Teenage Problems/Boarding school dilemma
QUESTION: Hi there, i'm 15 years old (going on 16). I'm in a dilemma about going to boarding school. This has been playing in my mind almost every day. Being the youngest in the family, i'm close to my parents. I've never really been apart from them. When i come to think of the pros and cons, it turns out to have both equally. Plus, every time i think about it my mind changes whether i should go or not. Since i cant make up my own mind or even listen to my own heart, it makes it harder to decide.
The main problem is, if i go to boarding school, i might not be able to cope individually without my parents. But if i stay where i am, all my past problems with my old friends will arise again.
I think i've been thinking about this for a few months now and i guess i need guidance. My parents said i should go, then now they said i should not. I dont want to make the wrong choice, please help me...
ANSWER: Hi Adriana,
Thank you for writing to me. I can understand your dilemma. Let's begin with the last statement that you made, "you don't want to make a wrong choice". No matter how you choose at some point in time you are going to feel as if you made the wrong choice. You are the youngest child and you are close to your parents. However, you mentioned that if you stay where you are, all of your past problems with your old friends will arise again. That is not what you want to do. By just thinking about going to boarding school suggests to me that you want a better life.
Going to boarding school is not a bad thing or a punishment. You will get to socialize with other students that are looking for a better life and that have positive goals in life. Don't be disillusioned that things are perfect in boarding school and that you will not come across some decisions and problems that you thought you left behind. There are a lot of positive differences in attending boarding school as opposed to public schools. You will see the same students and teachers throughout the semester and therefore everyone will make a better effort to get along with each other.
Situations will be handled differently than in public schools. Classrooms will be smaller and you will have a lot of input into the curriculum you select.
If I am following you correctly, you have ran into problems with your now acquaintances. It is time for a change. You are now 15 years old. The decisions that you make now may follow you for the rest of your life. You have tried it with your present situation. Now give it a try with boarding school. This is your life. If you try it for a year and you really don't like it, you can go back to where you are. But you have to give it your very best. You will miss your parents but guess what, with the technology that we have today, you can talk to and see your parents daily. You are a winner to have such a choice that everyone does not have. Some of your acquaintances do not have a choice but they have to live the life they have. Your parents appear to be confused because they don't want you to leave but they know it is the best thing for you. Again, you can explain to them that you love them and will miss them but you can contact them everyday and it is not the end of the relationship for you and your parents. Let them know that you will be honest with them about your stay at boarding school and if it is really difficult, you will come home after a year. However, I don't think you will. I think you are going to learn so much and get so much out of boarding school along with being so much more advanced in your goals in life that you will stay until you graduate. Just think how proud your parents will be because you made the decision to be a better person.
Please feel free to write back and let me know how things are going.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Dr Lee... Your response has opened my mind further. But there is one thing bothering me and i consider it the only set back to my problem. You see, i live in southeast asia, and so i'm sure our curriculum is quite different from the western countries. In my school now, i'm not so bad in academics. My main problem is that, i'm so used to the "easy life" with having everything around me. In other words i am admitting that i am pampered and i consider myself a spoiled child. I dont often do house chores. So i am not sure whether i can do it all on my own in a boarding school.
My mother is worried that i cant do it all alone when i am in boarding school. I am anti-social and shy. I dont know how to mix around with people, especially new people. And also i'm not used to sharing things. I know i probably sound like a really spoilt child, but its the truth.
More than anything, i am afraid to release my old life and start a new one. One part of me says its the best thing to do, to start a new life. But the other part of me keeps saying, what if i cant stand it there, what if i cant handle myself there, and will it affect my academics?
In my country, once we go in boarding school, we have to stay for 2 years, with the exception of health problems only we can get out tof there early.
Dr Lee, i'm going to tell the whole story, so i hope its not too complicated.
In my current school i am a school prefect. And somehow i think everyone is depending on me, even the teachers. Almost every day someone will say, "Adriana, can you do this" "please fo do that", etc. i feel as if all the weight is on my own shoulders and i feel like screaming. I feel pressured, and more often than not i am stressed. To add to that problem, i sense that my friends are "using" me, especially during group work projects. They know that i am a perfectionist and an over achiever, so when they are in my group they probably think they will get good grades. I end up doing most of the work. And i can say that almost every group project i get stressed. I've explained to them, even got angry with them a few times but they still do it. I'm afraid this will repeat if i stay in my current school.
And now there is my problem at home, to be honest, my dad as a very bad temper, especially now he gets older he grumbles a lot. None of us can ever cross him, if we say something he will put the blame back on us even if its his fault. Sometimes i close my eyes and think, if i stay in this house any longer i'll break down complletely.
