Grocery Store Troubles

Dear Sara,

I have two girls ages three and five. They are really acting out when I take them to the grocery store and I don’t always have someone to leave them with. They are begging for everything they see and pitching a fit when they don’t get it. I would like to take them to the store in peace. Any suggestions?
-Rose Ann

Dear Rose Ann,

If you have given in to their temper tantrums and bought them what they wanted, you have rewarded their bad behavior. Kids learn fast. Your first step might be to have a talk with them before grocery time and let them know what you expect from them. Let them know that if they behave, they can have one prize for a reward. If they have a temper tantrum there will be no reward and a 15 minute time out when you get home. If you waver from this even one time, they will continue to harass you because this has worked for them in the past.

Financially Irresponsible Teen

Dear Sara,

My only child, a girl, is graduating from high school this year and has plans to go to college. She is very immature and has gotten herself in trouble several times. I let her use my credit card and she used it to the limit and came to me wondering why I refused to let her use it any more. She hasn’t any sense when it comes to finances. I’ve tried to explain things but she doesn’t seem to understand. She seems to have this carefree attitude that nothing bad will happen. How can I let her go off to college when I know she can’t take care of herself?

Dear Christine,

You have been your daughter’s protector for all of her life. Maybe she hasn’t learned yet that her actions may have consequences. I know that you are worried about her getting hurt but how will she learn to take care of herself if you are always there to make sure she doesn’t fail. She has to grow up sometime so allow her this opportunity. She may have some problems but give her the opportunity to figure things out on her own. You are used to her clinging to you so it may feel bad for you to let go. She needs her own wings for a while.

Good luck.

Christmas Tree Dangers

Dear Sara,

I am getting ready to put up a Christmas tree. I have a two year old who is very active and gets into everything. I want a tree but I don’t know how to keep him from destroying it or hurting himself. How can I have a tree and keep him safe?

Dear Gloria,

It’s really fun to see a child’s eyes light up at the sight of a Christmas tree but they want to touch everything and feel what they see. This is normal behavior for a two year old who is learning about the world. People have been trying to protect their toddlers from getting hurt by the tree for a long time. You could try putting the tree in a playpen so your two year old can’t get to it or having a small tree up on a table but it seems a shame to keep your child away from all of that fun.

If you want a traditional tree, you would want to make sure that it is secure so he can’t pull it over on himself. The bottom ornaments could be plastic so he could help you decorate. He will probably want to take them on and off a few times. Just be careful that none of the ornaments have small parts he could choke on.

Keep things simple so he won’t have too many things to get into. There are going to be lots of things going on like visiting relatives and parties where he could get over stimulated. His behavior might get out of hand. Try to keep him on a regular schedule and limit his sugar and junk food. Enjoy him. Two year olds grow up really fast.

Can’t Afford Christmas

Dear Sara,

I have three kids ages five, seven and nine. They see all of the things advertised for Christmas and hear about what their friends are asking for for Christmas and think that they should have these things as well. We don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford all of these expensive things. Christmas has gotten way too commercial. What can I do to have a nice family Christmas without spending a ton of money?

Dear Jessica,

Your kids may have some idea about your financial situation but have a family talk about what you can afford. Why don’t you try making memories instead of giving expensive gifts. Kids like to help decorate the tree. Maybe they could make some ornaments for the tree and put their name and the year on them. It’s fun to look back later and say “Oh we made these when we were little.

It’s always fun for kids to help make cookies and decorate them. If you are really brave they could invite a friend and have a cookie decorating party.

The real reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus. How we have gotten so far away from that is a mystery. Help your kids celebrate that. You may not be able to rein in the commercialism but you can try.

Good luck.

Single Mom Needs To Socialize

Dear Sara,

I’m a single Mom with two kids ages four and six. I work and leave them in daycare during the day but never seem to get a break to socialize. My ex might (or might not) take them for one Sunday a month. He is good about paying his child support but can’t be bothered with our kids. I need to have a break from the responsibilities once and a while but babysitters are too expensive and my parents live in another state. I need to get out once in a while. How can I manage to do this?

Dear Ginger,

It is difficult to raise your kids without a support system. One thing you might consider is moving closer to your family. This could mean that your ex has less access to his children but it appears that he isn’t willing or interested in being a hands on father. Your kids need someone other than their Mom in their life who care about and love them.

Another option is to find someone in the same situation who would be willing to trade baby sitting services with you. It could be difficult caring for someone else’s children (for a time period determined by you both) but that might give you a night out or a weekend to do something fun. Ask around to see if anyone might be interested. You will want to be careful and check things out. If you don’t smoke, do they? Do you think their house is safe? Are they responsible with their own kids?

