By LAUREN FORCELLA
DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I have an incredibly bad relationship with my parents. Many tell me to call CPS, or Child Protective Services, however, a friend taken from her drug-addicted mom says foster care was horrible and that I shouldn’t do it. Since sixth grade, my dad has threatened to hit me multiple times and even has followed through with it. My mom has hit me causing bruises and once or twice has grabbed my neck and shoved me against a wall screaming in my face. They say I won’t make it anywhere in life, they penalize me for my body size, for not getting perfect straight A’s, and not pursuing THEIR dream. My younger sister (14) sees it all but has never been a victim. My older brother, who received similar treatment for not being perfect, thinks I should stick it out as I only have two more years. (He’s 21, but cannot support me.) I need guidance. I’m honestly terrified living at home.
— Scared Teen with Big Dreams
Katelyn, 18, Azusa: Don’t suffer silently for “only” two more years. Talk to a counselor, church leader or trusted authority figure ASAP. If you do call CPS, they won’t automatically put you into foster care. They might send your parents to mandatory classes or arrange living with a relative. Keep your head high through activities, passions, or groups that reward you. Yoga, journaling, positive thinking, inspirational music and books will also help with a positive mindset.
Brie, 22, San Francisco: You need to call CPS. This is absolutely unacceptable. Another option is to get part-time work and move in with a relative or friend.
Treyvon, 19, Yorba Linda: Many parents don’t realize the difference between “encouragement” and repression. Call CPS immediately. They have more tools in their arsenal than just removing kids. No child should be beaten. If this was me, I’d also keep pepper spray on hand.
Molly, 21, Berkeley: Document everything! Take pictures of bruises and injuries and try to record their threats. Calling CPS is a good step. They won’t remove you from your home unless they absolutely must. Could you live with your brother if you were working? Reach out to a school counselor. This behavior also hurts your sister to witness it.
Carlos, 18, Fairfax, Va.: Calling CPS is a big decision. For that extra push, picture your younger sister going through the same thing.
Ochatre, 23, Kampala, Uganda: In Uganda, most parents still believe that raising children to be respectable and successful means beating them for any wrongdoing. Children’s services aren’t as efficient here. Start by telling someone you trust who can easily talk to your parents. Also, talk to them yourself. Deep down they love you. Tell them they need parenting help from CPS.
Dear Scared: Your parents sound ignorant of the overwhelmingly proven principle that children become more successful through positive reinforcement rather than shaming, threatening and beating. How very sad. CPS counselors do everything possible to keep children safe while keeping families together. Most give parents like yours (with a “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child” mentality), parenting classes, counseling — and monitoring. You will receive counseling, too.
I wouldn’t blame you for moving in with a friend or relative — you have to take care of yourself. What’s good about CPS is that they educate parents and oversee a healing process. Your parent’s mentality needs to end and you need to mend. (You don’t want to repeat this pattern with your children, which is precisely what your parents are doing). Talk to a school counselor or call CPS and ask how they would handle your situation. Look them up under your state and county.
Straight Talk TNT.Org is a nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in this conversation or ask a question by visiting www.StraightTalkTNT.Org or writing PO Box 1974 Sebastopol 95473.