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Copyright © 2017 Connexion Psychological Practice Ltd.

Parenting /  Behaviorable Problem

Emotional / Behavior Problems of Children / Adolescents

Every child and adult faces emotional difficulties from time to time.  Feelings of sadness or loss and extremes of emotions are part of growing up.  Emotional conflicts between parents and children are also inevitable as children struggle from the "terrible two' s" through adolescence to develop their own identities. These are normal emotional changes in behavior due to growth and development.  Such problems can be more common in times of change for the family - the death of a grandparent or family member, a new child, a move to the city.  Generally, these kinds of emotional problems tend to fade on their own or with limited visits to a counselor or other mental health professional as children adjust to the changes in their lives.  At times, however, some children may develop inappropriate emotional and behavioral responses to situations in their lives that persist over time.

The realization that a child's behavior needs professional attention can be painful or frightening to parents who have tried to help their child.  Many parents are afraid that their child may be inappropriately labeled, and point out that the array of diagnoses, medicines, and therapies have not been agreed upon by all specialists.  Still other parents become alarmed after obtaining an assessment for their child only to discover that the evaluator believed emotional disturbances originate in family dynamics and parenting classes are the best way to address the emotional problem.  While many parents will concede that they may need to learn new behavior management or communication techniques in order to provide a consistent and rewarding environment for their child, many parents express deep anger about the blame placed on families with children who behave differently.

Before seeking a formal emotional difficulties or emotional issues assessment, parents may have tried to help their child by talking to friends, relatives or the child's school.  They may try to discover whether others see the same problems, and to learn what others suggest they might try.  Parents may feel that they also need help in learning better ways of supporting the child through difficult times, and may seek classes to help them sharpen behavior management skills or conflict resolution skills.  Modifications in a child's routine at home or school may help to establish whether some fine tuning" will improve performance or self-esteem.  If the problems a child is experiencing are seen as fairly severe, and are unresponsive to interventions at school, in the community or at home, an assessment by a competent mental health professional is probably in order.  Assessment will provide information which, when combined with what parents know, may lead to a diagnosis of an emotional or a behavioral disorder, and a recommended treatment program.

So when should parents recognize their child's behavior has surpassed the boundary of what all children do and has become sufficiently alarming to warrant a formal assessment?  There is no key moment.  It is often a gradual awareness that a child's emotional development just isn't where it should be that sends most parents on a quest for answers.

Effects of Adolescent Emotional Issues

The effects of childhood emotional issues vary greatly, depending on the type and severity of the emotional issue.

 

Examples of these effects include:

  • Severe anxiety

  • Self-injury

  • Phobias

  • Depression

  • Drug Abuse

  • Insomnia

  • Promiscuity

  • Difficulty learning, struggling in school

  • Suicide

  • Eating disorders 

  • Extreme anger and hostility

When to seek Adolescent Emotional Issues Counseling

Parents are usually the first to recognize that their child has a problem with emotions or behavior. Still, the decision to seek adolescent emotional issues counseling can be difficult and painful for a parent. The first step is to gently try to talk to the child. An honest open talk about feelings can often help. Parents may choose to consult with the child's physicians, teachers, members of the clergy, or other adults who know the child well. These steps may resolve the problems for the child and family. 

A family can have four children three of whom are well behaved and doing fine. When parents seek help for problems with one of their four the first assumption is that the parents have done something wrong with this one. They will drag the parents through endless counseling and parenting classes. They will stubbornly stick to this approach in the face of no improvement for far longer than should be. The helpers will be blind to the skills the parents showed with their other three children. 

Many suggested that improper parenting was the basis of all emotional problems. This theme has persisted with many bitter consequences down to today. It has only been in the last few years that people have finally surrendered this wrong view in the area of autism. How many mothers have tortured themselves with the belief that a cold, unloving parenting style was supposed to have caused this disorder? While it is true that even among all normal children some are more compliant than others, or easier to parent, if a parent has been successful at reward and punishment plans with some of their children, they probably understand how to use them for all their children. If parents prefer to handle severe emotional problems with behavior modification first before resorting to other interventions, these plans can be very demanding. When research has shown them to work with serious emotional disorders, they were characterized by being clearly defined, frequently communicated, and rewards and consequences were administered frequently and extremely close in time to the behavior that triggered them. 

