Dear Straight Talk: I’m 15 and I live with my mother and her boyfriend. My mom doesn’t let me go anywhere. Not that I ask – I already know she will get mad and say no. I’m not sure where her stress comes from, maybe money, but I’m always in trouble for stupid stuff, like not cleaning things well enough, or forgetting, (never real trouble, like at school or anything). Because she’s always so mad at me, I’m afraid to talk to her and I keep everything inside. I long to talk to her about personal stuff, mother-daughter stuff, but no matter what topic I attempt, everything always gets switched over to her stress, and I never get to tell her about me. I really want to let her know about problems I’m having. How can I get her to listen? – “Annie” From Emily, 15: Being a mother seems like a hard job, and if all you talk about is what you want, I can see how she could take offense. Is it possible that she holds everything in at work, then vents at home? Or does she have too much to do? Try asking how her day went. If she snaps, don’t take offense, just ask again the next day. Cleaning the house might seem stupid to you, but it would probably brighten her day, and doing it before she asks will really help things. For the moment, put your needs aside and attend to hers. In the end, you and your mom will have a better relationship. From Katrina, 15: When my step-mom moved in, the situation was a lot like yours. She always seemed angry or disappointed in me and I got in trouble for the small things as well. I eventually started writing notes to her, that way I could talk without her anger and stress interfering. Eventually we grew fairly close and now we are very honest with each other and can talk about almost anything. From Ashley, 20: Tell her exactly what you said in this letter – or better, write her. Writing will help you get more of your own feelings out, and because she can’t interrupt you, it can soak in. Writing was very effective for me when I needed to talk to my parents during difficult times. From Jennifer, 14: My dad is like this with me and I’m glad I don’t live with him full-time. He is deaf to my needs and feelings. It’s “his way” or the “highway.” I once wrote him a letter, on the advice of my mother, and he just laughed while he read it. I don’t have advice other than to find someone else you can talk to, and find a healthy way to vent your frustrations. Dear “Annie”: The advice from your peers is excellent. Please don’t let Jennifer’s experience stop you from writing your mother a letter. Jennifer made the mistake of delivering her letter in person. Instead, place the letter (or send the e-mail) so that your mother will receive it in your absence. Like Ashley says, the message needs to “soak in.” Apart from the advice given, there is little you can do to change your mother. Her behavior is her trip, not yours. We only have two real freedoms in this world: how we deal internally with the things that happen to us, and what we decide to give our attention to. So, focus your attention on what you can do right now, in both attitude and action, to ensure your happiness. I advise getting a job. Babysitting is in high demand, transportation is usually provided and it gets you out of the house. By saving your income for a car, you will have transportation to a better job and/or to college. It’s your life. Work with the two freedoms you have and make something of it. Write to Straight Talk at www.StraightTalkForTeens.com or PO Box 963, Fair Oaks CA 95628.