Debating Marriage

Dear Sara,

My girlfriend and I have been living together for three years. We have an eighteen-month daughter. I haven’t felt ready for marriage so I haven’t asked her. She hasn’t mentioned it so I felt like we were OK the way we were. She met another guy at work and has had lunch with him several times. She said there is nothing going on but I don’t know whether to believe her or not. I don’t want things to change. How can I keep her from seeing him?

Dear Riley,

Since you have not made any commitment to your girlfriend even though she has had your baby, you might want to ask yourself if you have any right to keep her from seeing someone else. Maybe she has been willing to put up with your lack of commitment because of the baby but she may wish for a more stable relationship.

If you are still not ready for marriage you can’t complain about her seeing someone else. You need to think about what is keeping you from asking this woman to marry you.

Controlling Best Friend

Dear Sara,

My twelve-year-old son has a best friend who bosses him around so much that I don’t know how he stands it. I really don’t like the way this kid acts but he’s my son’s best friend so I don’t say anything. My son is shy and doesn’t make friends easily so I can see why he hangs on to this kid. How can I get him to take up for himself?

Dear Margaret,

This is a battle your son has to fight for himself. Your son might think of you as interfering or controlling if you try to help. Try not to make comments about your disapproval of the way this kid treats your son. He may value the friendship even though it is one-sided. The problem might not be as obvious to him as it is to you. When the friendship begins to wear down because of the bossiness or other things, your son will do what he feels best. Don’t be too quick to get in there and try to fix things.

Running Away From An Abusive Relationship

Dear Sara,

I got married at nineteen to a very rich man. I was young and pretty and he lost interest when I got pregnant and gained some weight. He never really paid much attention to his son but when he decided to divorce me, he wanted his son. He made up stories about me and said I was an unfit mother. He had enough money that I knew he would win in court so I took the baby and ran. I had friends who helped me get a new ID and I’ve made a life for myself and my son. I am constantly afraid he will find me. My son is twelve now and asking about his father. What should I do?

Dear Ellie,

You have raised your son by yourself for twelve years. Your ex might still be interested in his son or not. You should consider telling your son the whole story so he won’t be shocked if his father shows up. Contact a lawyer and see what he or she has to say about your rights and follow their advice.
You may need some counseling for you and your son after you let him know about how you fled from his father. He needs to know that his father may claim custody and he might not be able to see you anymore. This could be a very difficult position for him to be in.

I hope everything works out for the best.

Changing Attitude In Granddaughter

Hi Sara,

I have a beautiful four-year-old granddaughter who has done a complete 360 in regards to listening and behaving as she used to. My daughter is a single Mom and gets no help, not from me even as we do not live close. We wanted to blame preschool but is that really an answer? My granddaughter can be rude, sneaky and bossy. This is sort of sudden and nothing has really changed. I was blaming my daughter for giving her things to make up for her father walking out on them as an excuse. Taking away her things does not work because she will say it’s OK I’ll get another one.” She has had many full-blown temper tantrums in stores and restaurants. She does a whole lot better with others than her Mom. Any help? Anything you can tell us would really help.

Dear Anna,

From what you say about your granddaughter it seems like she is really angry at her mother and it seems that this came about in a really short time. She is acting out to let her Mom know that she is angry. You say nothing has really changed but you don’t live there to observe what is going on. Does your daughter have a new boyfriend? Is your grandchild able to see her father from time to time? It sounds like she is letting everyone know she’s not happy. Sometimes when kids are being sexually molested and warned not to tell this is the only way they can communicate. She needs a checkup with her pediatrician if you suspect anything at all. This is one thing you can check out. Try to think of anything else that might have happened recently that might have affected her emotionally. Your granddaughter is definitely being affected by something that is making her act out.

Good luck.

Night Terrors Caused By Trauma

Dear Sara,

Our seven-year-old granddaughter came to live with us two months ago. Her mother left her with a neighbor and didn’t come back for her and she ended up in state care. We found out about it and brought her here to live with us. She has been having night terrors since she came to live with us. We try to comfort her and she seems to calm down after about a half hour. Her pediatrician said she would outgrow her terrors but this is very upsetting for her and for us. Is there anything else we can do?

Dear Thomas,

Your little granddaughter has had a difficult time so it’s not surprising that she is experiencing some anxiety. You are doing the right thing to comfort her as best you can when she is having her night terrors. The best thing you can do for her is to stay calm so that your reaction won’t scare her as well.

There isn’t any treatment for night terrors but sometimes they can be brought on by a child being overly tired. You might consider keeping her to a regular bedtime. If you find that she has a night terror at some kind of regular time during the night you could try waking her right before they begin. This could disrupt her sleep cycle and prevent her night terrors. Your babysitters need to know about your granddaughter’s problems. They need to be aware and have an idea of what to do so that they don’t upset or scare her while they are taking care of her.
You did the right thing taking your granddaughter into your home. She needs your love and the security you bring.