It is not easy for parents to set up these kinds of behavior modification plans. This requires a high degree of objectivity and most parents are too emotionally involved with their children to be highly objective. They have problems identifying target behaviors, and they have problems arranging meaningful rewards and punishments that work. They also have problems issuing the consequences quickly and frequently. Often it helps to have someone else oversee your efforts with emotional issues. A professional adolescent emotional issues counselor can provide a different point of view helpful for the family and the adolescent in the adolescent emotional skills development stage of life.

Parenting / Behaviour Problem - Q & A

Since entering into the upper forms / high school, lately I find my child appears to be emotionally troubled.  What could be the problem?

Youngsters entering pre-adolescence face the pressures of increasing school demands and new relations with the opposite sex. There is the natural concern about high school graduation requirements and following career prospects or college studies. At the same time changes in personal body shape and chemistry can be confusing, needing constant adjustment. Interest in the opposite sex is fast-developing and forming relationships with them requires the learning of new skill sets, which can be quite stressful.

Parents can reduce these pressures by lending positive support, tutoring their children in their schoolwork and guiding their schooling or career plans as appropriate. Further, parents can explain to their children about their changes physically and emotionally and introduce to them certain social skills in dealing with the opposite sex. However, if your child is observed to be in deep depression or emotionally disturbed for extended duration, then professional help is indicated.

Headline:  Teen Angst

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question

My daughter is 13 and we've always been good friends. I'm scared that now she's getting older this will change. I've read about how difficult teenagers are and how they often want nothing to do with their parents.  How can I make sure we stay friends as she grows older?

 

Answer

It's nice to be friends with your children, but your most important task is to be her mother. She can always find another friend, but not another mother. Now that we've got that clear, you should think about how you can help your daughter through her teenage years with the support and understanding she needs, while at the same time setting firm boundaries.

 

It sounds to me as if you're worrying far too much before problems emerge. You should be focusing on what your daughter's needs are now and how you can help her, rather than worrying about your own desire to remain friends for ever.

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Question

Our 13-year-old boy is always getting angry, shouting and calling me names. We give in to him to avoid confrontation because when he loses control he starts throwing things.  He even hides some of our belongings. He always wants things his way.  Where can we go to get help?

 

Answer

This isn't a healthy situation for your son or your family, and you need to do something. Perhaps you could start by discussing the situation with him.

 

Is this anger displayed only at home, or does he also behave this way at school? It may be a good idea to involve his teachers and principal. If he doesn't want you to involve the school, he may be willing to change.  This could give you the opportunity to discuss what you think are acceptable boundaries, in terms of his abusive behaviour.

 

The other possibility is to see a counsellor - either from his school or privately - to discuss how to set boundaries and   how to make him aware of the consequences of his behaviour.  The solution to this issue may not lie solely with your son, but in your difficulties in dealing with the confrontation. This is also an area in which you can get help to overcome the fear of confronting your son's behaviour.

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Headline:  Dilemma

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

My husband and I and our 10-year-old daughter moved to Hong Kong seven months ago from Singapore. I'm worried about my daughter because she seems to have no friends and appears desperately unhappy in her new school. When I pick her up she's always on her own, and it breaks my heart to see her like that. She never talks about friends and never gets invited on play dates. She has changed from being happy and sociable to being quiet and withdrawn. What can I do?

 

Answer:

It sounds as if your daughter is having difficulties adjusting to school due to the move from Singapore to Hong Kong. I suggest you start by talking to her teachers at school and see what they can do to help her to connect with some classmates so that she can make some friends.

