My ex-husband and I have been divorced for two years, and we maintain a healthy relationship with one another. We have a 4-year-old son who spends time with both of us.
My ex-husband has a fiancé, and I have a boyfriend. We have been living together for 10 months. My son will not warm up to my boyfriend. He cries constantly and follows me around whenever my boyfriend is home. My boyfriend has done everything he can to establish a relationship with my son. He has done nothing to warrant my son’s reaction. I have tried talking, bargaining and disciplining, but nothing seems to help the situation.
My son’s negative reaction began when my boyfriend moved in. He has three children of his own. My son does say that he loves my boyfriend “a little,” but that he wants it to just be the two of us living together.
Change in the home environment can be very difficult for small children. It is likely that your son is targeting his frustrations at your boyfriend because he associates him with the disruption in his home life. It has nothing to do with what your boyfriend has or hasn’t done.
Have you tried integrating your boyfriend in activities outside the home environment, such as a trip to the zoo or a picnic in the park? Removed from the stress of the house, your son might more easily come to see your boyfriend as someone who is fun and supportive.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with your ex-husband. Would he be willing to help out? Perhaps you could invite him and his fiancé over for dinner so your son can see that the new family structure is still loving and supportive. If this is not possible in your home, maybe you could get a babysitter for your boyfriend’s children and the three of you could go to your ex-husband’s house for dinner. It is important that you show your son that the new family dynamic is supportive and caring like the old one was.
Family counseling is another good option. Your son needs a safe place where he can share his feelings and receive guidance from a therapist about the changes he is experiencing. It will take patience and time, but he seems receptive. After all, he says that he loves your boyfriend “a little.” This is a strong step forward. Do everything you can to reinforce these statements.
I have signed my 4-year-old twin boys up for soccer, and the season is not going well. One son pushes his teammates and does not listen to his coach. When my other son decides that he has had enough, he sits on the sidelines and goofs off. I think they might be too young for organized sports, but it is too late now. Do you have any suggestions for getting through the rest of the season?
Sports are good for children your sons’ age for many reasons beyond learning the fundamentals. They learn social skills like listening to their coach, following instructions, getting along with teammates, dealing with disappointment and in your case, boredom and staying on-task.
Yes, this situation is frustrating for you and your children. But it is best to finish out the season because it sends the message that we finish what we start. Quitting before we’ve given it a chance is not a good habit.
Soccer may not be their sport, but they can still learn valuable life skills by remaining on the team. Next season, you can try a different sport or activity. For now, encourage your sons to participate and praise them when they do. Practice their newly learned skills with them at home. Once they see how fun it is and how important their parents think it is, hopefully their interest will increase. Talk to their coach for suggestions on additional ways to encourage your sons from the sidelines.
I am recently divorced and regret my decision to allow my sons, ages 13 and 16, to live with their father. We have joint custody. I thought I was making the correct decision at the time, thinking the boys would benefit from living with their father. I try to be an active part of their lives, but my ex-husband is making this difficult.
My sons are angry with me. I try to explain the situation to them, but they don’t want to hear it. My ex-husband does not abide to my visitation rights. He lets our sons decide when they want to see me instead of telling them that they need to spend time with their mother.
Divorce is hard on everyone, especially children who must accept that their parents are no longer together. Unfortunately, you cannot control your ex-husband. He doesn’t have to force your sons to spend time with you, but he can encourage them to do so.
Of course you miss your children and want to spend time with them. The best thing you can do now is continue to call them and make attempts to see them. Remind them that you love them. Continue to show interest by sending cards and attending their sporting events. Try not to get upset with them or their father, as this will only cause more negative interactions between you.
You can also try talking to your ex-husband about encouraging the boys to see you more often. It sounds like your divorce is fairly recent, so it may take a little time to sort out the new family dynamic.
Should the present situation continue for long without any visits, you may have to seek legal help to gain rights for visits with your children.
When the time is right, you may want to consider beginning family therapy with you and your children to build a stronger relationship. It will also help you work through some of the negative emotions you are all experiencing.
My daughter has been having a difficult time fitting in this year. She says that she initiates conversations, and she is either ignored, told to shut up or just looked at like she’s from another planet. I don’t know what I can do to help her. I have spoken with the school counselor, but nothing has changed. Each passing day it gets worse, and my daughter is becoming severely depressed. She doesn’t want to go to school in the mornings, and she locks herself in her room at night and on the weekends. She is a kind-hearted little girl who loves life and everything in it, but I can see the joy draining from her daily.
Thank you for reaching out for help for your daughter. It is difficult to watch our children be unsuccessful at anything, whether it is academic, athletic or social. You did not share the age of your daughter, which makes it somewhat difficult for us to make age-appropriate suggestions.
