Did My Child Take Drugs

Dear Sara,

I have four teens and I’m a working Mom. When I came home from work last night, my sixteen year old was asleep on the couch. I cooked supper and about an hour later we all sat down to dinner. The sixteen year old came to the table and spent the entire meal with his head on his arm on the table. He roused himself from time to time to eat and join the conversation. After I thought about it, I wondered if he could have taken some kind of drug. I’ve never had a problem like this with my other kids. What should I do?

Dear Karen,

Sixteen is an age when kids want to experiment and this does seem pretty suspicious. You probably need to start with your medicine cabinet. Is there anything like left over prescription pain killers in there? You need to get rid of them or store them in a secure place.

Does your son have an allowance that would be large enough to purchase drugs? If so you might consider cutting back on his money supply so he can’t afford to purchase illegal drugs. Keep track of the money in your purse. If he needs extra money he may “borrow” from you without asking.

Have a confidential talk with your son and let him know what you suspect. Either way he will probably deny that he has a problem. Let him know that you won’t tolerate drugs in you household. If he seems impaired again, be willing to provide consequences like taking away his phone or driving privileges. Keep an eye on things and get professional help if you think he needs it.

Mother Diagnosed with Cancer

Dear Sara,

My Mom lives in another state about an eight hour drive away. We haven’t been on good terms for a while because she doesn’t like my husband. She has cancer now and has asked me to come and stay with her for a while. I have two preschool kids and there is no place at her home for them besides I don’t want to leave my home and husband for a long period of time. I know she is sick and may die but I really can’t figure out how to cope with all of this. What can I do?

Dear Clementine,

How sad for your Mom to be away from you and your children at a time like this. If she and your husband got along better you might invite her to come and stay with you. It doesn’t sound like she would be comfortable with this and the constant activity of two young children would be difficult for her.

If you can manage it, the best you could do would be to have a long weekend with her as often as you can. She will probably need a caregiver or a nursing home eventually and you could help her arrange these things. I hope that you and your Mom can patch up your relationship before it’s too late. Be kind to her but remember your family is important as well.

Chatty Cathy

Dear Sara,

My five year old daughter is driving me crazy. She talks all of the time. She interrupts when I am talking to another adult and at times she follows me around and continues to talk about anything and everything. Her kindergarten teacher is also having problems with her talking nonstop at school. This constant chatter has begun to wear on me and at times I lose my patience and just tell her to “shut up.” She then gets her feelings hurt and cries. How should I deal with her constant need to talk?

Dear Suzanne,

It sounds like you have already tried to deal with her constant chatter without results. I am wondering if she might have ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It would be a good idea to check this out with a professional while she is still young. There is medication that she could take that would help her calm down. This will be important to help her pay attention in school.

If you find out that this is not the problem but maybe just a way to get your attention, you could try rewarding her for times when she is quiet and giving her undivided attention at certain times of the day when she can enjoy your company. It sounds like she is very bright and needs to express herself. You just have to help her control her need to talk all of the time.

To Spank Or Not To Spank

Dear Sara,

My husband and I are having a “discussion” about how to raise our two preschool sons. He believes in spanking because he was raised that way and says that he respects and loves his parents. I was raised by parents who believed that spanking was unacceptable and used other consequences. How do you feel about corporal punishment?

Dear Ava,

Kids need to have a little fear in their heart of the consequences that they will have if they do something reckless or stupid. They need to think “if I do that what will Mom or Dad do?” If a kid thinks “well nothing much will happen” then they might proceed to do the reckless stupid thing and get themselves hurt or in trouble.

Your goal is for your children to respect you. If you are nice and kind and loving that’s good but if your children don’t respect you, then they will do as they please and walk all over you. You need to be in charge. You can’t be the nice guy all of the time. You have to mean what you say and back it up with a punishment strong enough to get their attention. They will for sure have to face the consequences as adults if they mess up.

My parents spanked me and I must have been really bad at one point because my Daddy switched me with a branch off the maple tree out front. I can still remember that and my Dad was so easy going that it probably hurt him just as much as me.

I started out spanking my kids but after a while I decided against it and used time outs. Spanking is probably OK as long as you can make sure you can remember to stay calm and not leave marks or bruises. That’s when it becomes abusive. I really think time out or taking away privileges works just as well or better than spanking.

Overwhelming Mother

Dear Sara,

I have been married two years and have a beautiful six month baby girl. The problem is not with the baby but with my mother. She has been coming to my house three or four times a week for six to eight hours a day. At first I really appreciated the help but now I am beginning to dread her visits since she is so controlling.

Everything has to be done her way. She ends up taking over. I have tried to tell her how I feel but she says she has more experience and knows how things need to be done. How can I deal with her?

Dear Savannah,

Probably the first thing you need to do is limit the amount of days your Mom can visit. I’m sure that she loves your little girl as much as you do but how are you supposed to gain the experience that she has if you aren’t allowed to take care of your own little girl.

If you decide that your Mom can come over one day a week, let her know up front that this is what you want. She may be angry and hurt but you have a right to your privacy. Be sure and call her every day and ask for her advice if you need it. You may feel a loss as well since you are used to having your Mom around so much. In order to independent of your Mom, you have to have some boundaries.

