Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl in high school. My family does not have a lot of money, but a lot of my friends' families do. (We have some money, but it's only enough to get by.) When my friends come to school with new clothes or concert tickets, I feel resentful because I can't afford them. I constantly compare myself to other girls and feel jealous of everyone around me. Is there anything I can do to combat this?

— JEALOUS OF EVERYONE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK

DEAR JEALOUS: I can think of few things so self-defeating as constantly comparing oneself to other people. No matter what income bracket a person is in, there will always be individuals who have more. Your worth as a person has nothing to do with what's in your closet, what's on your back or whether you can afford concert tickets.

One way to start feeling better about yourself would be to make a list of the qualities that make you special. You are obviously intelligent. Are you also a loyal friend? Are you sensitive to the feelings of other people? These important qualities will outlast any fashion fad — and the popularity of most music groups, too. The more time you spend dwelling on the important qualities you have, the less time you'll waste being preoccupied with the material things you don't.

DEAR ABBY: I have been living with a terrible secret for the past five years. I don't love my older son. He is very difficult and has been since infancy. Don't get me wrong — I'd jump in front of a bus to save him — but I don't like him.

I have a degree in psychology and have taught child development. I have taken parenting classes and read every book that's available on hard-to-manage children. But I have yet to find something that can help me, and I feel terribly alone. My husband tries, but he doesn't understand what it's like because he is mostly at work.

I am involved in parenting groups, playgroups, etc., but the other mothers all seem to be doing everything "better" than I am, and I have never heard any other mom admit to having negative feelings toward her kid.

What makes it worse is I adore my younger son and feel a special bond with him. I know this must be awful for the older boy because I'm sure he senses it, no matter how hard I try to hide it. But I don't know how to change what I feel. Abby, how can I change things? I desperately want to be the kind of mother my son deserves.

— ASHAMED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ASHAMED: Nowhere in your letter did you mention that you have taken your older son to a child psychiatrist for any sort of an evaluation. Children who are "very difficult" can sometimes have a physical or psychological disorder. There may even be a support group for you comprised of other parents who are experiencing the same feelings that you have.

It is important that you seek professional help for both of you. Your son may have a disorder, but until you find out the cause of the behavior that makes him "unlovable," there will be no help for either of you.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.