DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 and live with my parents, who are both heavy drinkers. I even think they both could be alcoholics. Living in this highly dysfunctional family is a terrible experience. My life is miserable at home. Both of my older brothers took off and joined the military after they graduated. Both are in the Navy and now very happy to be out on their own.
I have two more school years ahead of me before I can escape. My friend's family knows my family situation and has invited me to move into their house. I really want this to happen.
If my parents supply my friends' parents with a letter giving me permission to live with them, can I legally live with them without getting them into trouble? My parents love me, but they know I would have a better life away from them. — Anonymous, Davenport, Iowa
ANONYMOUS: It is legal for your parents to grant custody of you to the parents of a friend. It would be wise to have such a document signed by both of your parents and notarized.
It appears that when you graduate from high school, you might be on your own, so it's very important to get the best grades possible in your classes. Education can be the springboard to a wonderful life. You'll need good skills to pursue whatever type of career you prefer. Study hard, and be sure to interact regularly with the teachers of your favorite subjects so that you can be sure to soak up all the knowledge possible in the areas of study that interest you the most. It's from these areas that your future career will likely be closely related.
WEAR MITTENS TO BED!
DR. WALLACE: I'm a 12-year-old girl, and I still suck my thumb when I go to bed. My mom says I will outgrow it, but my grandmother said she read somewhere that it is a sign of mental weakness. Now I'm scared after hearing this. Is it true? — Anonymous, Monmouth, Illinois
ANONYMOUS: Sucking one's thumb is not a sign of mental weakness. The need to suck is innate; that's why so many people get caught up in the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes.
Babies have natural rooting and sucking reflexes, which can cause them to put their thumbs or fingers in their mouths — sometimes even before birth. Because thumb sucking makes babies feel secure, some babies might eventually develop a habit of thumb sucking when they're in need of soothing or when going to sleep.
After permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes to the roof of the mouth.
The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb suckers may develop problems with their teeth.
Talk with your family doctor and see if some kind of solution can be recommended. I've been told that wearing mittens to bed is one way to break the habit. Another idea is to soak your thumbs in pickle brine before going to bed, but if you have mittens or gloves, that may be an easier method to try first.
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.