DR. WALLACE: I’m a boy who will be 11 in a few months, but I’m already in ninth grade! I just found this out because I seem to be smaller and less physically developed than all of my classmates, and I kept asking my mom and sister why I’m so small.
I have an older sister who is 18 and she is planning to leave our house very soon. My older sister recently forced my mom to tell me my real age because she said in front of me that if mom didn’t tell me she would.
Now I’m pretty mad at my mom and feel very inadequate. I may be a very good student in school, but socially I feel like a fish out of water. If I go to high school next year, I’ll only be 12 when I get there! I’m 11 now and thought I was 13!
My mom explained to me that she put me in first grade when I was 5 and then made me skip a grade a few years later because I was in what was called a mixed class which had two years of accelerated students who were all studying together.
Anyway, what do you advise me to do? I am quite capable of doing school work in the classrooms but socially I feel like a fish out of water. — I just learned my true age, by e-mail
I LEARNED MY TRUE AGE: Your mother made a big mistake hiding this secret from you. Without your older sister, it seems to me that you would not have discovered this discrepancy for even a few years.
The silver lining for you is that due to your academic ability, you will be able to graduate from high school sooner if you wish. But if you feel like you’ll be too intimidated to go to high school next year at your young age, you might talk to your mom and even a school counselor about repeating your current class to give your body more time to grow and mature so that you are only a year younger than your current classmates instead of two.
I suggest you talk to as many trusted adults as you can about your situation now that you fully understand it, and then seek to make a good decision that will best serve you in your life.
DR. WALLACE: I’m a teenager and I’ve been reading your column for a while. So I know you’ve often mentioned that certain foods don’t usually have anything to do with teenage acne and complexion issues.
My diet hasn’t changed much, but for the first time in my life I’m starting to have active issues. The only other thing I can think of is stress, because I’ve had a lot of stress in my life lately. My parents are about to divorce and my pet recently died of old age. I cried a lot alone in my room because of these two situations.
Do you think my current stress could be the source of my acne? – Having problems with acne for the first time, by e-mail
HAVE ACNE PROBLEMS FOR THE FIRST TIME: Over the years, I have spoken to many dermatologists in person and on the phone, and read many studies on the subject of acne, especially in teenagers.
The general answer to your question is that it’s remotely possible that your stress plays a role in triggering acne, but most dermatologists and studies point to stress as a rare contributor to acne. Many people, including teenagers, regularly go through very stressful situations without experiencing acne problems.
I recommend that you see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible to assess your complexion flare, if possible. Excellent treatments are available these days, and you will likely see improvement within a few weeks once a plan of action has been laid out for you by your professional.