Updated: January 23, 2012 2:23AM
Dr. Wallace: I’m 14 years old and am finding it very rough at home. My father is unemployed and we don’t have a lot of money, but he does manage to drink a six-pack of beer every day. My mom has a job cleaning houses in the neighborhood. It’s because of her that we have food on our table and a roof over our heads.
I’m the oldest kid and have three younger brothers. Every day after school, I have to take care of my brothers, clean the house, start the dinner and do the laundry when necessary. On Monday and Wednesday evenings, my mom cleans up at a bowling alley. On these evenings, I have to make dinner and see that my brothers are put to bed. My dad doesn’t help at all.
My problem is that sometimes I don’t get a chance to do all of my homework (I’m in seventh grade), and some of my teachers get upset and tell me they are going to lower my grade if I don’t improve my homework habits. I tried talking to them and told them that sometimes taking care of my family takes up all my time, but they say that I should find the time. Please help me. I like school, but I don’t want bad grades.
Maria, Laredo, Texas
Maria: You are an extraordinary young lady who has been burdened with more responsibility than most people twice your age are called on to shoulder. The teachers simply don’t understand the circumstances of your life. Cut out this column and take it directly to your principal, who will find a way to help you maintain good grades. There are many ways you can be assisted.
Contact me in a few weeks and let me know how you are doing. I will call your principal and thank him or her personally for solving your problem when you send me the name of your school.
Dr. Wallace: I’m a “neat freak.” I shower at least twice a day and wash my face and hands frequently. My problem is that even though I wash my face at least six times a day, I’m starting to get blackheads around my nose and on my forehead.
I’m totally amazed that specks of dirt can dig into my skin so fast. How can I keep from getting these dirt specks on my skin?
Nameless, Brookhaven, Miss.
Nameless: A blackhead is not a speck of dirt. Your body is changing due to increased hormone activity, and these hormones stimulate the skin glands, which begin secreting excessive amounts of oil. A blackhead forms when dead skin cells combine with the oil and plug a pore opening. As more oil is produced, it builds up pressure under the blackhead plug, enlarging the pore.
Never squeeze a blackhead. It will only make things worse. Continue to wash your face frequently and make an appointment to see a dermatologist. In recent years, scientific research has produced several effective remedies to control teenage skin problems, from acne to blackheads.