DR. WALLACE: I'm 18, and I'm in the 11th grade. I have a miserable home life. Both my parents drink a lot, and my father physically abuses my mother on a regular basis. I should be graduating next spring, but I had to stay out of school for one year when I was 10 because of an illness.
I had planned to move to Utah and live with a friend and his family and complete my senior year there, but when I checked into doing this, I was told by a Utah school official that I couldn't attend school there because my parents don't live in a Utah city.
Is there anything I can do to get the school official to change his mind? If they don't change their mind, then I'm moving to Utah to rent a room near a good school because I'd really like to be attending high school there. — Frustrated Teen, via email.
FRUSTRATED: The information you received from the Utah school administrator was in error. Since you are 18, you can establish residency in Utah without having your parents live there. Contact the Utah School District again and send along a copy of your letter to me with my response.
If for any reason that doesn't bring the desired results, seek the assistance of a member of Utah aide services. The public schools are there to educate all young people, not to put up roadblocks for a teen seeking an honest education.
DR. WALLACE: Please help me! I'm 14 and have a strong fear that someone is going to attack me. Even though my dog sleeps in my bedroom, I'm afraid of being attacked. I can never have a leg or an arm hanging out of my bedcovers because I'm afraid someone will grab it. Once when I was babysitting and the children were asleep, a storm hit and I was so frightened I couldn't move, even though rain was coming in through an open window. I live in a small town and realize that it's safer here than living in a big city, yet I remain so deeply frightened.
I've hinted to my parents that I'm afraid of being attacked, but they just laugh it off. Please don't print my name or location. — Scared, Ohio
SCARED: When your parents see your letter in the newspaper, they will stop "laughing it off" and get you the professional help you must have. I recommend that you ask your parents to immediately find you professional help, and if they don't, then speak openly to your school counselor or a teacher you trust. Believe me, there are helpful adults near you who will guide you toward great help.
MOM IS ALWAYS COLD
DR. WALLACE: My mom is a chain smoker. She smokes two to three packs of cigarettes a day. Sometimes, she has two cigarettes lit at the same time. She forgets that she has a half-smoked cigarette burning in the ashtray. Also, she keeps the house like an oven because she is always cold. It's hard to breathe through all of the smoke swirling around. Is there any connection between being cold all the time and smoking? I heard there was from a friend of mine at school who has a mom who also smokes. — Ashleigh, New Orleans
ASHLEIGH: According to the American Cancer Society's brochure "Kicking the Habit," the human body has 96,000 miles of blood vessels, which constrict with every puff of a cigarette, thereby keeping a fresh supply of life-sustaining oxygenated blood from reaching the organs. This is why smokers frequently complain of being cold, especially in their hands and feet. Their extremities are not receiving sufficient oxygen. Smoking also lowers one's skin temperature.
I recommend that you get Mom a copy of this free brochure. Call the nearest American Cancer Society office for details. Also tell her that the dangers of second-hand smoke are very real. You should not be breathing her smoke all day in an enclosed house.
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.