Masturbation Concerns

Dear Sara,

I have a beautiful daughter Haley who is almost three. She is potty trained but still wears a diaper at night. During the day she has her hand in her underwear a lot. She will sit in the backyard and appears to be playing with herself. This is somewhat embarrassing to me. When I see her doing this I try to make her stop by distracting her but she goes back to it later. How can I get her to stop doing this?

Dear Brittany,

Your plan of distracting her is a good one. She doesn’t need to feel that she is doing something wrong by doing this. Maybe she has just discovered something that feels good but there could be other things to consider.

If she has a urinary tract infection, she might be itching in that area. If you haven’t taken her to the pediatrician lately, she needs to be checked out to make sure there aren’t any vaginal or urinary tract problems.

The other thing you might want to consider is sexual abuse. It is hard to believe that someone that you know and trust could do something like this but sexual abuse is often perpetrated by a friend or family member. Haley may be able to tell you if something like this is going on if she has the verbal ability. If not, keep a watchful eye on her. Sometimes sexual abuse goes on for years and causes a lot of emotional problems for the victim. I hope you find the cause soon.

Overwhelmed Mother

Dear Sara,

I am feeling overwhelmed at this point in my life. I have four kids and the youngest has had leukemia. He seems to be responding to medication and things look pretty good right now. My other three want to be in baseball, basketball and ballet plus other school related activities so I feel tired all of the time trying to keep up. My husband is no help as he works in a very demanding job. I feel guilty for wanting a break. What can I do to just have one day off?

Dear Liane,

Look around you for some help. Do you have a Mom or a sister who could take care of things for maybe a half day each week? Maybe some of the other Mom’s in your kids activities could take over for a while with transportation. You need a few hours to yourself so that you can have a cup of coffee and read your book or just watch TV.

Your kids need you but they also need for you to be healthy. Visit your doctor and get a checkup. Your stress level seems pretty high and if you don’t take care of yourself and have some kind of breakdown then your kids would have to do without you. Let your husband know what you are going through. Maybe he could figure out a way to help. You are an important person in your family.

Good luck.

Sexually Active 13 Year Old

Dear Sara,

My thirteen year old daughter came to me complaining of a severe vaginal itch. I took her to my gynecologist for an exam and found out she has a sexually transmitted disease. I was shocked. She is not allowed to date yet. She was crying but told me she went with a boy to his car during half time at a ball game. Luckily her pregnancy test came back negative. She isn’t allowed to go anywhere without myself or my husband for now. How can I protect her from doing something like this again?

Dear Evie,

It may be too late for sex education. Your daughter already knows about what happens when you have unprotected sex. She needs to learn how to make good choices. Try to find out her views on sex and love and how much she already knows. Thirteen year old girls often think they know more than they do and often mistake sexual attraction for love.

Cover as many bases as you can. She needs to know about things like safe sex, condoms and the various sexually transmitted diseases. She also needs to know about what her life would be like if she got pregnant at her age (which was possible when she had sex with this boy). She could also get the reputation as “easy” if the boy brags about his conquest. Also let her know what your values are.

Additionally, her partner will need to be treated for the STD so she needs to contact him as well. You can let her tell him or you can contact his parents. He apparently was with someone else before your daughter. You can only protect her for so long. You can let her know how you feel about this and make her aware of the consequences and hope that she will make better choices in the future.

Struggling With Feelings For Son’s Teacher

Dear Sara,

I know you are going to think I am crazy but I am in love for the first time. I married my husband out of convenience and did not love him. He is a very nice, kind man and I am fond of him. We have four kids ages eight to fourteen. The man that I want to be with teaches my oldest son and I have been to all of the parent-teacher conferences. We get along so well. He is handsome and funny and I can see what a wonderful life we could have together. I think he feels the same way I do but he hasn’t said anything. I don’t know if I should tell my husband about this or my son’s teacher first. I don’t want to hurt my children by disrupting their lives so I am very confused right now. What do you think about all this?

Dear Cheryl,

You do sound very confused. A lot of women would envy you for having a kind husband. You really don’t have any idea how your son’s teacher feels about you so you could be putting your stable marriage in jeopardy for nothing. I would guess that part of a teacher’s job is being nice to his student’s parents, so you could be mistaking his interest in you as a parent as flirting.

You still have fairly young kids and a stable home life is very important to them. The best thing to do would be to wait a while and do nothing until you can get a clearer picture. In the meantime why don’t you see a therapist so that you can have someone to talk to about your feelings of love for this teacher and dissatisfaction with your marriage. Take your time and don’t rush into anything.

Fighting Twins

Dear Sara,

I’m a stay at home Mom and I have four year old twins. I try to entertain them by going to the park and keeping them busy with little arts and crafts projects. I can’t entertain them all the time but when I leave them to play together they usually get into a fight over something and not just arguing. They hit and push each other down and sometimes there are bruises.

They seem calmer when I put them in front of the TV but I hate to use this as a baby sitter. I want them to be able to play together. How can I get them to do that?

Dear Emily,

Your twins seem very competitive. Why don’t you observe them when they play and see what is going on. This may be the way they like to interact. You don’t seem to have a problem when you are there to supervise them so maybe this is something that they enjoy doing. If things get too rough you can separate them and put them in time out for a while.