 

Since most of the students will know each other, it can be difficult for new kids to find a place in a circle of friends. But  the teachers can  create opportunities for her to get to know the other students, perhaps by giving her some small responsibilities or tasks in class so that she can build up a sense of belonging.

 

If your daughter enjoys any, particular team sport or hobby, such as netball, dancing or drama, you could also look for an after-school club. Schools often have their own or you could find private ones close to your home. Having a common interest will help her fit in better and these groups are usually smaller and more suited to welcoming new faces - in fact, many will go out of their way to do so.

 

However, I think you have to act and it's important to intervene before this pattern becomes set. Hopefully, a few months down the line, she will have a good circle of friends and you'll look back and wonder why you worried so much.

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Question:

My 15-year-old son is always so angry. He slams doors and throws things. I'm scared to talk to him because I never know how he'll react. His moods are affecting the whole house. What can I do?

 

Answer:

Your son has learnt to use his anger to control you and the family. As a consequence, this won't help him feel safe and protected by his parents.

 

Teenagers do get angry and your fear of his anger may be an issue to address with a therapist, so that your abilities to be a parent to him aren't affected negatively by your fear.

 

It may be wise to seek professional help for yourself and then follow up by getting a professional to help you discuss this issue with your son.

 

It's also important to address this issue as a family so that both you and your son can find a way to resolve the conflict, which is arising because of his need to express his anger and the fears that his behaviour, in turn, elicits in you.

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Headline:  Plucky Stroke

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

My 17-year-old son recently told me that a female family friend has made advances towards him. He thought it was funny. I didn't. She's divorced and about 30. He said she's always telling him how like a handsome movie star he is and that his girlfriend is lucky. He said that the last time she came to our apartment she walked into his room while he was studying and began stroking his hair. I'm horrified and want to talk to this woman. But he tells me not to worry. My son and I have a good relationship and if I say something it may spoil that.

 

Answer:

Most parents would be concerned about this situation and would be tempted to intervene to protect their son.  However, I would advise you to take a deep breath and stand back. This would be a perfect opportunity for your son to learn how to handle the kind of situation that's part of growing up and one that is likely to recur in the future.

 

Even though he may not be able to handle it too well in your eyes, it will be an opportunity for him to learn his weakness - which could stand him in good stead for future encounters with women and relationships with them. He trusts you - or he wouldn't have told you - which is good.

 

You can ask him to keep you informed about the situation so you can be a support for him in whatever ways he needs. Whether he chooses to do so will be a matter for him. What's most important is for him to experience your trust and support rather than have you step in and take over his problems. This is important if he is to be continually honest with you and if you're to retain your good relationship with each other.

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Question:

My son is five and has started having nightmares. He now wakes up every night crying. He's in his first year at school and tells me he doesn't want to go, but does without fuss. Just before these nightmares started, my older daughter told me they had switched on the television one day and watched part of a horror film about an evil doll.  Could this be the source of his bad dreams?

 

Answer:

It's possible for children to have nightmares after watching horror movies. Perhaps you could try talking to your children about the film and what they're afraid of to gauge the situation.  Find a way to comfort them and make them feel safe before they go to sleep. Sometimes, saying a little prayer together before bedtime can be enough so they can feel protected by God. Another way is to leave a light on, or to give them some kind of protective symbol.

 

It's also important to address his reluctance to go to school. It's not uncommon for children to decide they don't want to go to school after the initial excitement has worn off. It's a big step. However, they usually adapt and begin to like school and accept their new routine. If this reluctance continues, ask him why he doesn't want to go and what it is he dislikes about school. You could also talk to his teacher and see if his reluctance is reflected in his behaviour at school.

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Headline:  Bullying Fears

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

About a month ago I noticed some bruises on my daughter's wrist. They looked like hand marks. When I asked her about them she refused to answer my questions and became upset. She eventually said she got them while playing basketball. I'm not entirely convinced because of how upset she was.

This isn't the first time she's come home from school with bruises.  I think she's being bullied.  She often says that she dislikes school and asks me not to send her because she isn't feeling well. What can I do to make her talk to me about her problems?

 

Answer:

This is a serious matter.  You could try to get to the bottom of this by finding a relaxing time and place where you can talk  to her uninterrupted, and then  talk about the issue of disliking school. You can even talk about your own experience as a child if you also disliked school or quote someone else's experience. This will help her    understand that she's not the only one who has experienced this.

 

You can then share some of the reasons you or the other person disliked school and include being bullied among them. This may make her feel more comfortable knowing that she may be having a similar experience. Once she admits this to you, it may open the floodgates and she will say more. However, she may still be reluctant to talk. If this is the case, try to assure her that nothing bad will happen.

 

Often children are scared that something bad will happen if they say too much.

 

If your daughter still refuses to talk to you, you could get another adult, someone she trusts, to talk to her. If there is no such person, or if she still refuses to talk, you can suggest to her that you can go with her to a counsellor who is good at helping solve her problems about disliking school.

 

There's a chance she won't want to see a school counsellor because she might be worried that her teacher will find out.   If this is the case you could try a private counsellor, and the knowledge of confidentiality may help her feel more comfortable about talking.

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Headline:  Rebel, Rebel

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

My 15-year-old daughter is very defiant. I want her to go to university, get a good job and have chances I never had. She's quite happy to do her homework and study and does well at school, but says she doesn't want to go to university. She says she'll stay until she's 18 and then she'll get a job, although she has no idea what she wants to do. Recently, we argued about it and she said she'll leave home as soon as she can.  I don't know what to do.

 

Answer:

Pushing children to fulfill their parents' wishes is common - and often doesn't produce good results.

 

The more you push, the harder your daughter will rebel against you and your wishes.  In the end, you'll just push her away from where you want her to be.

 

I know you're trying to help her by making sure she gets the most from her education, but I recommend that you let her make her own decisions.

 

It could be that, after working for a year or two, she'll realize the importance of going to university and will choose to continue her studies in her own time. If she does, she'll probably have benefited from the time she's spent working and being independent, and this could stand her in good stead at university, helping her to become a better, more mature student.

 

You should also try to see why she wants to get a job and leave home. It could be that she craves to be independent.

 

The greater the conflict between you, the more she'll want to work and gain her financial independence.

 

I'd advise you to try to accept her wishes and concentrate on enjoying the time she's still living at home with you.

 

Try to create more happy memories and experiences together and nurture a good, close relationship before she really does fly the nest and it's too late.

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Headline:  Hit and miss

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

I don't smack my children, yet they hit each other. I thought this was learned behaviour. Is there any way I can stop it? Sometimes they really hurt each other. They are boys, aged four and six.

 

Answer:

Hitting each other is common for boys around a similar age and is often a way of expressing feelings. Even though you may not hit them, they can learn it from the media or friends.

 

It's important to teach them to use words to express their feelings, rather than actions in the form of hitting. The focus isn't just to stop them from hitting, but to understand the reason behind the aggression.  Encourage them to talk about what they don't like about each other or each other's behaviour, and then help them to resolve their differences and find a solution to their conflicts.

 

It may be a slow process, but they'll gradually begin to resolve conflict in a constructive manner, even when you're not around.

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Question:

My daughter is using swear words she picked up at school. She's nine. I've told her why she shouldn't use these words, but she asks me what they mean. I feel she's too young to know this. Can you make any suggestions about how to cope with this problem?

 

Answer:

I don't think there's any way to avoid this. It's important to help your child understand the rough meaning of the swear words so, hopefully, she'll choose not to use them if she understands what she's saying. If you don't teach her, there's a good chance she'll find out what they mean from her friends and peers in a situation you have no control over.  You need to answer her questions. It may be difficult or embarrassing for you, but if you choose your words carefully it's possible to convey a vague meaning without going into explicit details. Good luck.

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Headline:  Life Lessons

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

My son is five years old and he hates school. He's in Primary One and tells me he'll never be as good as his classmates.  He suffers nightmares, head-aches and tummy aches, which I think are psychosomatic. I've talked to the teacher who says he's struggling a little with the work.  Should I get him a private tutor?

 

Answer:

Your son is telling you something is very wrong.  It's important to talk to him and find out what he doesn't like about school. He may be experiencing difficulties he doesn't know how to cope with other than by running away. Children usually don't know how to resolve their problems or even how to speak about them. You need to be patient.  Observing him in school may help you understand him more.

 

Sensitivity and empathy are crucial because what children regard as problems often don't seem to be issues to adults.  Don't ignore or deny his problem.

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Question:

My wife and I are getting divorced.  Two months ago, she moved in with another man who doesn't have a big enough house for our children - a girl, 15, and a boy, 12 - so they're with me.   My wife says that as soon as they get a bigger place the children can move in, but they say they don't want to.  The other day, our daughter told her she never wanted to see her again. I'm at a loss about how to cope with this. Their mother loves them and wants them with her. I think this would be best.

 

Answer:

Your daughter's behaviour is normal, considering what she's going through. She may feel abandoned and betrayed by her mother, who appears to have put this man before her children.  Her anger is understandable. Encouraging her to share her feeling with her mother may help. It would also give her mother the chance to explain herself and give a different perspective.

 

You need to understand the pain your daughter is going through and try to comfort her so she doesn't feel so alone.

 

This is a difficult time for your children, especially if they can't be with the parents they want to be with.  Another man having stepped into the picture so quickly may have made things even worse.

 

Your wife needs to tread carefully also - especially if she jumped from one relation-ship into another without giving herself a chance to reflect  on her marital problems.  I'd recommend she seeks professional help to discuss her dilemma and sort out the best arrangement for the children.

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Headline:  Blame Games

Byline: Katherine Kot Lam-kat

Question:

My five-year-old daughter seems hypersensitive to criticism.  For example, if she accidentally knocks over a glass of water, she runs off in tears.  More worryingly, she will say things are her fault even when not. If I tell her off when she really is naughty, she threatens to hurt herself or cut off her hair.  How should I deal with this?

 

Answer:

Your daughter has developed a negative self-image, which may be her way to cope with life stresses.  It's almost as if she's  practising being bad or being to blame so she can tolerate it more easily when she's told off for being naughty.

 

Holding her and trying to understand her pain may help both of you.  It's important to comfort her with positive thoughts to counteract her negative ones. This will help her to learn how to deal with painful feelings and teach her how to comfort herself.

 

Hopefully, it will also help her to distinguish between her negative thoughts and reality.  This isn't always easy for parents, especially if they find themselves emotional and intolerant of the child's reaction. If you've tried and found it difficult, consulting a professional may help.

 

It's also a good idea to hold back from pointing out your daughter's problems to her. It's better to try to use constructive suggestions for how she can behave differently, rather than just telling her she's wrong.

 

Overall, it's important to be encouraging and positive in areas where she's weak. Look at her efforts and not the end results.

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Question:

I was a bit of a tearaway as a teenager and caused my parents a great deal of anguish. I smoked cannabis, drank and got into trouble with the police for shoplifting. Thankfully, I learnt my lessons and eventually saw the error of my ways. Now I'm a dad and my own children (one boy and one girl) are teenagers. I'm worried they'll go the same way.  I wonder if telling them about my behaviour and the consequences would be a good deterrent. Do you think it would work?

Answer:

A lot of parents are concerned about their children knowing about their own bad past behaviour for fear it may be a bad influence or cause them to lose their children's respect.

 

However, we've found that children at appropriate ages have a curiosity about their parents' past and especially appreciate learning how their parents had similar struggles or made similar mistakes when they were their age. This can help them accept their own struggles or flaws.

 

The important part, however, is to discern the right time to tell them, because children like to idealise parents and may not be ready for that image to be destroyed.  Wait until they express curiosity or when you think sharing your experiences may benefit them during a struggle they're encountering.

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Question:

My son is seven and has a tendency to grab his crotch   when he's nervous, which of late, has been   frequently. How do I help him to overcome his nervousness? I find his behaviour embarrassing. Also, he vents his frustration at the slightest incident, such as when he forgets to pack a certain book for school or when the building blocks he's trying to stack fall over.

 

Answer:

Your son's tendency to grab his crotch is a way of soothing his anxiety. This behaviour isn't uncommon in younger children. However, it appears that as he's grown older he hasn't found a   better way of dealing with it. It seems he either expresses his anxiety through anger and frustration or through a self-soothing touch of his genitals.

 

At this stage, it would be important, through counselling, to understand the source of his excessive anxiety and then help him find a better way to express his unease that will help him to cope rather than trigger concerns from others, which may cause more anxiety. It's important for him to change this behaviour pattern before it becomes a part of his personality.

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Question:

My 22-year-old son lives with me at home. He works and gives me money for food and lodging.  He comes and goes as he pleases. However, I feel he's taken it too far.  He's begun staying out all night without telling me. He never cleans up and expects me to cook and clean for him. When I complained, he told me he's an adult and can do what he wants. I feel he's taking me for granted.

Answer:

Your son is an adult and as such, needs to be respected as an independent person. In terms of the living arrangements such as cleaning and cooking, you can spell out your expectations as part of the rental agreement. If you can't reach an agreement, he should plan to live elsewhere. Setting clear boundaries will reduce unnecessary conflict.

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Question:

I recently found a condom hidden in my daughter's bedroom. She's 16 and has been dating a boy for six months. I was furious and told her she was too young for that kind of relationship. I expected her to be remorseful but she shouted back, telling me never to touch her things again. How can I make her understand that I only want to help?

 

Answer:

Parents are often concerned about their teenagers. However, their care at times may be perceived as an intrusion. Identity formation is an important part of adolescent development and being respected as an individual matters a great deal. Rather than look through their things, talk to them to keep track of what's happening.   An open mind will allow you to communicate better.  An apology for looking through her room will help reopen the lines of communication.  You can then express your concern that you do so because you care about her.

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Question:

My 15-year-old son has a violent temper and I find it scary.  And it's getting worse as he gets bigger.   He's never hit me, but he throws things. Last week, I nagged him   while he was doing his homework. He began screaming, threw his books across the room and grabbed me by the shoulders.  Then he thumped the wall so hard he cut his hand.  Is there any counselling or books to help him control his anger?

Answer:

Your fear of dealing with anger led your son to successfully use anger to control you when he was younger. This has continued and you've become more scared of him as he gets stronger.

 

Although he didn't hit you, he obviously has problems   controlling his anger - either he can hurt people or will hurt himself. This situation needs intervention from a psychologist or family therapist who can help your son learn anger management and work through his relationship pattern with you.

 

Your son needs help while he's still young because this will affect him significantly in his relationships, at school, and in the future.  Working through your own fear of anger will also be necessary if you're to help your son break this pattern.

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Question:

My daughter is 15, has lots of friends and has always done well at school.  Yet she seems depressed. She sits in her room a lot.  She tells me she feels sad, but doesn't know why. Recently, my husband and I expressed disappointment when she failed to get her usual high marks.   I expected her to take it in her stride. Instead, she said that, since she was such a disappointment, she may as well kill herself.  Since then, she's been even more withdrawn. I've read about teenagers taking their own lives and I'm worried.

 

Answer:

It sounds as if your daughter may be depressed and that she's hiding her sadness from others. She's good at doing well to please others and make others like her, but she's not happy inside because she can't really be herself.

 

If she continues to relate to others this way, she'll live a miserable life.  She needs professional help. Try to talk to her and let her know there are ways to help her understand her problems and find a solution.

 

As for you, it would be helpful to be more understanding and empathic about her feelings. Telling her not to feel this way won't help because she's already trying so hard to please others. Instead, try to allow her to have her feelings and accept them.

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Question:

My two sons, aged 14 and 11, appear to hate each other.  They're always arguing and fighting, they make nasty comments behind each other's back, and they seldom talk.  They're different personalities, but their behaviour   affects the whole family. It's getting to the point that I dread weekends and family outings.  It wasn't always like this. When they were younger they played together, although like all siblings they had their moments. They share a room.  Do you think they need their own space and should I give up my study to give them their own bedroom?

 

Answer:

If their relationship is a problem now, but wasn't before, then it would be worthwhile taking each aside and talking to them individually to try to find out the reasons for their behaviour. Now that your oldest son is 14, he may need his own space and this could be the cause of friction.

 

There may be other issues relating to their personalities and whether they believe they're being treated fairly by you. Parents often aren't aware that deep down they may favour one child over another.

 

Giving up your study room may relieve some of the arguing, but if the root of the problem is more than personal space, it won't change their relationship.  It's crucial that you find out what the real issues are. Issues such as respecting each other's boundaries, accepting each other's needs and expressing angry feelings in a constructive way are important and need to be addressed. If you've tried to talk to them with no positive result, then seeking family counselling would be worthwhile.

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Question:

Last year, my mother died suddenly and I was upset. My daughter, aged 15, appeared to cope well and, despite her young age, was a great source of support.  She was strong and loving and would always be there to talk to me if I felt I needed someone. I now feel better able to cope, but the opposite is true of my daughter. She's much quieter, dreams about her granny and   last week I found her crying while looking at a family album. Is this a normal way to behave or do you think there's something going on   I don't know about?

 

Answer:

If your daughter was close to her grandmother, then she may have held back her grief to support you. Only when you began to feel better have her real feelings begun to emerge. She may be afraid to talk to you about her sad feelings for fear this will arouse more of your sadness. It's important to ask her if she's still sad about her grandmother's death or if something else is bothering her.  If she's dealing with the grief of losing her grandmother and you're unable to support her because it may be too painful for you, then it would be wise to seek help for her from a counsellor who can give her the support she needs.

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Question:

My 12-year-old daughter has been caught stealing things from classmates. Nothing big - just hings like pens, a key-ring and a notebook. She says she stole them because they were nice and she never has nice things - which isn't true. I always make sure she has what she needs. I've always been conscious not to spoil her, but I feel sad that she thinks she's deprived. Is it my fault?  And how can I make her realise that stealing isn't the answer?

 

Answer:

Often a child's view is different from their parents - hence, I often see parents with good intentions who nonetheless manage to hurt their child without realising it.  This is why you must communicate with your daughter and understand why she feels she's being deprived.  Although it's not important whether you agree with her perception, it's important to understand and accept the way she feels and that her decision to resort to stealing may be based on the perception that she wouldn't be able to get what she wants from you.

 

One possible solution is to come to an arrangement with your daughter that allows her to get something she wants each month within budget.  In return, she could promise not to steal.

 

If this works out, then the problem may be just as she said. However, if it doesn't, then her stealing may reflect a deeper problem and you may need to involve her school counsellor to find out more about the problem.

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Question:

My son is 13 and appears to have undergone a personality change. Until last year he was well behaved at school and appeared happy. Now, he's always in trouble for disrupting class or answering teachers back.  In the past month he's had three detentions. I grounded him one weekend but it had little effect. I don't know how to deal with him.  When I tell him off, he just smirks.

Answer:

The teenage years are often difficult for parents and teens because it means a lot of adjustments to different need that arise from entering into   a new stage of life. It's not uncommon to find a teenager undergoing a drastic change and becoming more problematic and less compliant. However, your son's behaviour does need attention and grounding him may not be sufficient.  I suspect   something's bothering him and he doesn't know how to express his feelings except through disruptive behaviour. Maybe the first step is for you to relax and to find a time to talk to him calmly. Try not to use a complaining tone, but tell him there seems to be something wrong and that you want to help.  If he refuses to talk, see if there's someone else whom he trusts.  If that avenue fails, perhaps a teacher or even a school counsellor will be able to help.

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