Dear Amy:

My daughter is 15, soon to be 16.

She is very sweet. Of course, I'm her father so I can say that. She is in a special class for slow learners. She has severe attention-deficit disorder and epilepsy.

None of the children her age will have anything to do with her because she isn't as mature as the rest of them. She would rather go out and play with girls half her age or stand around and talk to adults.

I've seen kids her age duck out of sight when they see her. They aren't actually mean to her because they will talk to her when they are around her. For instance, the kids at church are nice to her, but they won't invite her to hang out with them and join in their reindeer games.

I don't know what I can do about this, if anything. I have thought about moving, but I know that will not fix anything.

Can you give me some ideas on what to do for her?

No Friends

First, you need to know that your daughter could be perfectly "normal" and healthy and still have trouble socially. The teen years are a social minefield, even for young people who seemingly have every advantage.

The very worst thing for your daughter would be for you to move her away from her familiar surroundings and the people she knows best.

You don't mention that your daughter has expressed any anxiety over her social state, and unless she is distressed, you should relax and do what you can to help her navigate in the world.

Your dear girl might enjoy helping out with the youngest kids at church, by joining the rotation of nursery volunteers. In some churches nursery workers are paid and this would be a good way for her to see what it is like to work, be responsible and be trusted.

She might have a special skill in working with children. If you think she can handle it, you could also explore the possibility of having her take a baby-sitting course at a community center. She could learn some important skills in a structured environment.

Ask her teachers if they have concerns about her and if there are kids in her class whom she enjoys being with during the day. If so, do what you can to get them together outside of school.

I know it is painful to watch other kids' reactions to your daughter, but it is important for you to catch your daughter being successful socially and to celebrate her many successes -- rather than fret over her challenges and project your concerns onto her.

Dear Amy:

I have been dating my girlfriend for more than five years. We are both in our early twenties. I know that she desperately wants to get married to me, as she has stated several times, but I am not sure if she is "the one."

My friends tell me that I should break it off with her, but I have so much fun when we are together. They say I am being selfish and leading her on, which is unfair to her. I disagree. I see that we are two people who enjoy spending time together. Why should there be so much pressure to get married?

Selfish (Maybe) in Chicago

There shouldn't be so much pressure to get married.

But there is.

Some people choose to cave in to the pressure, rather than to acknowledge and resist it. They turn into reluctant brides and grooms who, one day, wake up and wonder how they lost control of their lives.

You don't want that. Neither do you want to be the guy that you evidently are -- feckless and unsure and committed only to a long-term holding pattern.

I'll give you a very basic guideline: If you aren't sure that she's "the one," then she isn't.

If you think that maybe you're being selfish, then you probably are being selfish.

It's time to be honest with your girl. She should have the opportunity to understand that both of you are interested in marriage -- but that you are holding out for a girl whom you haven't met.

If she has a shred of dignity, your girl will walk away from you, making way for "the one."

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

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