What can I do to lessen the impact of divorce on my daughter?

Our marriage has broken down completely. My wife and I are going to separate. What can I do to lessen the damage to my five-year-old daughter?

Divorce is not good for kids. But there are things that you can do to lessen its impact.

The most important is to reduce the conflict between you and your ex. Here are some key DOs and DON’Ts:

  • Don’t badmouth your ex to your kid. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.
  • Do keep all interactions with your ex businesslike and courteous.
  • Do keep in contact with your daughter.
  • Do pay support on time. Most children live with their mother after divorce. Most of the time their standard of living drops like a stone. If you mess around with your support, you are punishing your daughter.
  • Don’t hassle, berate, harass, bother, annoy, criticize, belittle, disparage, rebuke, fight with, or stalk your ex. You will just be harming your daughter.

Your daughter will be better adjusted if you follow these simple guidelines. It will be even better if your wife does the same.

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My fourteen-year-old son is incredibly lazy. What can I do?

My fourteen-year-old son is incredibly lazy. He won’t do anything to help around the house. He just doesn’t seem to care. What can I do?

He may be lazy, but more likely you haven’t made it clear, over time, what you expect of him. Or, maybe you didn’t link responsibilities and privileges.

Set out expectations. Build in consequences. Privileges should be earned, not just freely given. He has to have clear responsibilities. If he does what he is supposed to, he should get his privileges. If he fails to complete responsibilities, he must not get the rewards.

Each family will have different responsibilities and privileges. In some families, keeping the room clean is important. In others, it is not. For some families, privileges will be an allowance, or a ride to hockey practice.

Teenagers hate being treated like little kids. So, be business-like. Have a meeting. Write down a contract. Nagging hardly ever works well. Getting angry might work once or twice. Being clear and firm is more likely to work in the long run. It is best to negotiate his responsibilities and privileges with him, not impose them. Renegotiate every month or so.

You have to be in it for the long run. You have to be consistent over time. You have to keep your end of the bargain. You have to take the time to insure he is complying.

Let’s say you agree that he has to set the table or keep his room clean, or walk the dog. Define what is meant. Agree when it is to be done and what the consequences are. Then follow through.

Don’t worry if he cares, just get him to do it. He will learn to care once he contributes.

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How do I explain our rules on age-appropriate games and movies when my son’s friends have no such restrictions?

My nine-year-old son feels we are being unfair limiting his access to mature and adult rated games and movies. His classmates are often given free range regardless of content. Do you have some suggestions to help deal with this on a parenting level?

You are absolutely right to limit your nine-year-old son’s access to mature and adult rated media.  You would not allow him to drive.  Nor would you give him access to alcohol.

There is no easy way to overcome the comparisons that he will make. You have to be firm and loving.  I am sure you are saying things like “I understand it doesn’t seem fair because your friends are allowed.  In our family, we don’t allow mature and adult rated games and movies.”

Keep maintaining your family’s standards.  Don’t get pulled into what other families do. You may say “Other families have different ways of doing things. In our family we don’t allow adult games and movies.”

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My nine-year-old daughter is very aggressive to her six-year-old sister

My nine-year-old daughter is very aggressive to her six-year-old sister. She picks on her ALL the time – in the car, at the table. Her sister will be downstairs playing on her own and then big sis comes down and the fighting begins. I tell my daughter if she doesn’t stop she’ll have a privilege taken away, her response is, “I don’t care”. Any suggestions?

Your older daughter may be feeling jealous of her younger sister. It is important that she knows how much you love her.

There are two  strategies that you might try to curb aggression:

  1. Give her lots of attention on the rare occasion that she does interact well with her sister. As well, you can create a Sister Peace Chart. Every time she is peacefully coexisting with her sister, she gets a sticker.  A certain number of stickers can be converted into a positive opportunity for her, perhaps a special time reading with mom or the choice of a preferred meal. It is important for her to be able to be successful.
  2. Remove her to a boring place immediately that she is aggressive. This  5-10 minute time out would be for her to settle down and reflect on how she could be more friendly to her sister.

If you decide to use punishment, don’t discuss what she says.  Just impose the punishment.

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My son refuses to use the toilet and consistently pees in his pants

My three-and-a-half-year-old son refuses to use the toilet . He was able to go pee on the toilet up until a few months ago. He has yet to master the art of a bowel movement in the toilet. A few months ago, his babysitter got a new baby in her care, and since then he has decided to pee in his pants whenever he needs to go. He tells you he needs to go so he knows he has to, but just refuses to physically go into the bathroom. He announces proudly once he has peed in his pants, and when you ask why he did it, he responds with “because I wanted to”. Please help!