Misbehaving Step-Children

Dear Sara,

I have been married for six months now. I’m a widower and have two kids a boy age nine and a girl age eleven and my wife was divorced with two girls ages eight and eleven. My kids are well behaved and respectful. My wife’s kids are horrible. They are nasty to my kids, disrespectful to their mother and won’t do anything I tell them to do. Their mother has told me not to discipline them so they do what they want(a lot behind their mother’s back.) The only peace I get is when they go off to their Dad’s house every other weekend. I am seriously considering divorce at this point. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Dear Rick,

With a blended family like yours I would expect a period of adjustment. Different families have different ways of raising their children and maybe you new wife feels that you are too harsh in your discipline. This is no excuse for them to be nasty to your kids and disrespectful of you. You and your wife need to have a serious conversation about this when the kids are not around.

Maybe your wife’s kids think that if they make enough problems that you will leave and their Dad might come back. This is often the way kids think. They love their Dad and want him back. This is a time for family therapy. Look around for someone that you can relate to and insist that the whole family go together. Make sure everybody gets a chance to say what’s on their mind. If you really want to change things then you have to be willing to change as well. I hope everything works out for you.

Son Craves Father’s Attention

Dear Sara,

I am worried about my five-year-old son. His father is out of town on business a lot and when he is at home, he spends very little time with our son. My husband makes really good money, so we have a lot of luxuries because of his hard work. My son craves his father’s attention and most of the time he just gets ignored. I would like to go back to work when he starts first grade, but I feel like he would have no one then. How can I make my husband more involved with his son?

Dear Ellie,

I am not sure if you could change your husband at this point. He seems like a dedicated workaholic who gets a lot of satisfaction from what he does. I’m sure you have already tried talking to him and he has told you how important his work is to him.

You might be able to make up for some of his lack of attention by getting your son interested in sports. There are teams for young children his age where he would be in contact with other kids and men who coach who could be role models for him.

Since you apparently don’t need the money, you might think about joining the PTA at your son’s school and becoming involved in his school activities. He needs one parent who shows some interest in him. Try not to “hover” though because your son will resent you for this. Maybe eventually your husband will realize that he is missing out on an important part of his life.
Good luck.

Worried About Son’s Behavior

Dear Sara,

I am very worried about my twelve year old son “Ben”. I can’t get him to talk to me about this but he is doing some very strange things. After we go to bed at night he gets up and goes around checking the doors and windows, sometimes more than once to see that they are locked. He has to keep things in a certain order in his room and gets very upset if someone moves anything. He also seems to worry about germs a lot. How can I help him?

Dear Holly,

It sounds like Ben may be developing obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. When someone is affected by OCD they have distressing, intrusive thoughts and use tasks or rituals to try to neutralize the anxiety. This works for a short period of time to fend off the feeling of panic or dread but because the anxiety is relieved this tends to reinforce the ritualistic behaviors.

OCD tends to run in some families and there is some evidence that links it to streptococcal infections.

If these behaviors continue or if Ben has other behaviors that are different or worrisome then he may have to see a child psychologist for help. OCD can be treated best with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.

Good luck.

Grandchild’s Indecent Attire

Dear Sara,

My teenage granddaughter lives with me because she wants to go to high school with her friends. Her parents moved to another state and she wants to graduate with her friends. For the most part she is a good kid but she wears some things that are on the verge of indecent. Some are so short that you can see to the top of her legs and T-shirts are so tight that nothing is left to the imagination. Some things just look odd and make no sense. What can I do to get her to dress more modestly?
-Grandma Julie

Dear Grandma Julie,

It is so important to teen girls to be one of the crowd. I’m sure she thinks she fits in and looks fine and that’s what is important to her right now.

If her way of dressing really bothers you, you might want to take her shopping for clothes and see if you can come up with some compromises. I’m sure that there are stylish clothes that she would like and that you would approve of. Be warned though, teens like the name brands that have a big price tag so you might have to spend more than you thought to get her to wear clothes that don’t offend you.

Good luck,

Sharing Children After Divorce

Dear Sara,

My husband and I have just divorced. I am angry and don’t want anything to do with him but the judge has given us joint custody of our five year old daughter. He has divided up our child’s week so that she spends half a week with each of us. How can I do this without going crazy? -Sharon

Dear Sharon,

This kind of situation is very difficult for a child. If you could put your anger aside and try to discuss the situation with your ex, maybe you could figure out something that could be a little easier for your daughter.

If this can’t be accomplished then try to make things work so that your little girl has a room in each house that is entirely hers and no one else can change it and make sure her special toys are packed for each visit. The schedule needs to be stable so that she will know what to expect. A calendar that she can keep, with days marked for each house can give her a visual idea of how things work.

Try not to argue in front of her or act hostile. This will make things more difficult for her. She needs both of her parents to love her even if they don’t love each other any more. It’s going to be hard for you to control your anger and be civil to your ex but try really hard for your daughter’s sake.