Should Children Work Through College?

Dear Sara,

My sixteen-year-old daughter has an offer to have a job this summer as a waitress in a restaurant. She can also do this part time when school starts. She is really excited to be earning money but I am not so sure about letting her go to work. I really want her to go to college and I worry that this could take up time that she needs to study. I guess part of me feels that this is too soon for her to be out on her own working. Do you think sixteen is too young to have a job?

Dear Steve,

I think you have to consider how disappointed your daughter will be if you don’t allow her to take this opportunity. Sometimes as parents we have to pick our battles. You could let her try it this summer and see how it goes.

Does your daughter have plans for the money that she will earn? You could make a condition that she should put a portion of her money into savings for her college tuition. College is getting to be very expensive. You could also insist that she keep up a certain grade level when she goes back to school. If she is very social she may decide that her job is getting in the way of her social life. If she can handle everything a job could be a good experience for her.

Letting Children Have Pets

Dear Sara,

I have two daughters ages ten and twelve. They have brought home a stray dog and are totally enamored by her. She’s cute and friendly and makes herself at home here. I really don’t want a dog. I know there will be muddy foot prints and pee stains on my carpets and if the girls don’t take her out and feed her I will have to do this. Should I let them have this dog?


Dear Avery,

You admit that this dog is cute and friendly so you must like her a little bit. It’s going to be difficult for the girls to give her up now that they have become attached to her so why not give her a chance.

There are some things to think about though. Is she a stray or just lost from her owners? You might want to check around your neighborhood to see if anyone has lost a pet. Has she been neutered? If you keep her you certainly don’t want to deal with puppies as well. A trip to the vet is a good idea to make sure she is healthy and that she gets her shots and is neutered if she needs it.
Let your girls know that they will be responsible for the care of their new friend. The responsibility will be good for them. You can let them know that if they don’t take care of their new pet she will have to go.


School Dance Concerns

Dear Sara,

Our fifteen year old daughter wants to go to a school dance with a group of her friends. One of the boys can drive and plans to take them and bring them home. She said that the dance is over at ten and they will probably go out to eat afterward but she doesn’t know what time they will get home. Should we take her and pick her up? She said that she would rather stay home than do that.

Dear Ron,

There are a few questions that you could ask yourself to decide whether or not to let your daughter go out with this group. The first one might be “has my daughter given me any reason not to trust her?” Does she ever lie to you to get around your rules? Is she usually dependable? What do you know about the driver of the car? Is he a safe driver or has he been known to be reckless? You might want to talk to his parents. Are there drugs or alcohol in the neighborhood or school? The police department might know about this.

The problem is that you can’t protect her every minute and she will eventually have to learn to use her own judgement. If everything checks out and you feel that the situation is not too risky you might want to consider letting  her go with her friends but give her the option of calling you to bring her home if she feels unsafe or uncomfortable.

Abortion Pressure From Husband

Dear Sara,

I’ve been married a little over a year and have just found my perfect job after looking for quite a while. Now I find that I am pregnant. I really wasn’t planning this at all. We had decided to wait until we were established in our jobs and had saved money for a down payment on a house. My husband blames me and wants me to get an abortion. I just can’t do that. How can I deal with all of this?

Dear Joy,

I’m sure that you husband is disappointed that his plan has failed but I would guess that he will eventually adjust to the fact that he is going to be a father.

It seems that these days great numbers of women have babies and a career as well. It won’t be easy for you especially if your husband is not supportive but you know in your heart that this is what you want.

It may take longer to achieve your goals but you wouldn’t be happy if you went along with your husband’s wishes and had an abortion. I know you haven’t been married long, but you might want to consider marriage counseling if your husband continues to think the pregnancy is all your fault.

Thieving Child

Dear Sara,

My furnace needed work and the repair man brought his son with him. He was about six or seven years old. The boy followed his father around for most of the time but came in the kitchen asking for water. As I was getting the water the boy reached into my purse and took our a handful of change. I opened his hand and told him it was bad to steal. I took him to his father and let him know what happened. The father asked the boy if he took the money and the boy said “no.” The father became angry at me for accusing his son. I just told him to keep the boy with him at all times and left. Was there something else I should have said or done to make this father more aware of what his son is capable of?

Dear Rebecca,

You probably did all that you could do. The father should have taken your word for it as you had no reason to lie. Sometimes when you love someone very very much, you tend to believe what they say no matter what others tell you. If his son continues to take things that don’t belong to him, this  man will eventually  see that his son is not perfect. It will probably take some time.

The other scenario may be that stealing is something that is normal in their family. In that case I would think you may want another furnace repair person. Lets hope this was a one time incident.

