DR. WALLACE: I love the summer months because I love to be outdoors and get a great suntan. Every summer, my two brothers and my dad go fishing every day. They wear hats, jeans and long-sleeve shirts while they are in the boat all day. My mom writes books in the shade of a tree, while I spend a lot of time in the sun working on my tan. Of course, I use the strongest sunscreen on the market because I never want to burn.
My mom said she read in a magazine that tans are damaging to the skin, and they should be avoided. I can understand how sunburn can cause damage to a person's skin, but not a nice, healthy tan.
School is starting soon for the fall semester, and on the first day back, I'm going to dress in white to show off my awesome bronze tan. Please, tell me there is nothing wrong health-wise in getting a suntan. I've been told that a tan gives a person a great dose of vitamin D. — Sunshine Girl, via email
SUNSHINE GIRL: A suntan is not healthy and represents skin damage. The darker the tan, the higher the risk of future wrinkles, furrows, blotches, lesions and skin cancer. There are possible health problems any time sun rays change the color of the skin, even in the slightest. It's great that you use a very strong sunscreen, but no amount of sunscreen can fully protect you against extended time spent in direct sunlight, especially in the summertime.
Next year, join your father and brothers fishing, wearing the same type of clothes they wisely do, and forget about your bronze tan. You'll get enough natural sun via your daily activities without "working on" your tan. You do absorb enough vitamin D via regular time spent outdoors. Seeking big doses of vitamin D via prolonged sun exposure is decidedly counterproductive.
YOUR ROOM IS INDEED YOUR CASTLE
DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 and have the most wonderful mom in the entire universe. Our mother/daughter relationship is superb. We love each other very much and understand one another. We have total open communication and can discuss anything and everything with each other. Everything between us is perfect, except for just one major disagreement: the way I keep my room.
I consider my room to be my sanctuary — a place where I can go to escape the pressures of life. I enjoy going to my room on a rainy day and reading a good book. When I feel good, my room reflects my mood, with my stuffed pandas and posters of dancing ballerinas sharing my uplifted feelings.
I love my room; it reflects my personality. Most of the time, it's a bit messy, but it's never really dirty. I vacuum and dust it every week, even if I have a few things lying around. I just move them to clean and put them back where I had them. My mom is a very organized, meticulous person, and she can't cope with my unorganized room! She thinks that every night before I go to bed, I should pick up, put away, straighten out and tidy my room completely. I think I should be allowed to keep my room exactly as I prefer — within reason, of course. Since you are the so-called "expert" on teen affairs, I'd appreciate your "wisdom" to satisfy both me and my mom on the maintenance and control of my room. — Casual, Good Girl, Annapolis, Maryland
CASUAL, GOOD GIRL: Your room is indeed your castle, and I'm all in favor of you keeping it to your liking, "within reason." To see that it is within reason, I would suggest that you and Mom inspect your room together every Saturday afternoon and discuss things that need to be improved for the following inspection, as well as review things that deserve praise due to improvements from the previous week. Between inspections, the room should be agreed to be all yours — within reason, still. Of course, I suggest you do a nice tidying up on Saturday morning in advance of your afternoon inspection with your mom. This should give your mother some satisfaction via seeing the room the way she prefers it at least once a week, and you'll garner the benefit of a deeper tidying once a week. You'll be even more in touch with your "comfort zone."
There are a lot of parents in this country and around the world who would gladly trade a slightly messy room during the week for a wonderful, strong relationship with their daughter. I trust your mother is more than wise enough to agree.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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