Without going into other symptoms of depression, you have enough valid concerns to make an appointment to have her evaluated and begin counseling. We would also encourage you to do some things right away besides making that call for an appointment.
First, identify what your daughter is good at and what her interests are. Find a way to promote those interests and help her get more involved in them. Go to the library and check out books on the topic of interest. Find activities or events where others who have similar interests gather to share ideas or enjoyment of their hobby.
Without being too forceful, invite her out of her room in the evenings to share some time with you. Talk about weekend plans and what you can do as a family. Do not allow her withdrawal to continue. Some private time is OK, but all evening or all weekend is not emotionally healthy.
My seven-year-old child has a best friend in the final stages of a long battle with cancer. How do we tell her and her 10 year-old brother that the friend is dying and won't be with us much longer? They know he is sick but are unaware how little time remains. Any advice would greatly be welcomed.
We appreciate you emailing us. Death and dying is never an easy subject to discuss, especially where young children are concerned. However, the family values that you hold dear can be a source of strength and comfort as you share this difficult news with your children.
If your family is one that has spiritual beliefs, you may want to try talking with them from a spiritual perspective. Children are very receptive to messages of love and peace when it comes to the lives of others. You can also try opening the conversation with a "What if..." question and see how they respond. Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings and to ask questions. Give answers in words they will understand and don’t be afraid to use stories, as children are receptive to stories and illustrations.
Encourage them to celebrate their friend’s life after he’s gone by creating a memory/scrapbook, planting a tree or making a small donation they raise themselves to the hospital or cancer organization in his honor. The goal is to understand that even though their friend may have left this world physically, his spirit can live on through them.
If you'd like more advice about this situation or anything else, call us 24/7 at 1-800-448-3000.
My girlfriend has been adamant that her five-year-old son have his own room in my house. The room is now up, but he never sleeps in it. Yet I don't believe he has spent one entire night in there since the room's inception. Though I have made the point very clear that he is old enough to sleep in his own room, she insists that he sleep in the bed with her until "he's ready to sleep by himself." My girlfriend won’t sleep without the TV on and constantly argues with her son about watching it instead of sleeping. How do I approach my girlfriend in a way that won't make her think I'm criticizing her skills or ignoring her wishes?
Thank you for writing to us. You addressed a very important issue concerning bedtime. You should talk directly with your girlfriend about what your involvement in rearing her child should be. It was considerate of you to make space for her son, and we’re sure that this all seems a little new and fresh. Routine and consistency go hand in hand when it comes to this issue. Establishing a bedtime routine can boost success.
Help get her son into the routine of brushing his teeth, getting into his bed for a story and then lights out. Watching TV before going to sleep can be counterproductive because it actually stimulates your brain. Other activities such as reading or listening to relaxing music have a more soothing effect.
Children respond more enthusiastically to a bedtime routine when parents participate. You and your girlfriend can offer encouragement during this routine which will make it more enjoyable for him. Offering these suggestions to your girlfriend might work, but be prepared for any resistance. You mentioned she said he'll sleep in his room when he's ready, but it sounds as if she's the one who isn't ready. You might want to address this with her. Approach her with sensitivity and let her know upfront that you aren't trying to attack her parenting skills.
My 15-year-old daughter is struggling to make friends in her first year of high school. She does not want to go to school and only has one friend there. Her grades are not suffering, but it hurts my heart to see her crying because she just spent the past eight hours alone. She also thinks she is ugly. What can I do to help her self-esteem and to make friends at school?
Thanks for contacting us. It can be very frustrating to see your child struggling to adjust to a time in her life that should be one of her most exciting. Rest assured that while the transition to high school for her and many teens can be stressful and difficult, it does get better with time and patience.
Encourage your daughter to find things that she's interested in and be willing to try them out. Joining athletic, academic or activity clubs in or outside of school is a great way to make friends and share common interests. While it can be a little frightening at first, your daughter must remember that there are other girls and boys who feel the same way she does and are looking for friendship, too.
Regarding her self-esteem and her looks, help her identify what she likes about herself (everyone has something). A new outfit or hairstyle might cheer her up. Often times when we change our appearance or reinvent ourselves just a little bit, it can be a major confidence booster. If she hasn't done this, you may want to spend a day or a weekend with her to see if it helps. Even though we know that real beauty comes from inside and that your daughter may already be a beautiful person, she needs to feel and see it for herself.
If you or your daughter would like to talk more in detail about what she's dealing with, we'd be happy to hear from you. Give our hotline a call at 1-800-448-3000 and talk to one of our trained professional counselors. We're available 24/7 and specialize in parenting and youth issues.
