Dear Sara, My 3 year old daughter is having terrible nightmares…

Dear Sara,

My three year old daughter Meg had a nightmare a couple of weeks ago. She keeps talking about bears and wolves and is afraid to go to bed at night. We have reassured her but she screams and cries at bedtime. We have been letting her go to sleep on the couch and putting her to bed after she is asleep. Any suggestions on ways to reassure her?


Dear Sonia,

Three year olds can be pretty dramatic when they are fearful. Meg thinks she has a valid reason for being afraid but at this age kids pretty much will take whatever their parents say to be the truth.

You might want to help her attack and kill these imaginary bears and wolves. Get Meg involved in a way to do this. Tap into her imagination and help her get control of her fears by letting her attack her imaginary animals before she goes to bed. She may imagine them to be under the bed or in the closet so you could help her find them and do away with them.

Make it a nightly ritual to find and fight these animals until she reassures herself that they are all conquered. She could then be brave enough and begin to see this exercise as a nightly game. For a while you may need to sit with her in the bedroom until she falls asleep . If you haven’t used a night light before, this would certainly help so that she can see that all is well.

Move slowly and don’t force Meg into anything that she’s not ready for. Let her take her time to overcome her fears.


Dear Sara, I’m having a hard time getting my kids to cooperate with house chores…

Dear Sara,

My husband Craig and I both work full time and are barely keeping our heads above water financially. I feel stressed because I never seem to have enough time or enough money. My two kids ages ten and twelve don’t want to help out around the house and I end up just giving up with the housework and letting it go. I hate the way things look but I am tired of yelling. I need some help from the kids but how do I get them to cooperate?


Dear Olympia,

Your kids are definitely old enough to help out with chores around the house and they wouldn’t be as well off financially if you didn’t work and stayed at home to take care of them.

Stress can be really hard on your body and sometimes can make you physically ill. Let your kids know that you are not Super Mom and can’t possibly do everything. It’s time for them to step up and help out. Enlist them with a spirit of cooperation rather than being grumpy or yelling.

What motivates your kids? Would they be more willing to work if they got an allowance. This way you could withhold money if the chores weren’t done. Would a long term goal like a vacation or a new computer interest them? Even if you don’t have much money for these things,maybe some money in a family kitty would help get everyone working toward a goal.

There are chores that have to be done everyday. You could assign one chore to each family member and rotate the chores. Include Craig in this. He is probably tired too but it’s not fair for everyone to depend on you for everything.

You can’t make your kids help but you can point them in the right direction with rewards and punishments. You are overwhelmed with all of your responsibilities and you truly need some help. If your family needs you to work, then they can’t expect you to do everything.

Take care of yourself.


Dear Sara, My 15 year old daughter is dreading going back to school…

Dear Sara,

School starts in a couple of weeks and my fifteen year old daughter is dreading it. There is a group of girls who don’t like her for some reason. They aren’t abusive toward her physically but won’t talk to her and ignore her in an obvious way by turning their heads when they see her in the hall. This affected her grades last year and she seemed depressed. What are some ways that I can help her deal with this?


Dear Joy,

Seems like there is always some group who consider themselves better than everyone else and tend to exclude people. There is no point in your daughter trying to get in their good graces. She is making herself miserable trying to figure out what she has done wrong (which is probably nothing).

Try to find out what her interests are and encourage her to join clubs or groups where she can interact with other students. Usually there are things like the French club or the drama club or some service organization. If she can be occupied by other things, she won’t be so preoccupied with these hurtful girls. They are able to hurt her because she cares what they think. Once she has her own interests, their behavior won’t matter so much to her.

If her depression continues, you may want to see about some counseling for her.
Good luck.


Dear Sara, I’m worried that my oldest son will stop hanging out with his younger brother…

Dear Sara,

I have two boys, Ethan age 12 and Eric age 9. Up until this year, they have been buddies and played together. Now Ethan wants to hang out with his friends and won’t include his younger brother. I don’t want to see Ethan do this to his brother but I can understand that he wants his own friends and interests. What can I do so that both boys will be happy?


Dear Kevin,

Ethan has been good to Eric for a lot of years and you should praise him for this. As he gets older it is very natural for him to have different interests. This doesn’t make the situation any easier for Eric however. Eric still needs some attention from his big brother. To just shut him out totally is a big loss for him.

Since Ethan can’t be expected to spend all of his time with his brother then Eric needs his own set of friends or activities that he can enjoy without his brother. Since he was dependent on his brother for friend and entertainment, it may be difficult for him to make friends with kids his own age. You may want to find some activities that will keep him occupied and give him a chance to find his own group of friends. You could try martial arts or some kind of sports. Once he finds boys his own age to have as buddies, he won’t miss the companionship of his brother so much.


Dear Sara, My Four Year Old Zoe has Become an Absolute Terror…

Dear Sara,

My beautiful little four year old Zoe has become an absolute terror. She is very demanding and kicks and screams when she doesn’t get her way. I try to set limits for her but she has figured out that she can run to her Dad and he will give in and get her what she wants. He said that he doesn’t like the way she acts but continues to give in to her. How can I make Zoe behave if he won’t cooperate?


Dear Lanie,

Even really young children have a way of figuring out how to get what they want. They will usually do what works best for them. In Zoe’s case she has found that having a temper tantrum works really well and that if all else fails, Dad is a soft touch.

This behavior didn’t happen overnight and it won’t go away overnight. Zoe needs to know that her temper tantrums will be ignored and that Dad will back you up. This means that you and Zoe’s Dad are going to have to be on the same page. Is he really soft hearted or just taking the way of least resistance?

