Technology Over Family

Dear Sara,

I am Mom to two preteen girls. They seem more involved with their electronic devices than me. I try to talk to them and get one word answers. Their focus of attention is not even on me. I’m a  working Mom so I would really like to spend some quality time with them. They are growing up so fast. How can I control this intruder?

Dear Diane,

I am assuming that you are the one paying for these devices so you should have control. You have to let your girls know what you expect. You should let them know that it’s rude to ignore their family in favor of their electronic devices and that you expect them to follow some rules regarding them.

You seem especially upset that they are ignoring you in favor of their devices. You could make a rule that they turn them off in your presence. This would also apply to meal times. They may resent this and not want to talk but eventually things will turn around. Be consistent and don’t give in. Their friends can wait.

Make sure their cell phones are off until their homework is done.  Also kids have been known to talk on their phones after bedtime. They need their sleep. Collect their phones if necessary.

Your girls need other activities besides what they find on the phone. You could try a family game night. Don’t give up and let them go back to texting and electronic game playing.

Remember that you pay the bill and you can choose not to if the girls don’t cooperate.

Embracing A Unique Child

Dear Sara,

I have three teenage sons. The youngest is thirteen and very different from the rest of the family. My husband and I are college educated and successful professionals and our two older boys do well in school and plan to go to college. Our thirteen year old doesn’t like school and is more interested in drawing and painting. He seems to be off in his own little world most of the time. He isolates himself and won’t be part of family activities because he claims we ignore him but he just isn’t interested in what the rest of us like to do. How can I make him fit into our family?

Dear Victoria,

You seem to be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I don’t think your youngest son will ever be like his brothers. His art work seem very important to him so you may have a budding artist in your family. Encourage him in the direction that he wants to grow. Let him know that if he wants to pursue a career in art that he may want to keep up with his school work so that he can continue studying art in college.

Allow him to take art classes outside of school now if they are available. The way to reach him and make him part of your family is to take an interest in his art. He will probably rebel if you expect him to be different that what he is.

You might want to have him tested to make sure he doesn’t have a learning disability. Also you  could suggest to him that eventually he will want to support himself if he can’t make a living as an artist so he might want to think about how he can do this.

Lack of Funds

Dear Sara,

My two girls, ages nine and eleven, want to go to camp this summer because their friends are going. Because of my husband’s illness and surgery, we really don’t have any extra money. I think this would be good for them because of all the stress around here, but I can’t see any way we can afford this. I feel bad, but what can I do?

Dear Fran,

Your family has been through a lot and I would guess that you daughters are aware of the family’s financial situation. They may be disappointed at not getting to go to camp but they probably won’t be surprised.

Kids at that age can often think up ways to earn their own money. There are some things that they can do like making items to sell. If they like to cook, they could make cupcakes. If they like crafts, they could make jewelry or potholders. If they want to go to camp bad enough maybe they can make it happen. This could be a good lesson for them and teach them that you have to work for what you want. Good luck to them.

Ready to Take Charge

Dear Sara,

I have a six month old daughter. I had really bad postpartum depression after she was born. I just couldn’t take care of my baby so her grandma had to take over. After some time and medication I am ready to take care of her again. Her grandma spoils her and doesn’t want her to cry and constantly hovers when I try to take care of her. I know I needed help but I am able to do this now. How can I make my husband’s Mom let me take care of my own baby?


Dear Jenny,

I can see where the baby’s grandma has gotten very attached to her in six months. Giving up her role as guardian and protector will be very emotionally difficult for her. You may have to share duties with her for a while but you need to insist that you are able to care for your daughter now.

It sounds like she would be a willing baby sitter, so you and your husband will have an opportunity for a date night from time to time. Other than this your baby’s grandma needs to see that you are capable of taking care of your baby. The more confident you are, the less she will worry. If you continue to have problems you may have to ask your husband to back you up or have a talk with her about allowing you to take care of your baby  without interference.
Good luck.

Getting Children To Do Housework

Dear Sara,

I have a job and two kids in grade school. I am constantly running from one thing to the next and have little time for housework. My children might help out once in a while but mostly they would rather watch TV or play on the computer. How can I get them to help out at home?

Dear Janice,

You do seem to have your hands full and your children are old enough to do some chores. The best solution is to start children early and make helping out part of a family tradition but your children are probably past this age by now.

First you need to have a plan. What chores are your children capable of doing? They probably can load the dishwasher or wash dishes. Picking up the daily clutter, dusting and running the sweeper are some things children can handle. Make a list of things that need to be done and give each child a choice of one or two daily chores. You could switch these around  on a weekly basis so they don’t have the same chores all of the time.

