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Getting Deep #16: Poor Grades, Secret Dating, Friend In Abusive Home

Q&A with Dr. Dorothy: Your tough questions answered

dorothy ratusny
Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist specializing in Cognitive Therapy.

My grades aren’t so good in school right now. I study a lot and I always do my homework assignments, but I just can’t seem to get top grades. My parents assume I am not putting a lot of effort into school because of my poor grades, but I really am. They’ve grounded me, taken away my allowance and dumped me in summer school. I really want to go to university, but I don’t know what to do to bring my grades up. I’ve tried everything. What’s wrong with me? Am I stupid?

It would be helpful to know how you have been doing up to now. If your grades have been pretty good until this year, that may rule out a possible learning disability. Often, students are not given the necessary skills for studying effectively. That, coupled with the fact that we have different styles of learning, make it important that you have the proper tools for studying. Talk to your teacher and your parents about having someone teach you ‘how to study’. This may be a tutor, a senior student, or a teacher in your school. If you decide that you also want to rule out the possibility of a learning disorder, you can have your guidance counselor arrange for some testing.

study tips student

For info on different learning styles and study tips:

For info on learning styles including a quiz to determine your learning style ‘type’:
Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter

When I was 13 years old I was very rebellious. I have been arrested, I skipped school a lot (so now I am a year behind everyone else), I was caught by my parents doing drugs with my friends, and now I am a heavy smoker at 16. But in the past year I have really changed my life around. I’m no longer rebellious and I am really trying to rebuild the horrible relationship I have with my parents, but it seems like nothing is working. I can’t seem to regain their trust. What can I do to make my relationship with my parents better?

The best thing you can do is continue to keep up the lifestyle you have worked hard to change. Be patient with your parents. Right now you have a recent history that sticks in their minds. It will take a bit of time for them to realize you have changed. What will help is first, spending more time with them so that they can see who you now are, and second, time. As more time passes, your parents can drop their guard little by little and trust you again. Don’t give up!

I have secretly been dating this guy for a few months and we are getting really serious. I think I love him and I want to be with him for as long as possible. I want to tell my parents, but they said I’m not allowed to date yet. They said they wouldn’t let me do any extracurricular activities, which I love doing. I really want them to meet him and get to know him because I think he’s such a great guy. Should I face the consequences and be honest with them?

Ultimately, this decision is one that only you can make. I don’t know your parents’ reasons for not wanting you to date, although you may certainly need to convince them that dating won’t negatively interfere with your grades or extracurricular activities. It probably would be a good idea for your parents to meet him. Hopefully, your parents will really like him — as you have suggested — and this may ease further conversations you will need to have with them around their pre-established rules of dating. In the end, honesty may start out as a more challenging route, but definitely one that will teach you the value of addressing issues that are important to you.

My girlfriend has a lot of problems with her family. She’s in an abusive situation and I told her she needs to tell someone, but she refuses to listen to me. She always justifies the situation she’s in by blaming herself for the problems, but it hurts me to see her in so much pain. I want to tell somebody, but she made me promise not to tell anyone. She said if I tell, she would break up with me and never speak to me again. I really care about her and if we broke up I would worry about her even more. What should I do? Should I betray her to protect her and risk ruining a great relationship?


This is a really tough position to be in. Even if you maintain your silence, someone else — neighbour, other family member, or friend — could report their suspicions to the authorities and then an investigation would be done. Even if your girlfriend does not admit to the abuse, the repercussions are fairly extensive if there is evidence of abuse occurring. Your girlfriend would likely be taken from her home, and criminal charges could be laid. Naturally her whole world would change. It’s always a cautious balance between doing what is right and protecting someone from violence, and taking away their sense of control. You may want to speak with your girlfriend first and confirm that the abuse is real. (I’ve suggested some helpful readings from websites below that you may want to share with her). She has to be willing to speak up about what is happening and how wrong it is. Hopefully, she will be encouraged to directly disclose the abuse to a person in authority — a teacher, school counselor or perhaps even the police. Thank you for being so concerned about her and please continue to encourage her to speak up. There may be ways of negotiating with her to tell someone so that you don’t have to betray her trust.

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