Sit down (away from Zoe’s hearing) and have a talk with him and find out why Zoe can manipulate him like this. Let him know that it is in Zoe’s best interest that he cooperate with you on some kind of discipline approach. If he is still uncooperative, then try to get him to go to counseling with you to sort this out. Your discipline efforts will continue to be sabotaged if you can’t get him in your corner.


Dear Sara, My son is 18 Months Old Now but Hasn’t Said Mama or Dada yet…

Dear Sara,

My son is 18 months old now and doesn’t talk. He plays with his toys and seems interested in cartoons on TV. The other children his age seem to say some words but so far he hasn’t even said mama or dada. Should I be worried?


Dear Sandy,

AT 18 months children often can say a few words but it’s not unusual for some children to be later than this. Is he babbling or making noises in general? If he isn’t making some kind of effort toward speech, you might want to talk to your pediatrician about having his hearing tested.

If his hearing is OK, you might try reading to him and see if he is interested in the characters in the books. Point them out and say simple words to him. Repeat things over and over and this will give him time to learn them. When you walk with him , point out things and say the words to him. Be patient with him, he may just be waiting until he is more sure of himself.


Dear Sara, My 17 year old daughter wants to go on a trip with her friends but my instinct is to say no…

Dear Sara,

Summer vacation is here and my 17 year old daughter Mackenzie wants to go to Florida with her girlfriends. She’s a pretty good kid and I would like to trust her but my gut instinct is to say no. Should I trust her to behave when there are no adults around to keep an eye on her?


Dear David,

You may be taking a big chance by letting Mackenzie go off on her own. The idea of a trip to Florida is to get out there and party. Even if she is basically a good kid, Mackenzie may feel the peer pressure and go along with the rest of the crowd.

Once teens start to drink then everything seems fun and possible. With enough alcohol, Mackenzie could decide to have casual sex, or drive a car and be involved in a serious accident. She might even end up in jail for some of her antics.

I think that your uneasiness is because you know what could happen to her. She could behave perfectly well but you would have a lot of guilt if something bad happened to her.

Kids have a way of trying to get around parental regulations and one of them is to say “all of my friends are going.” In this instance, I would say to trust your gut instinct. If she and her friends want to go, then they need a parental chaperone.


Dear Sara, My 15 year old son is refusing to go back to school…

Dear Sara,

My 15 year old son is refusing to go to school. He missed a couple of weeks last month because he was sick and has some makeup work to do. Now he won’t go to school and won’t talk to anybody about it. He is angry at his Mom and has hit her. My job takes me out of town so I’m not there to physically make him go to school. I have tried to call him but he won’t talk to me. I am thankful just to have a job in this economy. What can we do to help him get back to school?


Dear Brad,

It sounds like your son is in a whole lot of pain and really needs help here. If you and his Mom haven’t talked to the school counselor, this would be a place to start trying to figure things out. If your son is struggling to keep up in school, maybe he needs a tutor for a while. If he is depressed, you could have him see a therapist or even a psychiatrist for an evaluation and medication.

Another serious issue is that he is taking his anger and frustration out on his mother and hitting her. This is not acceptable behavior and as his father you need to see that he knows this and has some consequences for being abusive to her.

It appears that your son can’t easily talk about what his problems are and just gets angry and frustrated. See if you can get him to write down five things that he would like to see changed and the reasons that these changes would help him return to school. Give everything that he writes down very serious consideration, no matter how it sounds to you. Your son is extremely unhappy and needs your help right now.

Good luck,


Dear Sara, My son has a terrible wine colored birth mark on the side of his face…

Dear Sara,

I have a two month old baby who has a terrible wine colored birth mark on the side of his face and down his neck. He is a normal healthy beautiful baby other than this. The doctor has said that he can have surgery to remove it eventually but not until he is older. I am worried about how people will react to it, especially other children. What can I do to prepare him for this.

Ann Marie

Dear Ann Marie,

You are very lucky to have a healthy baby. If you accept him and love him as he is he will go out into the world with confidence. Your attitude will make all the difference. Other children may react negatively toward him at first but if he has been loved and accepted at home he will be able to deal with their looks and questions. If he isn’t worried about it others will come to accept him as he is.

It’s up to you to let him know he is a valuable person although his looks may be somewhat different. If you think he is beautiful then he will believe it too.


Dear Sara, My 16 year old daughter confides in me but rejects my advice I give her…

Dear Sara,

My 16 year old daughter Julia will confide in me from time to time and when I try to help her solve whatever problem she has, she rejects any advice I give her. I want to help but I feel frustrated. How do I handle this?


Dear Michelle,

What you need to be is a good listener. You can try to rephrase what Julia says and repeat it back to her. This is called active listening. Don’t repeat back verbatim or she will be annoyed. Apparently she just needs a sounding board and someone who will listen.

Try not to be judgemental and if she comes up with a good solution be sure and let her know that you approve of her decision. Julia needs your approval but she also needs to practice her own problem solving skills.

The teen years are a time for kids to learn to think for themselves. They are forming their own identities and are working on gaining independence. It’s important to try to let them work out their problems within safe parameters.

If you want Julia to continue confiding in you, then it’s important that you keep her confidences. Once you share her problems with someone else she will no longer feel safe in sharing them with you. If Julia is coming to you to share her problems, this is a sign that you have a good relationship with her. Your job right now is to learn to be a good listener.