Child Has Imaginary Friend

Dear Sara,

My four year old son talks about his friend that only he can see. He can describe the friend who seem to have black hair, is very short and has a long nose and black eyes. Sometimes the friend has on a red shorts and a blue shirt. When my son goes to bed I can often hear him talking to this friend he calls Jonah. Is this something I should be worried about?

Dear Sherry,

It’s not too unusual for a young child to have an imaginary friend. If this is the only thing out of the ordinary that your son imagines then you probably don’t need to worry. Does he have other children to play with? If not then you might want to enroll him in some kind of preschool program so that he can have some real friends. He may be trying to compensate for a lack of interaction with other kids.

He should outgrow this imaginary friend by age six or seven but if he doesn’t you might want to have him evaluated by a professional. On the positive side he could grow up to be a great writer with this kind of vivid imagination.

Should My Child Repeat 1st Grade?

Dear Sara,

My son is seven years old now and big for his age. He completed first grade last year and his teacher recommended that he repeat first grade. I really think that this would be hard for him socially. He is going to be bigger than any child in his class. Should I go on and let him go into second grade and try to coach him at home or let him go through first grade again?

Dear Karen,

Even though your son is ahead of the other kids physically, he may be immature mentally. He could need some extra time to catch up or he could be struggling through school for a long time. However, a child’s social needs are just as important as his educational needs. It’s really difficult for a child to be the “odd man out.”

You know your own child best. Is he capable of sticking to extra work at home or is he lazy and easy going and doesn’t really care if he does well in school or not? If you think he would be capable of keeping up with some extra work then let him go on to second grade but if you see him as immature, he could be better off in first grade again.

My Son Is Testing Me

Dear Sara,

My seven year old son has to be told four or five times to do something. It’s almost like a game to him. He will be standing close to me and appears to hear me but he just stands there when I tell him to do something. Only when I finally get aggravated will he move. He’s a little immature but other than that he seems normal. How can I get him to listen without getting physical?

Dear Emily,

It does sound like your son is playing with you. You might want to tell him you are going to tell him one and time only. If he doesn’t move by the time you count to three then he will face a consequence.

I’m pretty sure he will test you on this. For a consequence you could sit him on a chair in the hall or place him where you can watch him. Make sure to keep him away from activities for ten minutes.  You could also limit his TV time or some other thing he likes to do. Just be consistent and don’t back down.

There may be a possibility of hearing loss or ADD, so you might want to have him evaluated for these things if you continue having problems.

Leaving Children For Work

Dear Sara,

I have two babies ages two and three (the second one was not planned.) They are very active and into everything. I have to watch them every minute. Even at nap time they will get up and find something in their room to get into like pull things out of the drawers. I had planned to go back to work but have decided to wait a while. I am so tired but I’m afraid they will get hurt if I put them in daycare plus I don’t think we can afford it if I’m not working. How can I get a break?

Dear Alma,

First you need to take care of yourself. It sounds like you could be anemic or maybe depressed. Why don’t you make an appointment with your physician and see if there is a problem that could be helped.

I know that you are afraid to leave them but even a couple of hours a week at a daycare or a mother’s day out would be a break for you.  Also try to get your two little ones out in a stroller and walk around the neighborhood on days when the weather is good. They will enjoy it and the exercise will be good for you physically and emotionally.

All you can do is baby proof everything and do the best you can for now. They grow up really fast.

Pushing Piano Lessons

Dear Sara,

I have always loved the piano and still play almost every day. I have a son twelve and a daughter eight and started them on piano lessons when they were six years old. I insist that they practice every day and they are making good progress, however, they both complain constantly that they don’t want to do this anymore. My son is on the school baseball team and my daughter wants to spend time with her neighborhood friends. My husband says let them do their own thing, but I think that the discipline and learning music is good for them. What do you think?

Dear Sheila,

You love the music and playing the piano so you don’t understand how difficult it is to continue lessons and practice when you don’t really care for it. Your children seem to resent the time they have to spend and don’t really enjoy the piano like you do. Your kids are trying to tell you that they need to have a choice and you should listen.

