Protecting My 16-Year-Old Niece

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, tight low cut shirts and is allowed to go out whenever she wants. I don’t know how she is 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 that 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 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.

Just because her style is different from what you think is proper she may just be following the trends of her time. Maybe this is not as bad as you think.

6-Year-Old Is More Than I Can Handle

Dear Sara,

My son is six years old and is more than I can handle. If he doesn’t get his way, he stomps and screams and can be destructive. He did OK in preschool and kindergarten but now that he is in first grade he bullies the other kids and can be disruptive in class. I have talked to his teacher several times but I can’t be there to try to make him cooperate. His older brother is nothing like this and I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I hope he can stay in school because It is such a relief to have him away from home during the day. What can I do to help my son so he can stay in school?

Dear Christina,

As you can see, each child has their own personality. I’m sure it was a shock for you going from raising a cooperative child to one who seems to enjoy making chaos.

At home you have to be strong and not let him draw you into his little dramas. If he is uncooperative or being disrespectful, don’t hesitate to send him to his room. Even if his room is not an unpleasant place for him to be, he will have time to cool down and you can have some peace.

Don’t feel like you have to give in just because he is having a tantrum. Try to stay calm and do what is best for your son. You are the adult.

The school is responsible for dealing with him during school hours. His behavior is out of your hands during this time. If his teacher isn’t able to get his cooperation in class he may be sent to a school where there are fewer students and more help.

Your son may continue to try to push you to your limit. You can only do your best and try not to let him manipulate you.

Fighting With Depression

Dear Sara,

I am getting really depressed. I have four-year-old twins who are into everything all of the time and my husband’s job keeps him on the road a lot. He goes to places that sound fun and exciting and I can’t go. My house is a mess because I am too tired to clean it. If I complain I get no sympathy at all and all of my friends that I used to hang out with have jobs. I used to be a fun person. How can I get out of this trap?

Dear Darlene,

You sound like you are seriously depressed and nobody is listening to you. It’s up to you to change things. Probably the first thing to do is to see your doctor. She may want to prescribe an antidepressant just to get you out of this black hole you seem to be in. You may want to talk to a therapist so that you will have someone to talk to who can help you figure out some options.

You didn’t really say what you wanted. Is it really important to you to stay home with your twins? Maybe you need a babysitter or daycare for them a few days a week so that you can have a break. Do you want to go back to work so that you can be with adults more? It would probably be difficult with your husband gone so much but your mental health is important.

Apparently you’ve discussed some of these things with your husband and others and have gotten no support. This means that you will have to decide on your own what will work for you. Don’t let this depression go on. Take some steps to get some help.

Good luck.

Mom At 15 Years Old

Dear Sara,

I am fifteen years old and have just found out that I am pregnant. I only had sex once and I didn’t
think that I could get pregnant after one time. I have told my Mom and she and my Dad think I should give the baby up for adoption. Mom has a job and she said she is absolutely not going to raise my child. I think I could go stay with my grandma. She love me a lot and would probably help me, but she’s not so young any more. I feel really alone in this and the boy I was with said the baby isn’t his. I know I can’t do this by myself but what can I do?

Dear Hilary,

This pregnancy is not going to be easy for you. No matter what you end up doing, either way you are going to have a difficult time. The baby you are carrying is going to be part of you and you would probably always yearn for it and wonder about it if you choose to give it up. Being a full time Mom at your age is going to be a lot harder than you think it is even if you had your parents support. You are going to miss out on all the carefree activities your friends will enjoy. I would guess that boys your age would not want to date a girl with a baby.

If you get to keep your baby there will be times when you have to choose between what you want and what is good for your child. You will have to grow up really fast to take on this new responsibility that your little baby will bring. Why don’t you find someone to talk to like a school counselor who can help you through all this.

I hope everything works out for the best. Let me know how you are doing.

Bed Wetting Concerns

Dear Sara,

My son is five years old and still not dry at night. I bought him special underwear at night so we’ve solved the wet bed problem. He’s not happy about it and is really afraid that his friends will find out. I worry about how he feels about himself. Is there any way to help him?
-Mary Jane

Dear Mary Jane,

You could start with a routine checkup by his pediatrician to make sure there is no infection or kidney or bladder difficulties. Don’t put any pressure on your son. Just listen to his feelings and support his efforts to stay dry.

You can ask your son to try to hold his urine longer during the day to help increase his bladder control. Ask him if he wants you to wake him before you go to bed so he can empty his bladder then. If he wants it, you can put an alarm clock by his bed to wake him during the night. Ask him if there are any other things that he thinks might work and let him be in control. If he sees that you are worrying this will put more pressure on him and make him more anxious.

