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.

Son Hates School

Dear Sara,

My ten year old son doesn’t want to go to school. He often complains of stomach aches in the morning. I insist that he go to school but sometimes he throws up before he leaves. Luckily I am a stay at home Mom and I can take him and pick him up in the afternoon. He seems better by then. I have asked him what is the matter but he always says “nothing.” What can I do to help him?

Dear Joy,

The first thing you could do is visit with his teacher and try to find out if he is having problems in school. Is somebody bullying him? Is he having a tough time keeping up with his studies? If he is being bullied the school should take measures to protect him and you need to be really assertive with them to make sure that they do. If he is falling behind in his school work maybe you could find someone to tutor him for a period of time until he catches up.

He could have a physical problem. Have him checked out by your family doctor. He could have an upset stomach because he is anxious and some medication might help. If he is physically OK and there isn’t anything unusual at school maybe your next step would be to find a good child psychologist who could evaluate your son and give you some professional advice. If you can’t afford it there is probably a local mental health clinic in your area.

It’s sad to see your son be so miserable in something that should be a normal part of growing up.

Good luck.

Hoping For Grandchildren

Dear Sara,

My daughter is twenty six now and has been married for four years. She works full time and says she doesn’t want children. I was a stay home at home mom for her and her brother and have never worked. I told her that I would help her by keeping the kids with me while she worked. She is not interested in this. She said she didn’t want to be tied down with kids and she wasn’t good mother material. I was really hoping for grand babies. What could I do to help change her mind?

Dear Claudia,

It sounds like your daughter has made up her mind about having children and I doubt that anything you say could make a difference. If you continue to bring up the subject you could end up damaging your relationship with her and I’m sure that is not what you intend.

She may change her mind in the future but it needs to be her idea not yours. Maybe you could find a volunteer job working with children to help keep you busy. Right now your daughter needs you as a mother and a friend.

Son’s Aggressive Behavior

Dear Sara,

I am a divorced mom with a sixteen year old son, Jordan. His father lives in another state and Jordan seldom sees him. Jordan is six feet tall and weighs about 180 pounds. Lately I have been having problems with Jordan being aggressive toward me if he doesn’t get what he wants. He has thrown a shoe at me and shoved me down on the couch. I don’t want him to think that this kind of behavior is OK toward me or for that matter anyone else. What should I do about this?

Dear Christine,

You are absolutely right! This kind of behavior should not be tolerated. You have control over things that you have given him, like a car, a cell phone (that you probably pay the bill for) or an allowance. Let him know that you will not put up with any more aggressive behavior and you will take away any or all of these things that you have given him if he acts in any way aggressive toward you. This includes threatening, pushing or trying to control you in any way. If you aren’t assertive he will continue to bully you. Don’t tolerate this at all.

If his behavior continues to be aggressive, you could see if his father would take custody for a while.

Can’t Afford College

Dear Sara,

My son is seventeen and wants to go to college. He is very bright and ambitious. I want him to have this opportunity but my wife and I have minimum wage jobs and just manage to buy food, gas and pay rent. This seems really important to him but we can’t help. How can he manage to pay for college without a mountain of debt?

Dear John,

The first thing your son need to look into are scholarships. He might want to look on-line and apply for any which fit his plan for college. Government loans are available but he will have to pay them back for a long time. He might want to consider living at home and getting a part-time job to help him pay expenses and tuition. If he is a good student maybe someone in his chosen field will help him out with part-time employment. Good luck to him.