Q’s & A’s

Question My 6-year-old son will not settle in bed and is often still running around at 9pm. What can I do?

Answer The most important thing is to establish a bedtime routine. We suggest an hour or so before you want him to settle down in bed, you have a “wind-down” time. This could include a bath, milky drink and bedtime story.

It is important not to let him watch TV or play computer games for at least half an hour before he goes to bed, as it is too stimulating. If there is something he doesn’t want to miss on TV, record it for him to watch another day. Keep to the same routine each night, in the same order.

Also avoid allowing him to have coke, sweets or chocolate in the evening. If he gets up once you’ve put him to bed, quietly take him back to bed. If he gets up again, repeat the process and again and again, until he gets the message that bed is where he is meant to be.

See Sleep Problems

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Question My daughters aged 11 and 6 are constantly fighting and arguing. They refuse to share anything and are very mean to each other. Is there anything I can do to get them to like each other better

Answer Sibling rivalry can be very stressful for parents who feel they have to intervene to keep the peace and a five-year age gap can be difficult. Beware of jumping in every time the children are having an argument, as it’s good for them to try to sort it out between themselves, so long as they are not hurting each other.

Make it clear that hitting, pinching or any form of fighting is not allowed and will result in a loss of privileges (remember, this applies to the younger child too). Set up a Sharing Chart where stars are awarded to each child who makes a conscious effort to share something with the other.

Give a reward for every ten stars gained. Avoid the temptation to always side with the 6 year old and try to give extra responsibility and privileges to the older child to reinforce the positive side of being the eldest (which is often seen as being a burden).

See Sibling Rivalry

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Question My seven-year-old son hates me to leave him at school and cries and holds on to me. The teachers say he is fine once I’ve gone but I find it so upsetting. Do you have any advice?

Answer You need to make a very special effort to be positive about going to school and not show that you are upset about your son’s reluctance to leave you. On the way to school try doing some fun things together such as counting the number of red cars, dogs or people wearing funny hats that you see.

As you approach the school gates, don’t tense up, urge him to look for someone in his class and call out to them. Take him into his classroom and as soon as he has the teacher’s attention, give him a kiss and leave without looking back. Remember, he is looking to you for guidance and how you handle the situation will have a marked effect on his reaction to your separation.

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Question I have a twelve-year-old daughter who seems very lonely. She never invites friends round and if I ask her about her day at school she just says, “It was OK” in a bland voice. Should I be worried?

Answer Ask your daughter’s form tutor to discreetly observe how she is interacting with her classmates. You need to know if she is being picked on or left out and whether she is spending a lot of time alone at break and lunchtime. Try not to make a big deal out of it until you know how she is behaving at school.

It could be that she is going through a stage where she finds it difficult to integrate with her classmates, which is quite common at the onset of puberty. However, if she is being bullied it needs to be acted on immediately.

See Friendship Issues and Bullying.

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Question My boyfriend has a ten-year-old daughter who lives with her Mum. She is very hostile to me and never having had a child myself I don’t know where to start. Any tips?

Answer Give her time to adjust to having you in her life and try not to force yourself on her. It is really important to allow some time for her to be alone with her Dad when she visits. She will be sussing out what role you are going to play and you will probably find it easiest to be a ‘good-natured sort-of-auntie’ who takes her shopping for girlie things.

Avoid saying anything detrimental about her Mum in front of her but don’t pretend she doesn’t exist either. Be yourself as much as you can – children are usually quick to spot when someone is trying too hard!

See Step Families.

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