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Ask Ellie: Changing schools is traumatic for young people

But there are plenty of good reasons to change schools

Dear Lisi: My son is starting his third school in four years, and I’m so nervous. There were specific reasons for leaving each school, and none were social. He’s a great kid who makes friends easily, though slowly. But I understand the optics and hear the rumours.

How do I make sure that he is seen for who he is — an exceptionally bright student who just wants to fit in, as opposed to the kid who keeps switching schools?

Nervous Mama

I edited out a lot of specifics from your longer letter to maintain anonymity for both you and your child. But it is abundantly clear that you are a very loving, hands-on, caring mother who only wants the best for her child.

Your reasons for leaving the past three schools sounded completely legitimate from your explanation, and I probably would have done the same if it were my child.

You know your truth, as does your son. If this is the right school for him — which I hope it is, because truthfully, it is hard on kids to switch schools often — you’ll both know sooner than later, and then he can just get on with being a kid and learning.

Please let me know how it works out.

And readers, if you have any experience with this, please write in so we can arm this mom with more helpful tools.

Dear Lisi: My dad and my sister fight all the time, and it’s driving me crazy. My mom has a big job at a bank, and leaves really early in the morning to go to the gym. My dad is the one who gets us up and ready for school, makes our breakfasts and lunches, and drives us where we need to go.

We’re on our own after school, but we’re both old enough to be home alone. My sister is a cheerleader, so she’s in practice every day after school. I’m in band, so I’m also there a lot.

We arrive home before our parents, and do any dinner prep that we’ve been asked to do. But that usually falls on me because my sister is either still at school, with her boyfriend, or in the shower. I don’t mind. It’s not every day and doesn’t take that long.

Then my parents come home and my dad and sister start fighting. My mom goes into her office to wait it out; and I go to my room. When dinner is ready, the room is heavy with tension and my dad and sister are both smouldering.

How can I help them break this unhealthy cycle, and why isn’t my mom getting involved?

Sideline brother

I’m so sorry you have to deal with this situation. I’m glad you’ve written in for help. Know that your situation is more common than you realize, and that you’re not alone.

Once kids get to a certain age, parents feel that they can assign more responsibility and independence, in turn, allowing them more time to do the things they need to do, like work. And it sounds like your family has a great plan in action.

So, how do we get your dad and sister to stop fighting? You need to talk to your mom. Explain to her how this is affecting you, and how the two of you need to come together to help the others. Ask her to talk to your sister — maybe all she needs is some mom time. Talk to your dad and tell him how the situation is affecting you.

Bottom line, you need to come together as a family and change the dynamic and the way you communicate with each other.

Dear Lisi: I’m 22, from Chicago. My mom’s friend lives in England. She was visiting family in South Africa and posted how she bungee-jumped off Bloukrans Bridge in the West Cape.

I’d never do that! Neither would my mom. She’s afraid of everything. I’m more adventurous, but only slightly.

Is it her fault I’m scared?

Too chicken to jump

No, it’s not her fault. It’s no one’s “fault.” It’s simply what you’re willing to risk. I’ve done lots of adventurous things — way more than my mom — but I’m not into bungee-jumping, either. That’s not her fault. It’s my choice.

At 22, you’re old enough to make your own decisions. However, you’re also young enough that you can change your mind. In fact, when it comes to risk, adventure, personal challenge, people often do things later in life they said they’d never do. I think it’s a mortality thing. I don’t know — I’m not there yet.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected].