My son is awake for long periods at night and cries if I don’t hold him.

In the past two months my 18-month-old has been waking up two or three times each night and crying. I must carry him in my arms to stop his crying and he becomes very angry and anxious when I try to put him in his bed. I can spend one or two hours holding him in my arms every night. He also prefers me to carry him while I am standing (he gets very angry when I try to sit). What can I do to break him from this habit? I think he is too old to be carried like this.

Most children his age will wake several times during the night.  Some will settle themselves. Others will cry and then go back to sleep. Your son has trained you to hold him while you are standing up for several hours when he wakes.

He is not abnormal. He did not plot this out.  You are not abnormal. You responded to his crying as a caring mom.

But the result is a disaster for you and for him. Your evenings are out of control. His sleep is very disrupted. Your relationship with him may be suffering. It may be interfering with your relationship with your partner.

The quickest way to help him has been termed the cry it out method:

  • Make sure his crib is safe.
  • Have a nice bed time routine.
  • When he wakes and starts to cry. Ignore it.
  • He will cry more and more. Ignore it.
  • He may cry for 30 minutes or longer. Ignore it.
  • He will eventually stop crying and fall asleep.
  • Over a week or 10 days if you continue to ignore his crying, it will lessen.

Eventually, he will wake, give a snort or two and go back to sleep.

Likely, he will start the crying again in a few weeks or months when he is stressed or ill. Let him cry it out again.

Do not start this strategy unless you are committed to letting him cry it out. If you are inconsistent, you will make his problem worse. You may need social support.

My wife and I used this with our daughter who is now an adult. It was about 40 minutes of crying the first night. It was hard. We persisted and in a week she was sleeping well and much more rested in the morning.

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Is there anything I can do to help my sister escape her abusive relationship?

My sister is in an emotionally abusive relationship. He is also unfaithful. After she married him I slowly watched her cut all ties with her friends and then she started to cut ties with the family. She refuses to see or speak to me. I believe she no longer speaks to me because I supported her efforts to leave him by offering for her to live with me rent free and I offered to help her pay her portion of the mortgage until they could sell their house. Then she changed her mind and decided to stay with him. I did not give her a hard time about her decision because I feared being cut out of her life. Her husband needed a new car and they couldn’t afford one so I offered to give them mine, as I was purchasing a new car. They refused this and then she cut me out of her life. Before she stopped talking to me she told me that no one else would ever love her. I feel like his verbal abuse has ruined her life. Is there anything I can do to help her?

You are a very generous and supportive person. Try to maintain a link with your sister. Perhaps email is the easiest. Once every week or two send her an email that is just chatty and letting her know you care for her.  Don’t offer her anything other than your friendship. Don’t make any requests or demands that you get together. She may not respond but don’t give up.

Just send your email every two weeks talking about nothing in particular, giving a bit of family news.  Don’t show a lot of emotion, don’t say you miss her a lot or that you are worried about her. Do say a bit about your hobbies or pastimes, even talk about the weather.  Keep the note at 100-150 words so as not to overwhelm her.

She will know you are there for her. She will respond when she is ready.

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How can I help my daughter? She has attempted suicide twice in the last three years.

My daughter is 16 and has attempted suicide twice in the last three years by taking pills. Her biological father committed suicide when she was four months old and her brother was two. He had a mental illness and my concern is that my daughter has it too.

I have taken her for lots of counselling and she even saw a psychiatrist. Though I don’t agree with the results at all.

I’m really concerned for her and don’t know where else to turn. I’m hoping you can direct me in what to do next.

For counselling to be effective you must be confident in it. I encourage you to have an open mind and continue to search for help that you have confidence in. Talk to your family doctor. She or he may have some suggestions.

Before you send your daughter for counselling it is a good idea for you to have a chat with the counsellor. Explain what the problem is from your point of view. Ask questions about how they approach issues.

For safety, it is important for you to check all of the medicine cabinets in your home and make sure you don’t have any out of date medications that could be a danger to your daughter. Take out of date medications to your pharmacist for disposal.

If you are taking any medications keep them safely away from your daughter.

You and your daughter have made it to her sixteenth birthday through very difficult circumstances. You must be doing some things right. What do you think are the strengths of your relationship? How is she good at managing? What is going well?

Build on the strengths that you have identified. Although she may be at risk for problems, she is not doomed to have problems because of these risks. Many other factors: her strengths, your strengths, good relationships, other life successes and so on also make up a child’s character. Keep up the good work!

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New Siblings – Video

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What can I do to stop the 15 minute tantrums when Mom leaves my grandson with me?

When my five-year-old grandson is dropped off here, at daycare, and sometimes at his Dad’s place, he throws a tantrum and cries hard for about 15 minutes after Mom leaves. There is no way of comforting him, he wants Mom.  He didn’t used to do this for more than a minute or two.  After he settles down, he plays with me and the toys and we are good friends.  When Mom leaves him she takes 15 minutes or so to say goodbye. When Dad brings him he doesn’t cry at all when he leaves.  They both kiss him goodbye and Dad leaves in about 2 minutes.  I find this upsetting for me and the child.  He loves both parents and goes to his Dad’s one day a week and will ask how many sleeps until he goes to Daddy’s house. He plays well with other kids and is very active. What do you think could be the cause of this and what advice might you give?

You are a wonderful grandparent and your warm firmness helps your grandson a lot.
He is being encouraged to be upset. I suggest two strategies:

  1. His mom should give a very brief goodbye. A hug, a kiss and then leave. No lingering. No looking back. Just leave.
  2. If he carries on after she is gone, give no comforting. Just ignore him. When he stops crying, play with him. Have fun.  Don’t mention the crying.

His mom limiting her goodbyes would be easier on her and on him. I hope she is willing to do that.

It would be best if both strategies are used. But even one may help.

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How can I help my daughter transition from children’s medication to pills?

My twelve-year-old daughter is getting too old to take children’s medication, but she finds it virtually impossible to swallow a pill. If she has a fever or prescription, we have a very difficult time getting her medication into her. How can I teach her this skill?

Lots of people have difficulty swallowing a pill. The best way to learn most skills is to practice it over and over in a positive environment.

Three things make learning to swallow pills difficult. We usually need to swallow a pill when we feel sick.  We only need to swallow a few pills. Often the parent and the kid get upset.

Create a better learning situation. Make it a project with you and your daughter:

  1. Shop with your daughter for candies that resemble pills, e.g., Smarties, M&Ms. Get a few different ones.  If there is a compounding pharmacist, he or she may be able to supply you with real pills that have no medication in them.
  2. Set up a schedule for ten minute sessions to practice swallowing the “pills” without chewing them.
  3. Have her practice  swallowing “pills” every day until she has at least three days in a row where she had no problem swallowing a variety of “pills”.
  4. During these sessions, use lots of encouragement. Don’t criticize. Don’t get frustrated.
  5. Keep a chart of success, e.g., how many “pills” she swallowed in the ten minutes.
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Do I need to leave the country to get a proper diagnosis for my daughter?

Our twelve-year-old daughter has spent the last ten months in devastating pain after a soccer injury. We have tried everything and nothing is helping. Finally we have had a so-called diagnosis of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. I am a Canadian living in Australia and think I need to come home with my daughter to get help. Any advice would be appreciated. We are truly desperate.

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a serious and very painful disease. It is a well established diagnosis. There are two types, one from known nerve injury and one from an unknown source. The pain is often burning and severe. It is common to avoid activity. There may be other physical changes such as discoloration and changes in temperature. Much remains to be learned about CRPS. Treatment is usually a combination of medication, physiotherapy and psychology. All three are usually needed. With the right treatment, most children get better.

There are excellent pain specialist doctors in Australia. The Australian Pain Society ( should be able to tell you where there is a pain clinic in your state. If there is a pediatric pain clinic, that may be a bit better, but all pain clinics should be able to treat CRPS. Unfortunately, many non specialists are less skilled at treatment of CRPS.

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Keeping kids from bad influences – Video

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My grandson is showing signs of the behaviour that led to my son’s breakdown. What should I do?

My Son is now 24, when he was younger he walked in circles on the playground and had a lot of fears, but he was very smart. Teachers never said anything about these behaviours because he was so smart. But he had a complete breakdown at age eleven. My grandson, who is four, also walks in circles and has many fears. Should I do anything about this? We never really got our son back 100%.

If you can, suggest to your son and his partner that a checkup with your grandson’s doctor might be helpful. Don’t push if he does not agree.

It sounds like you successfully raised your son, despite the difficulties. Support your son in raising your grandson. Notice what he does well with his son and encourage him.

Children who are just a bit different need lots of love and support. Spend time with your grandson. Have fun with him. Let him know how important he is to you. Encourage your grandson to become skilled at things he enjoys. It does not matter what these are. They might be sports or hobbies or other things.

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My 11-year-old daughter is lying and stealing and I feel powerless.

My daughter is 11, and I have been having a very difficult time with her for the past few months. My husband works a lot and I feel like I am doing this on my own. She is an only child. She is lying about something everyday, from little white lies to more severe ones. She is sneaking food from the kitchen, taking stuff from our bedroom, or anywhere in the house, and then lying about where she got it. It just seems like whatever she wants, she takes. We no longer trust her. Things turn up in her room that I have never seen before, clothes, toys, electronics, makeup, jewelry, etc. and I wonder where they came from. Two days this week, she tells us she has to be to school an hour early so she can practice for a play, and then we find out, there is no play. What she has been doing, we have no idea. I ask her about it, but I get numerous varying stories, so I don’t know what to believe. She stole my cell phone for two days. I searched high and low for it, and she never confessed. We find out she has been using it to call boys until 1:00 AM, texting friends and the conversations and language we read was shocking. She was grounded for a week for this, but then a day after the grounding was over, we found my phone back in her room again. I try to give her positive reinforcement, tell her we love her and that we are there for her, but she keeps taking advantage of us. She is disobedient and refuses to follow the rules. I feel like I am at my wits’ end and she is not even a teenager yet. She is punished for bad behavior by taking away privileges like TV, video games, etc. but she doesn’t seem to care. It seems as if we have no currency. Tonight, for example, she had a temper tantrum because she wasn’t allowed to go to a birthday party (due to the lies earlier in the week about needing to be at school early). For two hours, she cried, threw things, stomped her feet, refused to go to her room to calm down. Tonight was worse than it has been in a while, and I tried to be calm, but inside I felt powerless. I worry that things are only going to get worse as she hits puberty and gets older. Please help! I know she is a good kid, I just don’t know where to go from here. I don’t want this lying, stealing and sneaking around to escalate.

You are likely in for a difficult patch. I would suggest you continue your firm approach and insure that you have some good times with her as well. It is very easy to get trapped into only negative interactions. Try not to get angry. Be firm.

On the control side I would suggest you inspect her room on a regular basis so that you will find everything she has taken. Remove everything that is not clearly hers. Don’t take excuses, if she cannot prove to you she has the right to have something, it is not hers and should be confiscated.

Ignore the temper tantrums and when she it is finished impose discipline.

Don’t give her the opportunity to take your things. Keep track of your money and your phone. Don’t put temptation in her way.

On the positive side, find something you can do with her that she likes. Not anything expensive but something you can share. You need to build the relationship between the two of you.

Notice her positive behavior. Let her know when she is behaving well without putting her down. Say: “You did a good job on your Social Studies project.”  Don’t say: “You cleaned up your room, why can’t you keep it clean all the time?”

Check to see how she is doing in school. Is there a problem there that is spilling over into her behavior at home?

In summary, be firm but not angry. Maintain your relationship with her.

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