Your son is exerting control over his world, and doing it quite well. I would accept his statement at face value. He pees in his pants because he wants to.

The biggest problem that arises with wetting is making it into a power struggle. No matter what you do, you cannot make him pee in the toilet. If you make it a control issue, both you and your son will suffer.

The best way to help him use the toilet is to get him to want to pee in the toilet. Right now he gets more out of peeing in his pants.

Make peeing in the toilet a positive experience. Express your confidence in him that he can pee in the toilet. Tell him about the good things that will happen if he pees in the toilet. Have special toys that he can play with only when he is on the toilet. Maybe you can read to him when he is on the toilet. Use small rewards for him when he pees in the toilet. It could be a sticker or a special activity. Pay attention to his success even if it is only sitting on the toilet without peeing. Then reward even a little tinkle.

He may be using wetting his pants to get attention. So, don’t give him attention for wetting. Treat wet pants in a very matter of fact way. Have him change his pants and put them in the laundry. Don’t:

  • ask him why he did it.
  • make any fuss about his wetting.
  • scold or punish him for wetting.
  • humiliate him.
  • make fun of him.

Give him lots of attention for more mature behaviour.

Encourage your son’s babysitter to follow the same strategy.

It is possible that he is afraid of the toilet or the noise it makes. The same methods as above would be the right strategy.

Your son may need more attention from the babysitter. Can you encourage her to spend some special time with him each day? It doesn’t have to be long.  It will likely pay off.

Another strategy would be for you to decide to use diapers on your son.  You could keep diapers on until he decides to pee in the toilet. Don’t do it as a punishment but simply as a strategy to insure cleanliness.

Once your son learns to pee in the toilet, pooping in the toilet will come easier. I would not focus on that until he gets wetting under control but the same methods would work.

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How do you keep a three-year-old sleeping through the night?

How do you keep a three-year-old sleeping through the night? Our little guy gets up 2 to 4 times a night with various demands such as needing a drink or needing to use the potty. He sleeps upstairs and we sleep downstairs. Needless to say no one is getting any rest.

The first step is to redefine the problem. You can’t make him sleep. You can teach your son to stay in his bedroom. He can learn to soothe himself back to sleep.

The second step is to make a plan. Sit down with him and talk about a plan. Even three-year-olds can participate in making a plan. The plan will have two parts: encouraging room sleeping and discouraging getting up and out of his room.

Encourage him to stay in his bedroom when he wakes up. Night time wakening is pretty common.  If he stays in his bed, he will more likely fall back asleep quite quickly. There are a couple of things that will help:

Tell him:

  • You expect  him to stay in his room because he is getting big
  • Mommy and daddy need their sleep
  • He needs to learn how to fall asleep when he wakes up
  • Make a Room Sleeping Chart recording how many times he goes out of his room.  He can earn a sticker for reducing his getting up to two times, then one, and then staying in his room.

You can discourage him getting up by:

  • Reducing your response to his wakening
  • Almost no talking to him when he gets up
  • No cuddling
  • Give him a spill proof cup of water (sippy cup) in his room to drink during the night
  • Don’t give juice or milk as you don’t want his teeth to rot
  • Teaching him to self soothe

Teaching a three-year-old to self soothe is done by having him teach his teddy bear or other favourite toy to go back to sleep.  He can tell the teddy bear to breathe calmly and relax. He could sing a lullaby to his teddy bear.  Show him and have him practice.

To help him manage through the night, you may want to consider:

  • Giving him a potty in his room to use during the night
  • Giving him an audio recorder with some soothing music that he can play when he wakes
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We need help with our son’s mood swings and aggression.

My eight-year-old son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and  Epilepsy at 8 months, and more recently with ADHD. His behavior and mood swings are up and down. We have constant contact with Doctors and other professionals but nothing is working. He is on ADHD medications, which seem to have helped some, but he gets very hateful. He hurts his other siblings, trashes his room, becomes very angry. And then suddenly he just snaps out of it. We’re good parents, what are we doing wrong?

It is frustrating when we do our best and our children don’t respond.

Most children with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy do not have problems with aggression and mood swings. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain before or at birth. Each child is different. Your son may have damaged areas that control mood and aggression.