I am worried about my son who has no motivation toward life or completing simple daily tasks. Drug and alcohol dependency, as well as mental illness, run in our family, and I am concerned that he will fall into the same problems. He is a good kid with a beautiful passion for music, but he has no interest in setting goals or fulfilling even basic responsibilities like household chores. I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he refuses. He's the type that keeps things bottled up inside. We are a very close family, yet I feel so lost when it comes to helping him.
Thank you for writing. It's understandable that you are concerned about your son, especially if mental health issues run in the family. However, it's important to focus on the here and now and not what could happen to him in the future because of his genetics. As parents, we are concerned for our children, but we can’t allow that concern to take over.
You have already tried to be a proactive parent by offering to take him to counseling. Although you cannot force him to go, continue to let him know that it's an option. We can help you locate therapists who specialize in youth counseling, as well as nontraditional forms of therapy, such as music therapy, since you mentioned your son’s passion for music.
His lack of drive in life might appear so to you, but perhaps he is seeing it differently. Express the goals you would like for him to accomplish but be very specific so you're not misinterpreted. Instead of making a vague statement like, "You need to have goals in life," be specific with something such as, "I would like to see you graduate from high school and go to college."
If you need help with household chores, determine and discuss what the consequences will be if they are or are not done. Whenever you introduce a new parenting technique, it will take some time for all parties to adjust. Be consistent and you will see changes in behavior.
You might also want to encourage some positive coping skills (i.e., keeping a blog, volunteering, exercising, cooking or listening to music) if you feel he’s keeping things bottled up inside. We hope that you and your family start to see change; let us know if there is any other way we can help.
My children throw horrible tantrums at bedtime and when I take them out for a meal. One of my children is four years-old and the other is two. My two year-old cries so hard at bedtime that she sometimes makes herself throw up. She will scream for hours until I put her into my bed. I am tired of not sleeping and not being able to take my children out. Please help.
Thanks for writing in with the parenting challenges that you are currently facing. Parenting young children can be exhilarating and exhausting. It sounds like you are spending a lot of time feeling exhausted.
First, you have to decide specific behaviors that you want to see them exhibit in each of these settings. Let's take the going out to dinner setting. It should have specific behavioral steps that can be observed and practiced such as:
1. Stay touching Mommy's leg at all times.
2. Use an inside or quiet voice while in the restaurant.
3. Stay seated at all times.
4. Use your fork and spoon to eat unless the food is "finger food."
This skill should be taught and practiced frequently. At home, you can pretend that you are in a restaurant. Show and tell them the behaviors you want to see. Then have them practice making sure to keep the practice fun and brief. Praise your children when they display the desired behavior with high-fives, clapping or whatever encourages them. It will take some time but if you are consistent, your children will learn better behaviors.
The bedtime issue is a bit more complex. Start by establishing a routine that includes a regular bedtime. About an hour before bedtime stop everything else and began following a nightly ritual that involves activities such as a snack, a bath, pajamas and reading a story while rocking the children on your lap. Place them in their beds, sing softly to them or whisper a few prayers. A kiss good night should be the last thing before walking out the door.
If they begin to cry, you can go back in and repeat the last couple of steps. Lay them back down, rub or pat their back and sing or pray, then walk out. Do this consistently to establish a new bedtime routine. Be patient and understand that if you get upset, the little one will only become more upset, and it will not result in a positive outcome.
My five-year-old son suddenly becomes clingy, bashful and unwilling to participate whenever I introduce him to situations where there are groups of children present. When his mother takes him to class, he does not behave this way. The other night at a karate class he buried his face in my shirt for 15 minutes and refused to participate. He couldn’t tell me why he didn’t want to go to class and when I pressed him about it, he started crying. I am extremely accepting and noncritical and regularly affirm his self-worth. Is this normal?
Thanks for writing to us about the difficulties you are experiencing with your son. Children succeed the most when they feel secure in their environment. Security takes root when the rules, boundaries and consequences are consistent.
The change in your son's behavior may be a result of the variation between parenting expectations. Perhaps you and your wife have different expectations that encourage your son to act differently. This doesn't necessarily mean that your ways are wrong and her ways are right; it just means they could be different. This also doesn't mean that your son is manipulating because he may not even know he is doing it. As a solution to this problem, maybe you and your wife should go together to a karate class to see how your son responds.
One of two things will happen: He'll either do just fine and go ahead with class, or he'll become clingy towards you and start crying. If he does fine, then he'll know you saw what he is capable of doing, and you can hold him to this expectation every time. If he becomes clingy, perhaps his mother can intervene and help you and your son reach a positive experience.