Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: I have stepped away from my daily column for two weeks to finish writing my next book, which is due to be published next fall. I hope you’ll enjoy these topical “best of” questions and answers while I’m away. Today’s letters are about challenging relationships.

DEAR AMY: I have a friend who used to be so fun-loving and didn’t ever care what anyone thought of her. Now her main priority is boys and clothes. She acts like a different person when we are out at the movies with a group of boys. She just got a new boyfriend, and she will do anything for attention. My friend was adopted because her mother gave birth to her at a young age. I’m just afraid that she will wander down the same path. I think part of the reason she acts this way is how her parents are raising her. They do whatever she wants and will buy her anything just so they don’t have to hear her whine. My parents have lost their trust in my friend and say she is a bad influence on me. But I think she has always been a good friend, no matter how spoiled and two-faced she can be. I just feel that it is kind of my “duty” to help her, because no one knows her like I do. Should I still be her friend throughout high school, or will she have an effect on my future as well as her own?

Worried Friend

DEAR FRIEND: Your friend could have a negative effect on your future — if you let her. But you sound like such a levelheaded and sensitive person, that I don’t think you would let her.

Kids develop at different rates. Some kids know who they are and have a clear sense of purpose. Others, like your friend, don’t walk a straight line to maturity. You could be right that her parents aren’t doing such a good job.

Do your best to find kids to hang with who share your values and maturity. It’s fine to stay friends with someone you’ve known forever, but you can’t ever let a friend dictate your choices (and a true friend doesn’t ask you to do things that make you uncomfortable).

I hope you will take the opportunity to discuss this with an understanding adult; many grown-ups have had similar experiences and might be able to offer you some valuable perspective. (January 2006)

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DEAR AMY: I am a 13-year-old girl living in a “war zone.” My parents constantly fight about unimportant things and usually end up making me and my sisters take sides. Unfortunately, it has always been like this. Long story short, my parents met, fell in love and got married; they have lots of debt and family sicknesses on my father’s side. My mother was very supportive of my dad for several years, helping him and his family financially, opening up her house to my father’s relatives. But my father never supported her as she did him during those times. They have four children, but their relationship is broken. They are so sick of each other that they can’t stand to even touch each other. My parents are avid Christians and do not believe in divorce. They are extremely encouraging and wonderful parents, but they aren’t open to counseling. I’ve tirelessly tried to unite them again, but nothing seems to work. Please help me.

Caught in Battle

DEAR CAUGHT: At 13, it should not be your job to try to keep your parents’ marriage happy, though it is natural for you to try. Making a marriage work should be an adult function, and it is sad that your parents have robbed you and your sisters of part of your childhood by exposing you to their problems.

You sound very mature, and you can help your sisters by setting an example for them. Get involved in school and church activities, and find things to do that are healthy and make you feel good.

Being around other teens and thoughtful adults will give you an outlet that you need and deserve to have. You should also seek out an understanding adult to speak to privately about these family issues.

I hope that you choose to show this letter to your parents. You say that they are wonderful parents; working on their marriage would make them much better parents. (August 2006)