If this is the case, he will need the same firm, calm, but loving response that you use with his siblings. However, you will have to be even more consistent. Over time, as he matures, this will pay off. He needs to learn, and over-learn that aggression is not acceptable.

Continue your work with various health professionals. There may be other medications that can help as well.

I am sure that at times your son is a rewarding child. He has taught you patience and perseverance. I know you will continue to be the excellent parents that you are.

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Is my son too young for a proper ADHD diagnosis?

My four-year-old son is showing signs of ADHD. Is he too young to be properly diagnosed and at his age should we entertain the idea of medication?

The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at age four is not as accurate as it is for older kids. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for him at this stage is to use a lot of positive parenting skills to help him:

  • focus on his strengths
  • use a firm but warm approach
  • avoid harsh punishment
  • control any aggression he is showing

A large, well designed study, the Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS), found positive results using methylphenidate, the most widely used ADHD medication with preschoolers with severe ADHD. The younger children also seemed more sensitive to the side effects of the medication.

We simply don’t know enough about preschool ADHD at this time.

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Our grandson is alienating his friends with his behaviour. What can we do?

My eleven-year-old grandson is alienating the friends he plays hockey with and now they tell him they want him off the team. He is a very tall and seemingly more mature for his age but he comes off the ice crying. I know he can also be a bully but his teammates used to call him the “gentle giant”, now they just call each other names. How do I get him to understand and re-establish his friendships before it’s too late? He doesn’t want to go to hockey anymore, he just wants to stay home because “everyone hates him.” I am so worried about him. He has such a good nature that can turn around on a dime and become an “I don’t care” type kid. Should we be worried and what can we do ?

He is lucky to have grandparent who are so observant and concerned. Since adults are not present when things happen, it is hard to tell what the actual problem is. As well, adults are not part of the web of friendship and have no direct influence.  It is exceedingly difficult to help preteens and teens with their social lives.

However, there are a few things that may be helpful:

  1. Most of us have been in similar circumstances to your grandson. If you were, tell him about it. Stories that don’t work out perfectly are often more helpful than the perfect solution.
  2. Encourage him to get involved with his friends.
  3. If you know exactly what he is doing to irritate his friends, you can give specific advice. Though usually it will be ignored.

If he has created a real problem, he may need to start fresh with new friends. You could encourage some other sport or activity.

Most preteens and teens go through a lot of ups and downs socially. Most of the time situations that seem impossible, work out.

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My five-year-old son will not listen to me, what can I do?

My son is five-years-old and I am having an issue with him not listening and paying attention. He needs to be asked several times to complete a single task and at times nags so much when he is told no that it drives us crazy. When at school he is very easily distracted and has to be reminded to pay attention or finish the task at hand. I have talked to him on several occasions and try to tell him how important listening and following instructions are but it just goes in one ear and straight out the other. What can I do to get him on the right path?

Some things may go in one ear and out the other, but your son has learned other things very well. He has learned that he does not have to do anything until you have asked several times. He has also learned that nagging gets a reaction and sometimes gets his way.
Telling him how important listening and following instructions are will never work. It is challenging when children learn the wrong things from what we do.

You might try the following strategies. First of all, reduce the number of requests you give him. Most of us give too many commands to our children. If you give fewer commands, you can follow through so he will be a success.

When you tell him to do something, make sure you have his attention first. Get down to his level and make eye contact. Then tell him what you want him to do. This will insure that he really hears you the first time.

Once you have told him what to do, make sure he succeeds at doing it. For example, if you ask him to brush his teeth, stand beside him, give him 10 seconds and then prompt him physically to go to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Once he goes to the bathroom, wait a short time to see if he has started to brush his teeth, if not go into the bathroom. Don’t tell him again but once more prompt the behaviour. Do this all in a positive way. This is all a bit tedious, but it is the best way to help him learn to follow directions. When he does follow directions, make sure you notice it.

The best way to reduce his nagging is to ignore it 100% of the time. So for example, if he is in the grocery store and says, “I want a chocolate bar.” The first time he asks say “No, you cannot have a chocolate bar.”  If he keeps on, just ignore it. Don’t get angry. Don’t give in. Don’t even notice it. As soon as he stops nagging, pay attention to him. If you give in, you are teaching him to persist. If you get angry, at least he got attention for nagging. Sometimes if you get angry, you may feel guilty and then give in. If you are going to give in, do it right at the beginning. Don’t say no and then change your mind. He may always have a short attention span, but you can help him pay attention to what he needs to.

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