Good luck.

Child’s Changing Personality

Hello Sara,

I have a twelve-year-old son who is very smart sweet and kind. From ages four to ten he was a perfect kid and I was so proud of him. He went from school to swimming practice for two hours and comes home, eats dinner and does his homework and reading before bedtime. This is his routine every day. His only free time is Saturday and Sunday but sometimes there is a swimming competition for Saturday and Sunday. He’s been swimming since he was four and loves to swim.

At age eleven his personality started to change and he wants to watch TV or play games with his friends. He has been crying and screaming and is mad at his sister. He doesn’t care if he brushes his teeth or takes a shower. My husband is starting to be tough on him because of his attitude. He thinks he’s got to have a cell phone, wants me to buy things for him and he thinks his sister gets everything. He seems to listen to everyone but his father and me. What should we do? Is it our fault for being too hard or easy on him? Thank you so much.

Dear Fatima,

It sounds like you have been doing a good job with your son up until now. It may be that he has had little time for himself and is starting to rebel. Why don’t you take some time and let him talk about what’s bothering him? You don’t have to say much, just let him talk. He may be overloaded with things to do and needs a break (not from his homework). If he wants things like cell phones and you can afford them, let him earn them with respectful behavior and some chores.

If he is not taking a bath or brushing his teeth this could be normal or a sign of depression. He will outgrow his rebellious behavior so hang in there.

Good luck.

Misbehaving In Church

Dear Sara,

I was sitting in church with a family across from me with a nine-year-old girl getting her hair braided. She was looking through a glass directly at me and began licking her lips with her tongue in a suggestive way and continued to do so for several minutes. Should I tell her parents or report her to the pastor for inappropriate behavior?

Dear Bob,

Nine-year-olds don’t always know that their behavior is inappropriate. She may be copying something has seen her friends doing. It might be a good idea to say something to her parents so they can let her know that she shouldn’t do that. If she does it again you could have the pastor talk to her. She shouldn’t act like that at all, much less in church.

Child Out Of Wedlock

Dear Sara,

I’ve been married for sixteen years and we have two girls. I just found out that my husband fathered a child before we were married. He and the girl split up before their son was born and the girl eventually married someone else who adopted the boy. The family moved back into our area an he goes to the same school as my girls. He’s a senior and my girls are freshman and sophomore. I met the mother of the boy at a school event and she told me about her son because he was starting to socialize with one of my girls. I am angry with my husband for putting me in this position. He said it was a long time ago and since it was before we married he didn’t think it mattered. What should I do now?

Dear Tara,

The only thing you and your husband can do is explain to your girls that their friend is their half brother. This will be difficult to do but you need to prevent a romantic relationship between one of them and their half brother. The boy’s mother has told you about the relationship so she will need to be honest with him as well. The kids involved will be hurt and disillusioned so family therapy might be necessary I hope your family can work together to get through this.

Trouble Between Siblings

Dear Sara,

I’m very worried about my four-year-old son’s behavior. I’ve just come home from the hospital with my second child, a girl. My son acts as he likes her but when I let him hold her he squeezed her so tight she cried. Her crib is in my bedroom and he went in there an hit her with his toy. She had a mark on her cheek. I have stopped him several times from hitting her. He says that he hits her because she has been a bad girl. I don’t think this is normal behavior but I don’t know what to do. How can I help my son accept his new sister?

Dear Emily,

The first thing to do is protect your new baby girl. You need to make sure that your son can’t go into the baby’s room without your supervision. Either a gate at the doorway or if he can climb a gate a lock on the door.

It’s not too unusual for a child to be jealous of a new baby. Be sure to show your son lots of attention and love so he will feel secure. Let him know that you still love him but you also love his new sister. If his behavior continues or escalates you may need some professional help. For now, keep a close eye on your son when he has access to his new sister.

Married At 16

Dear Sara,

I got married at sixteen because I was pregnant. I wanted my baby very much and decided that marriage was the best option. I’m twenty-four now and my son is in school. We are doing well financially and my son seems to happy and well adjusted. The problem is that I don’t love my husband and am sexually turned off by him. I can’t imagine getting a divorce because I’m so dependent financially and I don’t want to upset my son’s life. How can I go on with a life that is so routine and boring without love?

Dear Stacy,

It sounds like your son is the most important thing in your life and you are determined to do what’s best for him. Your lack of love for your husband is your first problem. You might ask yourself why your feelings for him have left and if there is anything you can do to revive them. Is there anything that he is doing that is turning you off sexually? Maybe some counseling would help you both so that he can see that there is a problem. If he doesn’t know there is a problem he won’t be able to fix it.

You sound like your life is boring and routine. Now that your son is in school you have time to do other things. Think about what your interests are and make goals to get the education that you need to complete them. If you are determined to stay in your marriage you have to make what you to make what you have work. It’s up to you.