Starting Over At 21

Dear Sara,

I have a three-year-old son and a six-month-old daughter. I got married at eighteen and was pregnant when I got married. I’m twenty one now and I want out of my marriage. I moved back home with my parents and it just isn’t working. My Mom thinks I’m still a child and tells me what to do all of the time. I don’t want to go back to my husband because he drinks every night and is verbally abusive. I want a divorce. I know I married too young but now I want things to be different. I can’t support myself. What can I do?

Dear Brittany,

Right now your options are limited but you can set some goals to be self-sufficient. It could take a while for you to get the education that you need so that you can be on your own.

If you divorce your husband he will be legally obligated to support you and your kids. This may not be enough for you to live on and be independent. Do you think you can live with your parents until you get some kind of education and are able to support yourself?

Your best bet might be to stay with your parents and work toward a two-year degree in a field where there is a demand. If you can’t afford this, look for student loans, grants and scholarships. If you work hard, in a couple of years you could be able to support yourself. I hope your parents will be supportive for now. When they see that you are working hard to gain your independence they may have more confidence in you. You may not like living with your parents but this may be your best option for the next couple of years.

My Stepdaughter Hates Me

Dear Sara,

I am so angry and upset. My life is miserable because of my stepdaughter. I married a great man with two daughters. The oldest is twelve now and she hates me. I tried my best to make this girl like me. I take her shopping, drive her to her activities and her friends houses and try to cook meals that she likes. She is still rude and nasty to me and her father jut says “she’ll get over it” and won’t discipline her. This is hurting me because he won’t take up for me. How can I get this girl to like me?

Dear Gail,

Maybe you are trying too hard. She knows that you want her to like you so she feels she has control over things and she is using this to make problems between you and her Dad. She resents you and wants her Dad to herself.

Back off and don’t try to be so much in her life. Try to ignore the rudeness and disrespect. She will keep trying but it won’t be so satisfying to her if she thinks it doesn’t affect you. Find things to do that are interesting and rewarding to you. If you are not working, take a class or find a hobby. This girl has made herself the center of your attention. Let her try to make you like her not the other way around. She may not ever like you but at least she won’t run your life.

16-Year-Old Is “In Love”

Dear Sara,

I am very worried about my sixteen year old daughter. She is dating a boy a couple of years older than she is and thinks that she is “in love” with him. He tells her things like “she is too fat” (she isn’t) and “she’s not as smart as he is.” (She gets good grades in school.) She believes him and tries really hard to be what he wants but is often crying when she gets off the phone with him. I really don’t like this guy but I don’t want to alienate my daughter. She says he’s just trying to help her. Is there anything I can do to boost her self esteem?

Dear Marian,

For some reason this guy needs an ego boost and he’s putting your daughter down to make himself look better. Most teens tend to see themselves negatively anyway so it’s easy for her to believe him.

All you can do is be there for her an let her know that you can’t see all the negative things her boyfriend says about her. If she’s worried about her weight, you could take her to see her doctor for a check up and he could be the one to tell her that her weight is in the normal range. If she still wants to lose weight, let her know that doing without high calorie soft drinks and sweets would be a good way.

If this guy really wants to control her he may try to cut her off from her friends. If you see this happening, you might try to limit her time with him. Keep her busy with other things if you can. She needs your love and reassurance right now. Hopefully she will begin to see this boy for the manipulator that he is.

Failing Marriage

Dear Sara,

My wife and I have three kids ages five, seven and nine, but no marriage. She puts the kids first and they seem to be always around even in our bed at night which really limits our sex life. When we do have sex she doesn’t seem to enjoy it. When she has a problem she is more apt to discuss it with her sister than me. She takes care of all the bills and I am left out of financial decisions. I feel like I am not a real part of our marriage anymore. I want to change this but I don’t know how. Where do I start?

Dear Don,

The relationship that you describe is not a healthy example for your three children. In order to grow up with a healthy attitude toward marriage and family, they need to see two parents who love and care about each other. If your wife always puts them first it will be difficult for them to leave home as they will be too dependent on her.

You could start by having a date night once a week. Get a babysitter and do something that you both enjoy. Your children may be unhappy that you are leaving them behind but they need to begin to get used to being without their mother. Once they get used to you and their mother being away for a short time you could plan a weekend vacation.
Try to let your wife know how left out you feel. She needs to understand that her children need a healthy marriage as a model for their own lives and that you need to feel like an equal partner in your marriage.

If you can’t manage to communicate your feelings to her then you probably need to see a marriage counselor. If you are really unhappy your marriage may not last.

Feeling Trapped

Dear Sara,

I feel like I am in a trap. I have two kids who are in first and third grades and I am a stay at home Mom. This is what my husband wants not me. He has a good job and we have pretty much everything we need. My life is really boring. I want to get out of this house and do something! I got married at twenty so I don’t have much job experience so I feel unqualified for anything. How do I get out of this trap?

Dear Marian,

Sounds like you have a bad case of cabin fever. You didn’t say what kinds of things you like to do but it does sound like you would like a job. You could start by taking a college class or two and maybe by doing this you would find something that really interests you. You would be out of the house two or three days a week and still have time for your family.

If you’re not interested in furthering your education there are lots of volunteer opportunities. Think about things that interest you and see what’s available in your area. I volunteered in a school for autistic children. I found it to be really interesting and I learned a lot.

Part of your problem may be that you are depressed as well as bored. If you think that may be the case, make an appointment with your physician to get a check up.

Take care of yourself.

Should I Put My Daughter On A Diet?

Dear Sara,

My four 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. She eats a lot but I feel like she runs it all off. Do I need to put her on a diet?

Dear Zoe,

At your daughter’s age you can’t really put her on a diet but you can offer her foods that are low in fats and calories. Look for things that are healthier for her and stay away from things like ice cream, donuts and potato chips. Your daughter will eat these things whether she is hungry or not.

Toddlers need about 1000-1400 calories a day. You can use this as a general guide. Vegetables and fruit have few calories unless they have butter or cream sauce.

You might try to watch the sodium content as well. Milk is good for her but you could try for a lower fat content. She needs protein so meat fish and poultry are all good for her but try to stay away from fried.

What you really want to do is set a pattern of eating that she will follow 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.

When To Start Potty Training

Dear Sara,

My son is eighteen months old and his daycare wants him to be potty trained by twenty-four months. I thought I would start now but he just doesn’t seem to understand what I want him to do. I realize now that I have started to potty train him too soon. When is a good time to start?

Dear Marian,

Each child is different. Actually, twenty-four months can be a little early for some kids. Children often learn by seeing their parents do things. You might let him stay in the bathroom as you do your time in there. If you like your book or magazine, your son could bring his book. When my little brother was being potty trained, my Mom always gave him a book to look at. He called this his “bookalet.” If you see that your son is straining to have a bowel movement in his diaper, you could try him on his potty at this time.

Every child is different, some are ready early but others take their time. If your son isn’t ready by twenty-four months, don’t worry about it. Don’t try to shame him into something he’s not ready for. There is no magic age when a child suddenly becomes potty trained.

You can see if he’s interested in a few months. He may or may not have control by then. If he’s not ready, try again later.

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.