They aren’t going to do these things without some incentive. They will start to slack pretty soon and go back to their old habits of watching TV and playing on the computer. You can give them an allowance at the end of the week (don’t forget!) and let them know that the computer and TV need to be off until chores are done. You have to be consistent with your rules (and rewards). If you slack off, they will too.

Watching My Nephew Is Too Much

Dear Sara,

I’m a stay at home Mom with two kids ages two and four. My sister has a three year old who is totally out of control. When he comes over he runs around constantly, is mean to my kids and if I don’t watch him closely, is very destructive. My sister thinks this is normal three year old behavior. I suspect he might have autism but she says he’s OK and won’t have him evaluated. My sister has decided to go back to work and wants me to keep him while she works. I could use the money but I don’t think I can handle her little one. What can I tell her?

Dear Sheila,

Your first obligation is to your own preschoolers. If there is a chance that this little boy could hurt one of them then that’s a good reason to pass on this babysitting job. Your sister seems to be in denial about her son’s behavior. If he has to attend daycare, the caregivers there will probably see that her son has some problems that need to be evaluated. This could motivate her to get help for him.

If his problems are bad behavior due to your sister’s lack of parenting skills you might have a good influence on her son but your own children should be your first priority. Be honest and tell your sister you just don’t think you can handle her very active son plus your own preschoolers.

Three Year Old Night Owl

Dear Sara,

My three year old is taking an hour and a half nap at daycare and doesn’t want to go to bed at night. I have to get up early and she is still wide awake at 10:00 PM when I need to go to bed. I have talked to them at day dare and they have tried to keep her up but they say she falls asleep anyway. I need my rest. What can I do?
-Ann Marie

Dear Ann Marie,

Changing her schedule won’t be easy if daycare won’t help. If you can keep her up on the weekends that might help. Try to find something that is entertaining enough that she won’t be able to have nap time. Maybe to the park with other kids her age or to the zoo. If she goes to sleep you could wake her after half an hour or so.

I’m sure it’s easier for the daycare workers to have all of the children nap in the afternoon so you might want to look around at different daycares in your area and see what their programs look like. You might find one that has activities for the children in the afternoon.

My Teenager Wants To Drop Out of School

Dear Sara,

I am a single Mom with a sixteen year old daughter. She has decided that she wants to quit school after this year so that she can get a job and buy a car. I have told her that she absolutely cannot do this but I think if she really wants to I may not be able to stop her. I finished high school but really regret not going to college. How can I make my daughter finish high school?

Dear Jenna,

You are probably right that you may not be able to stop your daughter from quitting school but you might be able to make things difficult for her. I doubt that anyone would give her a loan or insurance on a car without your signature. In this area you have control. You might be able to persuade her to get a part-time job after school and continue with school until she graduates if  she realizes that she won’t get her car unless she cooperates by staying in school.

You have lots of responsibilities with raising your daughter and holding down a job but it’s not too late to get your college degree if you want it. Your could go part-time and eventually the credits will add up to a degree. You could look into on-line classes if that would work better for you. Be a good role model for your daughter and do something that you really want to do.

Loveless Marriage

Dear Sara,

I have a new baby and she’s beautiful. I got married because I was pregnant and I think I made a mistake. He’s a good man and I think he loves me and the baby but there is just no feeling on my part now. Should I stay with him for the baby’s sake?

Dear Michelle,

Since you have just had a baby you could be experiencing post partum depression. This is probably not a good time to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life.

You say your husband is a good man so there must be things that you like about him. Take your time and try to see if the feelings that first attracted you to him will come back. You really need to get to know each other. Try having a date night every week so that you can have some time to relax and talk. Maybe there are some things that you have in common that you can do together.

You could also try some couples counseling before you give up on your marriage. This will be an opportunity to talk to your husband about your lack of feelings for him. Give him a chance to hear what you need.

Take your time and don’t rush into anything.

My 5 Year Old Is A Loner

Dear Sara,

My five year old daughter does not like to interact with anyone outside the immediate family. I would almost call her antisocial. She goes to kindergarten and when I have been there to observe, she mostly plays by herself. Her teacher said that if there are group activities she will participate but other than that she tends to play by herself. Is there anything I can do to help her be more social?


Dear Anne,

If your daughter is interacting well within the family then you know that she is able to interact if she chooses. You may want to have some testing done to see if she has a hearing problem or something else that makes her choose to be by herself. She may be able to cope when she is with people she knows better than when she is with strangers, if she has some hidden problem.

If shyness is the problem you could invite one child at a time to your home so that she can get to know them on a one to one basis. Try to find a game that the two of them can play and be there to supervise and encourage at first.
Your daughter may just need some time to mature. If she can’t or won’t interact with other kids on a one to one basis then follow up on the testing to see if there is a problem that you might be missing.

Good luck.