Shy Daughter Has Difficulty Making Friends

Dear Sara,

I have two daughters ages five and seven. My seven year old seems to have difficulty making friends. She’s overweight and a bit shy but it seems to me she’s just not interested and would rather be by herself. She gets along well with her sister who is fairly outgoing but doesn’t attempt to make contact with anybody else. I think friends are important. How can I help her?

Dear Laura,

You are right that friends are important. Everyone needs someone to laugh with and share their joys and sorrows. At your daughter’s age friendship isn’t too deep but it’s an important learning experience.

It seems that attractive kids have more self confidence and seem to make friends more easily, so one thing that you could do is to help her change her physical appearance. If she is eating too much between meals or snacking on candy bars, don’t buy high calorie food and offer healthy between meal snacks. You could also try to find some after school activities that would interest her so that she can burn off some calories and meet new people.

Your daughter may not care about how she looks but looking better may help her self esteem and self confidence. Is your daughter unhappy or depressed? Try to talk to her and listen to see how she feels but don’t make it seem that she is somehow at fault for not having friends. Maybe she can tell you what she needs.

Half-Sibling Rivalry

Dear Sara,

I have a twelve year old daughter from my first marriage and a two and four year old from my second marriage. The problem is that my twelve year old hates my two little ones. She screams at them and will smack them if they get into her things. I really would like for everyone to get along and I could sure use her help if she was more patient. What can I do to have some peace around here?

Dear Darcy,

You have to realize that your twelve year old has a lot to deal with. She was your only child for about eight years, she experienced the breakup of your first marriage which is difficult for a child and now she has to deal with two younger siblings which take up most of your time while she is probably starting to go through puberty.

Your daughter needs your time and attention just as much as the two little ones and she is probably resentful of them. I’m sure you have your hands full but try to make some time for her. Ask your husband to watch the little ones while you and your daughter spend some time together doing things she likes to do. She’s be off on her own soon so make sure you build a relationship with her now.

Good luck.

Learning to Respect Pets

Dear Sara,

I have a problem that is very distressing to me. My six year old son can be extremely cruel to animals. I have seen him kick a dog out of his way and sling a cat around by its tail. I am very tender hearted and have tried to tell him that this is really wrong but it doesn’t sink in. He wants a pet but as long as I see things like this the answer will be “no.” How can I get across to him that this is wrong?
-Leigh Ann

Dear Leigh Ann,

It sounds like there have been more than the two incidents that you have mentioned. If this is true then your son could have a mental health issue that would need to be dealt with by a psychiatrist.

If there were no other incidents then he could be a typical six year old who hasn’t developed the ability to feel sympathetic toward other living creatures. If he really wants a pet you might take him to see animals from the humane society in your area who need a good home. If he can find a pet to love then maybe he will feel empathy for other animals.

Let him know that if he abuses his new pet that you will take it away. Continue to let him know that pets can feel pain the same way he does. I hope that you can help him feel empathy for his new pet and other animals.

Letting Children Go

Dear Sara,

I went to my granddaughter’s graduation last Saturday. A local minister gave a speech and it really upset me. He said that parents need to let their children go and not interfere in their lives. I just don’t think this is good advice. Children need help and guidance. Do you think this is right?

Dear Mary,

Certainly children need their parents help and advice. This has to start the day they are born. We need to pass along out knowledge, morals and values from the beginning and hope that these will be ingrained in them so that they will grow into responsible adults.

As our children grow and mature we give them more and more responsibility for their own lives. We really don’t want them dependent on us forever. If that’s the case, we probably haven’t done a good job of raising them.

It’s really hard to see your kids make mistakes. Sometimes it happens without your help or advice. It’s all part of growing and learning. So when is our job of parenting done? Every family is different. Every child is different. High school graduation is a turning point and some kids are ready for independence and some are not. Every family is unique and different and has to do what’s best for their child.

Is ‘Zoning Out’ A Problem?

Dear Sara,
My youngest son Zach is nine years old. Sometimes he has staring spells and kind of zones out for a while. Other than this he seems OK and is doing well in school and socially. Is this something to be worried about?



Dear Ken,
This sounds like Zach could be having something called absence seizure. This is a type of epilepsy that affects mainly kids. Staring spells are the main symptoms. An incident usually lasts for a few seconds and ends as quickly as it begins. The child generally isn’t even aware that the seizure has occurred and has no after effects.
The good news is most kids with this condition usually outgrow it. You might want to make his pediatrician aware of Zach’s “zoning out” spells so that he can keep an eye on it.