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Dear Dr. Smith

Published September 25. 2010 09:00AM

Many times I get email messages from folks who want to ask a question about education or family issues. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers and try my best to answer their concerns. However, sometimes an email crosses my desk and makes me wonder if anyone can help the writer. This is one of those letters.

Dear Dr. Smith,

I have been reading your columns for a long time now and want to ask you a question. What should a kid do if his parents have fallen down on the job?

My Mom and Dad are divorced and they say nasty things about each other. Neither of them has much money. I am trying to go to college and have been working to make the tuition on my own, with a little help from student loans. When I get my paycheck, my Mom thinks I owe her some of it. My Dad never sends me any money to help me. He has a new girlfriend and they spend their money on things that please them.

Don't tell me to ask my grandparents for help. They, too, are useless in my eyes. They don't care about me because they were too caught up in the divorce problems. My Dad's parents dislike my Mom and my Mom's parents dislike my Dad. It's a no-win situation for me - a child from both of them. I don't even get birthday or holiday gifts from them anymore. I do get some support from one family member, but that's all.

I'm worried about finding enough money to finish school. I work very hard and try to study in between shifts at work. My grades are good and when I graduate in a few years, I know I'll be able to find decent work.

My biggest problem isn't really the money. I know I'll find some somewhere. What really bothers me is the condition of my family. I wish I could find a way to have my parents and grandparents understand what they are putting me through. They just don't get it.

Thanks for listening. I'll be reading your column to see if you have any suggestions for me.

ST from Tamaqua

Dear ST,

Oh, how I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix your problem! But, family issues are difficult to fix.

First of all, let me congratulate you on going to college and getting prepared for a working career. Education is one thing that no one can steal from you. Plus, by doing the hard work yourself and not relying on others too much, you will appreciate what you have done even more.

Secondly, your need for money during this critical time of life is completely understandable. Working part-time certainly helps, but tuition rates are high. Getting student loans is smart, but it would be even better if your parents could help you financially. I find it hard to believe that a Mom would try and take a few pennies from a kid who is working AND raising tuition alone. I also find it extremely hard to fathom why your Dad would rather spend his money on pleasure instead of helping his child. As for your grandparents, they are missing the big picture in life. Anger and revenge are negative emotions.

All of that being said, here are a few suggestions for you:

1. Have you honestly approached your extended family members and asked for aid? I'm talking about aunts, uncles, cousins, and others who care about you. If you let them know your situation, perhaps one or more of them can find their way clear to help you. Plus, right now your family is fractured and could use a little togetherness. Perhaps helping you would be the glue that helps your family heal.

2. Go to your old high school guidance counselor and tell him/her your story. Perhaps the counselor knows a way to get some aid for you. That's what they do for a living and most of them are good at it.

3. Did you contact your college's financial aid office and tell them about your problem? Sometimes they will work out a payment plan with a student and allow you to stretch your tuition out over some years.

As for your family issues, I would recommend one thing - learn from this and promise yourself that - when you have your own family - you'll keep the lines of communication open and honest. I feel sorry for your whole family because life is way too short for all this negativity and stress. They can't be happy people.

So, ST, I'm not sure any of that was helpful, but I hope things will improve for you. Please write back and let me know how you are doing. Stay true to yourself, work hard, study hard, keep smiling and living a good life and your future will be bright.

Sincerely, Dr. Smith

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