Setting Boundaries With Teens

Dear Sara,

I am at my wits end with my seventeen year old daughter. She is very headstrong and seems to think she is all grown up. She’s a junior in high school and has a part time job. She wanted a car because she needed transportation to her job and hates to ride the school bus. Her Dad and I helped her buy a car and she is supposed to make the payments and buy gas which leaves her with not much money left over. Without consulting us she decided to drive to Florida with her friends for fall break. We told her absolutely not. She was furious and won’t speak to us. She snuck out pretending to go to work and we had to go find her. We now have the keys to the car and she is grounded. Did we make a mistake by refusing to let her take this trip?

Dear Kristin,

You are the parents and you did your job. Don’t second guess yourself. Somewhere between the ages of thirteen and seventeen kids get the idea that they are an adult and are in charge of their own life even though you provide almost everything for them. Your daughter may not like you very much right now but that’s part of raising a child. She probably won’t appreciate your love and caring until she has a teen of her own.
Good luck.

Daughter Won’t Eat

Dear Sara,

My daughter Chloe was born five weeks premature. She spent two weeks in the hospital before we could bring her home. She’s a petite two year old now and doesn’t want to eat solid foods. I worry about her constantly. I have been reluctant to take her bottle away because this is about all the nutrition she gets. What can I do to get her to eat more.

Dear Lori,

Please talk to your pediatrician about Chole’s small size. If he assures you that she is healthy and growing normally, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. It’s also possible that part of the problem is an immature digestive system and she just can’t digest solid foods very well. Also you may feel like her bottle is her only source of nutrition but it could be filling her up and she just isn’t hungry enough to eat solid food.

Try cutting back on the bottle and offer small amounts of baby food several times a day. Most kids will eat applesauce so try her on that. You could also let her sit at the table with you in her highchair and see if she is willing to try some small pieces of finger food. Maybe she will try that. Let her decide what she wants and pick the rest up off the floor.

Premature babies often take a while to catch up. By the time she is five or six years old, you will probably see Chloe approaching normal height and weight for her age. Keep your regular appointments with Chloe’s pediatrician and follow his advice. If he thinks she is doing well, don’t worry so much.

Special Needs Child

Dear Sara,

I have a six year old son who has some delays mentally. He doesn’t understand things that are dangerous and I have to watch him closely as he will take off and run down the street without being aware of other people or traffic. He has seen his cousin’s dog and keeps saying he wants that dog. I don’t know if he is capable of treating a dog properly as he doesn’t seem to have the concept that people or dogs can feel pain. I have tried to explain this to him but I don’t think he gets it. He really wants that dog. Do you think I should get him one?

Dear Beverly,

You may want to wait a while before getting your son a dog. As he gets older he may be better able to understand that people and pets feel pain. It might be really difficult for him to get his pet and then to lose it because he has hurt the dog and doesn’t realize the pain the dog has felt.

One thing you might consider is buying a stuffed animal that looks like his cousin’s dog. You could help your son practice being kind to his “pet” and observe his behavior with his pretend pet. Until you are sure that he can be kind to an animal it would be best to wait.

Leaving My Husband

Dear Sara,

I’ve been married to my husband for fifteen years. He’s funny and lovable but he’s also an alcoholic who stays out all night and cheats on me. I still love him but I don’t want to live with him anymore. We have two great kids ages thirteen and ten and they love their Dad a lot. I feel guilty but I really want a divorce. What can I do to make things easier for my kids?

Dear Lucy,

This will be a big change for your kids. However, at their ages, they may have already discovered their Dad’s problems even though they haven’t discussed it with you. Let them know that you have decided on a divorce and go to counseling with them if you feel it might be necessary. They don’t need to know details, they just need to know that you and their Dad can’t live together anymore and that you both still love them a lot.

Don’t make them choose between you and your husband and even if you are angry don’t badmouth him to your kids. This might make you feel better but it will only hurt them. Shared custody is good but only if he agrees to be sober when he is with them. Don’t let them in the car with him if he is drinking.

Good luck.

Parenting Fears

Dear Sara,

I am pregnant for the first time and I’m very anxious about taking care of my new baby. I am an only child and my parents had me late in life. I have not been around little babies and don’t have any idea of how to take care of this new life I am carrying. Everybody says it will come naturally but I’m not so sure. I wish my Mom could come back and help me but she’s been gone for five years now. I cry at night missing her. How can I learn to be a good Mom?

Dear Charlotte,

Hospitals often have classes on how to care for a new baby. Next time you go for a check up let your doctor know that you are having anxiety about taking care of a new baby and he or she can let you know when and where classes will be held.

There has to be a first time for being a Mom and it’s kind of “on the job training.” It’s not really real until you are experiencing it for yourself. It’s scary and new and often frustrating when you have to keep getting up in the middle of the night but that baby will be so special to you, it will all be worth it.

You seem to have had a special relationship with your own Mom. Think about how you and she interacted and how this will be possible with your own baby. She may not be with you physically but she is in your heart and on your mind. Think about how proud she would be of you for having this special baby. You can do this.
Good luck.