One other thing you could check out is the churches in your area. Sometimes they will have a “mother’s day out” program where you can leave your kids for a few hours. I hope you find something really helpful soon.

Terrible Twos

Dear Sara,

My son started walking at age 18 months. He’s two now and he hasn’t stopped since except to sleep. He goes from one thing to another pulling things out of drawers and cabinets and putting anything that fits into his mouth. If I need to go to the bathroom I put him in his crib and he screams and cries the entire time. I have put away anything breakable but he still finds things to get into. I am worried that he will eventually get hurt. How can I keep him safe?

Dear Liane,

Your son sounds like a very bright boy who wants to know about everything. I hope you have safety proofed your house with things like covers for electric outlets and latches for your kitchen cabinets.

He probably needs at least one room where you can put gates on the doors that is completely child proof. If he has a box full of toys there where he can pull things out and play with a short time, this might keep him busy for a while. If you change things in the box from time to time it may keep him interested. If he wants to be in the kitchen with you then keep things in cabinets or drawers at his level stocked with things that he can’t get hurt on.

If he’s that busy you might want to use a harness when you take him out to the park or for a walk. Kids that age can be really impulsive. They are so cute at that age but they can be really tiring.

Good luck.

Moving On After Spouse’s Death

Dear Sara,

I’ve been a widow for four years now. My husband Ron was killed in a hunting accident. My youngest son was three and my older son was four when he died. We still talk about their Dad. They are in school now and I have a job. I am lonely and have been asked out on dates several times. I hesitate accepting because I don’t want to upset my boys. I will be 29 soon and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life without a partner. What can I do to try to have a life of my own but still keep my boys safe and happy?

Dear Connie,

I am so sorry for your loss. It’s good that you talk to the boys about their Dad. I hope you all have some fun things to remember. You might start by preparing them little by little that someday you might want to have some other man in your family’s life. Don’t make a big deal out it, just present the idea to them. They probably haven’t thought about this possibility. Answer the inevitable questions the best you can.

If you want to date someone, you might think about meeting him somewhere else until things become serious. It might not be a good idea to have a series of men for your boys to meet. Take your time and try to find someone who likes kids. Your boys will be in your home for a long time and in your life for as long as you live. I hope you can find someone who fits into your family. Just take things slowly.

Verbally Abusive Child

Dear Sara,

I am at my wits end. My daughter is twenty years old and still living at home. She can’t drive right now because she got caught drinking and driving so I have to take her to her job. She can be verbally abusive to me and sometimes when she gets angry she throws things. She has a boyfriend but she isn’t very nice to him either. I don’t know what her problem is but I also don’t know how much longer I can live like this. What should I do?

Dear Fern,

Sometimes when kids get to be a certain age they really want to leave home but don’t know if they are capable of taking care of themselves. Their unhappiness may come out as anger toward their parents. She could be trying to make you the bad guy for putting her out.

She could also be having some mental health issues that she is trying to medicate with alcohol. Why don’t you try to get her to a doctor for a checkup. Maybe there are some things that she could share with him or her that she wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with you. If she continues to verbally or physically abusive to you maybe it’s time for her to leave.

Good luck.

Telling Children The Truth

Dear Sara,

I adopted a baby girl when she was six months old. She has always known that she was adopted. She is now twelve and wants to know about her birth parents. It’s not a pretty story. The birth mother was about fifteen, running the streets, prostituting herself and ended up in juvenile court for breaking into houses and stealing things. She didn’t know who the father of her baby was and didn’t want a baby. I feel fortunate to have this beautiful daughter and love her very much. How do I tell her about this background?

Dear Whitney,

You first have to decide how much she is ready to hear. In this day and age twelve year olds aren’t really naive as they used to be. If she has seen movies like “Precious” then she might be able to understand that not everyone has a perfect home and do their best just to survive. If you think she will understand and not be upset then go on and tell her the truth.

On the other hand if you think she will be upset and think less of herself, you might want to minimize the truth and wait awhile for the whole truth. Don’t lie to her because she will eventually find out. Just answer questions that she asks as well as you can. Let her know how much you love her and how glad you were when she came into your life.

Putting Off College

Dear Sara,

My daughter is nineteen and is about to finish up her first year of college. She recently became engaged and wants to get married. She plans to go to college after she marries. Her husband to be has a good job and she thinks that it will be OK with him if she continues her education. I am really worried that she will quit school and have babies. How can I convince her otherwise?

Dear Francie,

Girls this age can be really naive. Does she realize that about 50% of marriages end in divorce? She might need to help support herself and her children if there is a divorce. It’s hard to finance two households on one salary. Her ability to get a good job may depend on how much education she has. If she is determined to get married there probably is no way to change her mind. Having a supportive mother may be really important to her later.
Good luck.