Do I need to worry about how much my daughter weighs?

Dear Sara,

My three year old daughter seems to be too heavy. She isn’t really fat, she’s just solid. She seems to have lots of energy and doesn’t stop until nap time or bed time. She eats a lot but I feel like she runs it all off. Do I need to be worried about how much she weighs?


Dear Zoe,

At her age you have control over how much she eats. You buy the groceries and you can buy things that are low calorie and healthier for her. Stay away from things like ice cream, donuts and potato chips. Your daughter will eat these kinds of things whether she is hungry or not.

Toddlers need about 1000-1400 calories a day. You can use this as a general guide. Some days it could be more or less. Vegetables and fruit have few calories unless they have lots of butter or cream sauce. You might try to watch the sodium count as well. Milk is good for her but you could try for a lower fat content. She needs protein so meat, poultry and fish are all good for for her but stay away from fried.

What you really want to do is set a pattern of eating that she will follow for the rest of her life. She needs to be used to the healthy foods that will keep her from being obese and all of the health problems that go with obesity.


How do I break the news to my kids that we no longer have extra spending money?

Dear Sara,

Our family has really had to cut back because I lost my job and I am staying at home now. We have gone from a two income family with money to put away for retirement to a one income family just barely getting by. We don’t have any money to entertain our two kids because we need the money for groceries. What can we do to keep our kids occupied and happy this summer?


Dear Holly,

The best entertainment you can give the kids is the gift of your time and attention. They can play games on their own but it’s much more fun if Mom and Dad join in. Drag out the board games and play Monopoly or one of their other favorites.

You’ll probably be eating at home more because it’s less expensive. When the weather is good get out and have a picnic or have a cookout and let them invite their friends. Take your kids for a walk around the neighborhood. It’s a good exercise and gives you a chance to interact with your neighbors.

Another family project you might get you kids involved in is a family garden. Fresh vegetables from your own garden are incredible. Let your kids help pick out seeds and plant them. Most things come up fairly readily. If you have an excess, it’s fairly easy to freeze vegetables. You will be surprised at how much better they are than what you pay good money for at the grocery store.

Your kids might remember this summer more than any other because they had the benefit of spending more time with you.


I just found out that my son has Autism. How do I help him to take care of himself?

Dear Sara,

My three year old son Robbie is a beautiful child. He has blonde hair and big blue eyes with long lashes. I have known for some time that he hasn’t been interacting as he should be and he has recently been diagnosed with autism. My heart is broken but I feel that I need to be practical now and plan for his future. I won’t always be around to take care of him, so what does he do then if he can’t take care of himself?


Dear Sandy,

How sad for you. You are right that there is no cure for autism and that Robbie will grow up to be an autistic adult and as a parent he will still be your responsibility.

Some people with autism may achieve some degree of normalcy and can function in society but the majority of even high functioning autistic adults live at home or in residential facilities.

Early childhood treatment and training are extremely important. The more independent you can make Robbie the better off he will be. Try to develop his strengths and talents and interests with treatment and therapies.
After about age 18 when public school ends, Robbie will be totally in your care. Even if he is somewhat independent, he will still need your supervision. Now is the time to consider what will happen to Robbie if something happens to you. You may want to talk to an estate planner who is familiar with these kind of problems and consider who you would like to function as

Robbie’s guardian. If he is unable to care for himself you will need an insurance policy that will cover his place to stay.

You might want to be active in an organization that supports autism treatment and awareness. To find one in your area, you can look for Families for Effective Autism Treatment at www.feat. org.

Good luck.


How do I get my son to be more dependent on himself?

Dear Sara,

My oldest son is graduating from college this year. We have paid for all of it and he does not seem to be looking for a job. When he comes home on breaks, he eats and sleeps and hangs out with his friends and I’m expected to cook and do laundry as if he was still ten years old. He seems really immature to me. What can I do to motivate him to get on with his life and be more independent?


Dear Jill,

You will probably have to set some limits and have some house rules when he comes home after graduation. Give him a time limit to find a job and if he hasn’t found one during that time, let him know that he will have to take any available job in the area such as delivering pizza or working at the local burger place or he will have to find another place to live. You have done your part in raising him and it’s time for him to take some responsibility.

If you continue to take care of him, he’s not going to grow up. Your goal is to encourage him to be self sufficient. It’s time for a little tough love.


How do I break the news to my son that my boyfriend and I are getting serious?

Dear Sara,

I have a thirteen year old son Gavin. His father died in a car accident five years ago. I have a boyfriend now and things are beginning to get serious. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield. I don’t know if Gavin can handle this. He was very attached to his father. How can I handle this?


Dear Stella,

Thirteen is a time for change. At this age teens are still attached to family but moving off into their own world. Hopefully your new partner will be understanding of Gavin’s feelings and will be willing to try to build a relationship with him. Try to find things that you all like to do so that Gavin will be included. Even simple things like watching TV and eating pizza can help. Don’t try to push it farther than Gavin wants to go and don’t expect your new man to be a parent. Gavin will surely resent this. He may also be reluctant to form a bond with someone he sees as not being permanent. This may be realistic in his mind as he has already lost one parent.

Give Gavin an opportunity to talk about his feelings. He may or may not be able to do this. If you decide that he angry or sad you may want to try some counseling. If you can go slowly and not try to force things between your two men you may have a better chance of getting them to relate to each other.

Good luck.


How do I teach my kids to respect my house rules?

