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TRY TO CALL A TRUCE WITH DIVORCED DAD

Question: My dad and mom got divorced, but my dad has remarried, but his new wife hates me. Now my dad refuses to have anything to do with me. I live with Mom and she's OK. But it would be nice to see and be with my dad once in a while without having to make an appointment just to see him.

- Martin, 17

Answer: From Natalie, Joe, Meredith and Mimi, summer panelists:

The four of you need to sit down and talk about the problem. Discuss the main problem and try to work it out. Find out who the problem is between, whether it's between you and your dad or you and your stepmom or whoever. If the problems seem unsolvable, then try setting time aside for the two of you away from your mom and stepmom. Natalie says, "Personally, if my dad refused to have anything to do with me, I would stop and think if it was even healthy for me to see him."

We have a friend who's also 17, and she has parents who are divorced and can relate with the tension between stepparents. She feels as you do and would want to give dad another chance. No matter what, keep trying to communicate because you only have one dad.

Answer: From Pat: It may be less complicated if you start with a meeting between just you and your dad. Since he's refusing to see you and it sounds as if there are some pretty strong emotions involved, ask someone you can both trust to arrange the meeting. That person could be a relative or longtime family friend, a clergyman or school counselor who knows you well. If you can't think of anyone, you can get a list of professional family mediators in your area from the Academy of Family Mediators (800-292-4AFM). After Sept. 1, you can also reach them by writing AFM, 4 Militia Drive, Lexington, MA 02173.

Talkback: From David, 15: I agree with James that parents won't talk openly about sex with their children, not that they can't. I also agree that it is very important that parents teach their children about sex because if they don't, their children are going to know only what the world has to say about it, and what the world teaches about sex can be very different from what parents may want their kids to know.

Talkback: From `D' TO `C': I'm 22 years old and I've never had sex. I can't say that I'm necessarily saving myself, but so many of my friends have told me (they) wished they had waited, that their first times were a mistake. That has been the one thing that has kept me chaste. I don't want to look back at my first sexual experience as a mistake. I'm in a strong relationship now and this has been an issue between us. But after several discussions, we've come to an agreement to wait until we are BOTH ready.

Also, I'd like to respond to your response to "L.M." A marriage certificate does represent a couple's commitment to share their lives, possessions, futures and bodies, but it says nothing about love. There are many marriages out there that are not what the marriage certificate purports them to be. Several people marry for financial security and stability, not love. People should bear this in mind when they hold the marriage certificate as some sort of icon to young people as to what they should aspire to in their relationships.

Talkback: To Brandy in Mississippi and an 18-Year-Old Virgin in Colorado from L.D. in Dallas: I am a 24-year-old virgin who is saving herself for her husband. If I can do it, y'all can too!! Don't even let society or peers pressure you into sex before marriage. They definitely won't be there for you very long when your heart gets broken or your life is altered by a few diseases and/or a baby. Encourage your peers to choose the road you've taken. Peer pressure can work both ways: positively or negatively.

Talkback: From G.T.: I am responding to your column about the girl who was being harassed by her peers at school. As a teacher, I feel there is more to the story. The school has an obligation to protect students from abuse and harassment. The girl being harassed should have a meeting with the principal and her parents. If she gets no action or support, she should consult a lawyer.

Write to Let's Talk, c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64112.