupid. She violated her commitment to her husband by cheating on him, and then tried to blame you if they end up getting separated. Tell your mom that you feel very deceitful keeping this secret from your dad, and give her a couple of days to speak to him. If she doesn’t, then talk with your dad about this situation. What eventually happens to their marriage is up them and not due to your conversation with your dad.
Q I really like this boy. Should I text him and tell him that? Do you think it’s OK if my best friend tells him that I like him?
A There are better ways to communicate your feelings rather than texting or sending your friend as a messenger. Try to spend some time hanging around the guy you like. Engage him in conversations and talk about your shared interests. Ask him lots of questions and tell him stuff about yourself. If he is involved in any sports, go watch him play and speak with him afterwards. If he is in any of your classes, see if he wants to study together or work on a project with you. Teen-age boys, like the rest of us, are not always good at communicating their feelings, so you’ll have to judge this boy’s interest in you by how he acts, not just what he says.
Q My best friend in the entire world is having lots of problems, and told me that she sometimes thinks about killing herself. She made me promise not to tell. We have an amazing relationship because we both trust each other so much. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose her as a friend.
A I admire your loyalty to your friend, but you need to speak with your school counselor today. There are some things that you should never keep in confidence and your friend’s health and survival are more important than the promise you made to her.
This is a tough issue for kids and adults. If a secret involves a person hurting themselves or others, then you need to speak up and get help. If someone tells you that another person is hurting them (e.g., sexually or physically abusing them), then telling someone is the right thing to do.
Next week: A game that isn’t.
Dr. Ramey is a child psychologist and vice president at Dayton Children’s Medical Center. He can be reached at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org.