Dear Sara,

I have two children ages nine and eleven and have primary custody of them. Their mother has them every other weekend and she lets them do whatever they want. When they come back to me they are disrespectful and unruly. I can’t talk to their mother as our communication has completely broken down. How can I deal with this situation?


Dear Craig,

Your children will learn that you have rules and consequences even though this doesn’t apply when they visit their mother. Kids have to go through a lot of adjustment when their parents separate and often times are depressed, angry and fearful.

Your first rule needs to be to try not to make nasty comments about your ex in front of your kids. She’s their Mom and they still love her. You may need to vent but do it out of earshot of your kids.

If you set up rules and consequences in your home and enforce them consistently and fairly, your children will respond to this even if they don’t have this in their Mom’s house. It may take a while with privileges being taken away for disrespect and talking back for your children to learn that you won’t tolerate their behavior but in the long run they will feel more secure.

You may deal with some guilt and feel sorry for them, but your discipline will make it easier for them and for you if they know what to expect. Don’t give up.


How do I control what my teens are using the computer for?

Dear Sara,

I am very concerned about the time my two preteen girls spend on the internet. This seems to be a big part of their life. I try to limit their time but they say they need the internet for school and I know the time they spend on it is not all for school. I am also worried about the internet predators. Things seem so out of my control at this point. They almost seem addicted. What can I do to keep control of this?


Dear Sandra,

You’re the Mom! You do have control. Your kids seem to be conning you into letting them do what they want. You need to go on to their computers and screen the sites your children are viewing. Let your kids know about internet predators and that they should keep their personal information private. Warn them that people aren’t always what they seem. If someone starts asking personal questions or makes your kids feel unsafe, have them log off immediately and let you know. If someone asks to meet them, even if they seem like a good person, the girls need to be aware that this could be a predator. Adolescent girls are looking for love and are very vulnerable.
Police say that in some cases predators are using the information that kids post on line to find kids. One internet safety expert said that for a pedophile, it can be one stop shopping by catalogue.

You might encourage your kids to find activities that will take up some of their free time. If kids don’t have anything else to do they will entertain themselves with their computer.


How can I get help taking care of my baby?

Dear Sara,

I have a new baby and she cries all of the time. I am exhausted and depressed. Sometimes I have to grit my teeth just to take care of her and I feel angry because I can’t rest. My husband works long hours and we are financially dependent on his salary. I feel really alone and I need help.

What can I do?


Dear Brittany,

The good part is that this stage in a baby’s life doesn’t last forever. The bad part is that you sound very much alone here.

You need to talk to your husband about the way you are feeling. This isn’t good for you or your baby girl. You can’t do your best when you are exhausted. If your husband can’t get time off from work to help you out (many companies give men equal time for maternity leave) then think about hiring someone to come in a few hours a day just so you can have some time for yourself or just time to sleep. This is not an unreasonable demand.

Is your mother available to help out? Even if she lives in another state, most Moms would be thrilled to help care for her new grandchild.

You do need someone to help out but you also need someone to talk to about your anger and depression. Let your doctor know how you are feeling and ask him about getting some professional mental health care. It sounds like you may have postpartum depression which can be serious. Don’t try to handle all of this alone. Your husband may be so involved in work that he is unable to see how desperate you are. Get his attention and be very assertive in letting him know how you feel.

Good luck.


How do I get my son to stop throwing temper tantrums?

Dear Sara,

My son Dylan, age four, has been having temper tantrums since he was about two years old. He lies on the floor and kicks and screams and sometimes bangs his head until he gets his way. This can go on for ten minutes or more. How can I get him to stop doing this? It gets bad enough that I am afraid for his safety. Please help.


Dear Misty,

Dylan is doing what works for him. He has found out that if he keeps on long enough and makes you scared enough, that you will eventually give in and let him have his way. He is not only getting his way but he is getting your attention as well. Children crave attention even if it is negative attention.

Your plan needs to be to give Dylan attention when he is behaving like you want him to behave and ignore the temper tantrums. He may very well escalate his behavior. Your goal is to remain calm and ignore his tantrum.

This has worked for Dylan in the past so he won’t be quick to give it up.
He may even try this behavior on other people.

When he finally calms down (without being rewarded by attention or getting his way) make sure that he gets attention for his positive behavior. If he gets attention by sitting with you and being read to or helping you make cookies or other things that he finds enjoyable, he will eventually give up his tantrums.

Dylan has gotten his way by having tantrums for two years so it will take a while for him to get the idea that they don’t work anymore. Don’t give up.


My niece needs someone to be a good influence on her, how can I help?

Dear Sara,

My brother’s daughter is sixteen. He doesn’t pay much attention to her and she is running wild. She wears lots of makeup and tight low cut shirts and goes out whenever she wants to. I don’t know how she’s doing in school but at least she is still going to school. She’s cute and pretty and has always been a favorite of mine. Her Mom isn’t in the picture anymore. Is there any way I can help her?


Dear Nora,

Sometimes when a girl’s Dad doesn’t pay much attention to her she will seek attention from the guys around her. You could have a talk with your brother and let him know what you think but he may not appreciate your interference. You seem fond of this girl so why don’t you try to see if you can be a good influence on her.

Maybe you could invite her to spend the weekend with you and do some girl things together. If you took her shopping maybe you could help her find some clothes that are a little less revealing and she might like a makeover at the cosmetic counter.

It’s really not a good idea to be critical of a teen because they really think they know everything. Just try to head her in the right direction. Since she doesn’t have a Mom at home she might need someone to confide in. Try to be a good listener and keep her confidences.

She needs you.