To summarise it, my problems are:
If i stay home and in my current school: i cant stand my father's temper, and also my friends taking credit for my work, plus my duties as a prefect. Which i'm sure will stress me out even more.
If i go to boarding school : i'm afraid of being in a new environment and i dont know if i can cope with the chores all alone.
Even to myself its as complicated as ever. I'm looking forward to your advice, Dr. Lee!
Thank you for writing me again. Believe me when I tell you that I understand every thing that you have written. You are 15 years old and never had to complete any chores. Your mother has a right to be concerned because she never encouraged you to complete any chores. Trust me, you will learn. I don't know when you intend to attend boarding school, but I would say give yourself 6 months to a year to get yourself accustomed to doing chores such as cleaning up behind yourself, washing dishes and doing your laundry. It is time for you to learn. God forbid something happens to your parents, as you stated they, especially your dad is getting older, who will take care of you. Your friends and family are going to see you as a spoiled child and they are not going to assist you. At this point in your life, you should be thinking of your future and want to take care of yourself.
If you know boarding school is 2 years, take a little time to adjust yourself to going. Your mother is not sure because she does not have the confidence that she raised you to be self sufficient in case you have to live alone. Your friends do not want you to leave because if you leave their grades will suffer. The teachers don't want you to leave because you are making their jobs easier by being the advanced and dedicated student in which you are and makes their teaching less stressful. All this is not fair for you because you are not living your life. You are living the life for a lot of people. Your father is frustrated because you want to leave and that cuts down on who he can blame for things.
All this adds up to you wanting to be your own self. I would rather see you in a controlled environment such as a boarding school where you will find people with similar lifestyles as yours where you can help each other, rather than staying as you are and living your life for everyone else.
Stress causes a lot of physical and mental problems. You are too valuable and too honorable to end up being so stressed that you are taking medication because you can no longer cope with the life that you are now living. You are correct in thinking that you are being used. I am glad that you see that. In a few years you will be grown. If you don't know now while you have assistance to clean and take care of yourself, you will not know how if you ever move out on your own. Take the boarding school as a stepping stone to teach you how to become independent from your parents. They may not agree now, but in a long run they will take the credit for the woman you will become. You will know deep in your heart, and I will know that YOU did it for your sanity and comfort. Go for the two years and learn the things that you didn't learn at home. Also, you will be with students coming from the same type of household in which you will be leaving. The students are there to get a good education and will not be leaning totally on you. It will be a partnership in learning. The two years that you spend may be the best decision you will make in your life. If you don't go to boarding school you will never know how much potential you are capable of and how much you could have learned. Everyone do not get this opportunity. You are not leaving your family and you don't have to leave your associates. You can keep in touch and visit when allowed, but you will be happy that you made the "right decision" for you at this time.
Please think hard and don't lose this opportunity. If you decide not to go to boarding school you will always be reminded that you had to opportunity to better or change your life.
Please feel free to write to me at any time.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks again Dr Lee, really appreciate the advice. I'll think about it deeply. I have about a month or a little more actually to decide.
I have another question. How do i control my temper? Sometimes i lash out at my friends and sometimes my family, and i regret it. But i cant take it back. I've had bad temper since i was younger, and i hoped to grow out of it. But it seems i'm not changing one bit. How should i keep myself in check?
Thank you again for writing to me. This question is one of my specialties. I teach anger management classes weekly. The first thing you must do is STOP. (S-stop, T-think, O-observe, P-proceed). Always think before you speak. If you think about what you are going to say, you will have time to phrase it in a way that will not be hurtful to someone else. By reading your previous letters, you have always had your way and you are under a lot of pressure. You are too young to have the stress that is placed upon you by your "friends", family, and the decisions that you have to make. You are in a very tense situation and the only way that you can get your frustrations under control is to lash out when things get too tense.
Anger is not something that you are born with,it is learned. It is not something that you grow out of, you have to work on it. You must be conscience of what you are saying. It does get easier as you begin to think before you speak. No matter how much want to respond immediately to an incident or words said to you, stop and think before you speak. You have already realized that once something comes out of your mouth, you cannot take it back. Things that you say can really hurt. I don't believe that you intend to hurt anyone. However, that is the only way you can express your feelings. You will find that if you stop and think before you speak you will be able to control what you say and how you say it. Remember, it is not what you say but how you say it. You can get your point across about any subject without hurting someone if you just think, think, think before you speak. You are the only one that has control over what you say.
Please feel free to write at any time.