I know your kids are young and you feel that they are making a mistake, but your husband may be right on this issue. Even if your kids don’t play the piano, I think they will be happy with a home filled with your music and remember it always.

Wild Teenage Son

Dear Sara,

My fourteen year old son is completely wild. I have no control over him at all. His father left us when he was five and he has done whatever he wanted since then. If I don’t give him what he wants, he hits me and thinks that the support money his father sends should be all his to spend. I love my son but this is getting to be more than I can deal with. How should I handle this?

Dear Edie,

Your son shouldn’t be allowed to abuse you. If he does it again, call the police. He’s a bully and learning fast that this is the way to get what he wants. It’s teaching him that it’s OK to hit a woman.

His father needs to assume some responsibility here. Maybe this is what your son wants and needs, attention from his father. If this isn’t possible then let your son know that if he doesn’t behave that you will go to court and put him in states care. This is called tough love. Your son seems to be intent on destroying his relationship with you. If his goal is to be with his father and his father rejects him, things could get worse.

If possible find a therapist that you can talk to and see if you can find some better ways to deal with your son. Good luck

Teenage Daughter Afraid Of School

Dear Sara,

My fifteen year old daughter is refusing to go to school. I have tried everything and she just won’t go. She either reads or plays on her computer and stays in her room and doesn’t want to talk about it. The only thing she has said is that she feels really nervous when she has to go to school. What can I do to help her?

Dear Laura,

At this point your daughter probably needs some professional help. Sounds like she is really anxious and could have a disorder called social phobia where any social situation makes her really uncomfortable. There are medications that will help her anxiety but you could also consider hypnosis. She may be worried about using hypnosis but it’s very relaxing and not scary at all.

Her social phobia needs to be addressed right away. Ask your family doctor or pediatrician if they can recommend someone in the mental health field who is qualified to help a teen with this condition.

Good luck.

Worn Out New Mom Needs Advice

Dear Sara,

I have two beautiful three month old twin boys. One is an easy going baby with an easy  disposition while the other seems to have colic and cries for three or four hours at a time. I am totally worn out. I can’t seem to get them on the same routine. When I took them back for their six week checkup my pediatrician said that colic was temporary and my baby would soon outgrow it. What am I going to do until then?
-Mary Ellen

Dear Mary Ellen,

Sounds like you need a break for a little while just so that you can have a rest from the constant pressure of needing to take care of one or the other of your babies. Do you have a Mom or sister who could take over for a couple of hours so that you  can take a get  out for a while?

There are some things you can try that might help with the colic. When you give him his bottle try one with a smaller hole in the nipple so that he is not swallowing air. It also helps to sit him up rather than having him lie back. Also burp him often.

Lots of babies seem to be soothed by a swing or being carried around in the kind of baby carrier that you wear. You could also try swaddling him or put a warm water bottle on his tummy. I’m not a big fan of pacifiers but if it works use it.

You could ask your pediatrician if there are any meds that might help or maybe a different formula. Babies grow up pretty fast. Hang in there.

My Daughter Is A Tattle Tale

Dear Sara,

My five year old daughter has become a terrible tattle tale. We live in a neighborhood with lots of children and she tattles to me and to the other kids parents. The other kids are becoming wary of playing with her. I’ve told her to stop doing this, but she keeps doing it. What can I do to make her stop?

Dear Jan,

Your daughter must get some kind of reward for this behavior, probably attention. Hopefully you can get rid of the behavior before she starts school because she certainly will have problems with the kids at school if she continues.

One way to extinguish the behavior would be to ignore it. Give the least amount of attention to this behavior that you can. Try to talk to the other mother in your neighborhood to see if they would cooperate with you and try to ignore her tattling as well.

Try to give her your attention in other ways. Pay attention when she talks to you about other things and engage her in a little conversation. Plan for some time every day that you can do something together like read or cook. For some reason or other she needs more attention that she’s getting.

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.