If he hasn’t gained control by age seven or eight he might need to see a specialist or a child psychologist. Hopefully he will have gained control before then.

Good luck,

Daughter’s Poor Self-Esteem

Dear Sara,

I am worried about my fourteen year old daughter. She hates the way she looks and seems to put herself down. I keep telling her that she’s pretty and will get better as time goes by. She says that her friends have “boyfriends” and that the boy she is interested in won’t look at her. The group she hangs out with seem to pair off but they don’t actually go out together. Sometimes she seems depressed but also has periods of time when she seems pretty happy. How can I convince her that she looks fine and I love her no matter what she looks like?

Dear Eileen,

What your daughter is experiencing is pretty typical of her age group. No matter how pretty she is, she doesn’t see herself in that way. Even though you try to reassure her, she can’t see what you are seeing in her. It will take some time for her to feel self confident. In the meantime all you can do is what you are doing now, just trying to reassure her that she looks pretty.

At fourteen the boys often aren’t as mature as the girls and don’t quite know how to behave around them. The young man that your daughter is interested in may be more shy than not interested. Kids often think that they are grownup at fourteen but they still have a lot ahead of them.

Squashing Children’s Bad Habits

Dear Sara,

My five year old has been biting her nails. I try to make her stop but as soon as I leave the room, I know her finger will be in her mouth again. What can I do to get her to stop?

Dear Jennifer,

By paying attention to your daughter’s nail biting you tend to reinforce it. She’s using this to comfort herself, kind of like sucking her thumb and by paying attention to it you maybe bringing it to her attention as well but paying attention to it won’t get her to quit.

Is there something going on right now that is stressful for her? You might try to give her some time to rock with you or a back rub while she watches TV. She may just be a child who is hyperactive and this is the way she calms herself. Nail biting is like any other habit, it will be hard for her to quit. My guess is that if she continues she will quit when she is a teen because she will want to look good.

How To Leave An Abuser

Dear Sara,

I love my husband so much but when he drinks he can be physically abusive to me. I have left him two times but we are back together again. I have two kids ages six and eight and they want their Dad and me to be together even though they are afraid when he drinks. He doesn’t drink every day but when he does he seems like a very different person. I have tried to get him to go to AA but he doesn’t think he has a problem because he doesn’t drink all of the time. The last time he was drunk he shoved me and I fell and broke my wrist. He seems to think the problem is my fault. I hate to upset my kids but I am thinking about moving out again. Is there some other way to handle this?

Dear Eileen,

This kind of situation is not good for your kids, seeing their father drunk and their mother abused. You say they are afraid when he drinks but that he usually takes his anger out on you. They shouldn’t have to be witness to this kind of abuse. Your kids seem to love their Dad as much as you do but his anger and abusive behavior to you is something that should not be tolerated. You are the adult here and you need to do what is best for you and the kids. You need to go to counseling and try to figure out why you have allowed yourself to be abused. Your husband won’t change unless you do. Please take care of yourself and the kids.

Talking To Kids About Divorce

Dear Sara,

I have a girl age twelve and a boy fifteen. Their mother and I have decided to get a divorce. I don’t know how to tell my kids. This will be difficult for all of us and I want to do the right thing for my kids. What do I say to them?

Dear David,

At the age your kids are, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t already have a pretty good idea of what is going on. You will want to talk to your wife about what you and she will tell your kids. Have a family meeting and let them know what your issues are and reassure your kids that they are not at fault. Encourage them to tell you how they are feeling and be there to support them.

Sometimes parents will blame each other and say negative things about their soon to be ex. This is not good for the kids. They will have enough to deal with such as two different households and future relationships that you and your wife might have. If they begin to have behavioral or school problems, you may need a therapist with experience in this field for them to talk to.

Aggressive Little Boy

Dear Sara,

My son is four years old and has been getting in trouble in daycare. They don’t seem able to handle his behavior and say he is very aggressive when he interacts with the other children, hitting them and biting. I don’t understand this as he is very cooperative at home but there aren’t any children for him to interact with here. I have tried to talk to him but he just says the other kids are mean to him and take his toys away. At this point I don’t know where the problem lies but he seems to get the blame. What can I do to get this straightened out?

Dear Terri,

Do you have time to go to daycare and try to see for yourself what is going on? This sounds like a problem that daycare providers should be able to handle. If your son is being bullied, you need to find out right away. No child should have to tolerate this type of behavior.

I would think that the daycare would be able to solve this problem on their own. If the problem continues, you might want to consider another daycare facility. Your son isn’t capable of dealing with this on his own, so it’s up to you to see that he is in an environment where he feels safe and happy.