Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How can we help our daughter understand that college grades take priority over her boyfriend?

January 9, 2015

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can we help our daughter understand that college grades take priority over her boyfriend? | A college-aged female tries to study at the library while her boyfriend sleeps on a stack of books and she looks at him with frustration.

Question: Our only child went to a nearby college this year on a scholarship, but her grades were very bad her first semester. She’s had a long-time boyfriend, who is the same age but is not in school. We think her grades are suffering because her boyfriend is always at her dorm, so when she’s out of class, she’s spending time with him instead of doing homework and balancing academic with social time. 

What can we do, if anything, at this point to help her understand that school needs to come first and she needs to find a balance between social/relationship time and study time?

Answer: One of the topics discussed frequently in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books is showing your child the value of an education. Your daughter is an adult now, so your role as a parent must shift to accommodate this phase of her life. Here are some suggestions discussed in our books:

Earning Income
Discuss the career options she will have with only a high school degree (see Through High School and Beyond), and what the corresponding salary would be. Be transparent with your daughter about your own household expenses and help her create a budget with the salary you discussed. Being open to the reality of living costs can be very eye opening for a young adult. 

Financing College
With your daughter, review the requirements to keep her scholarship. When grades are poor, it will be difficult—if even possible—to get another scholarship later. Explain to your daughter that the longer she waits to finish college, the more difficult it will be to get financial assistance. She may struggle to pay for college out of her own pocket. 

Encourage a Supportive Relationship
Reach out to the boyfriend and help him understand you want to be on the same team for the success of your daughter. Explain that you are not against their relationship, but rather you just want your daughter to earn a college degree so that she can be successful later in life. If the boyfriend truly cares about her, then he should be equally supportive of her academic success.

Encourage him to enroll in that school so they can help each other be successful. You can even help your daughter budget her time with classes, study time, and social time. Teaching her that there is room to manage academics and a social life will continue to be a useful skill later in life. 

Identify a Positive Environment
Encourage your daughter to make friends at her school. Having friends with the same goals for finishing college will influence her in a positive way. Find out what social activities are at the dorms or encourage her to enroll in a club.

As a parent, your role is to teach your daughter to value obtaining a college degree, and then you must trust that you have provided her the life skills necessary to make the best decision and live a productive and responsible life.

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How can I help my son make friends?

December 16, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my son make friends? | A group of children hold hands, smiling as they run through a field.

Question submitted on Twitter: My first grader is sad and says he doesn't have friends, but the teacher says everything seems fine. How can I help him?

Answer: Friendships are essential for a child's social development. You have taken the best first steps: identifying an issue with your child, and communicating with the teacher to compare notes. As a parent, you can help by fostering your child's positive social skills, an important lesson from the Through Elementary and Middle School YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book. 

To do this, talk to your child about what being a good friend means, and demonstrate these skills to your child through interactions with your own friends, and even strangers. Positive social skills include being polite, kind, trustworthy, etc. Teaching positive social skills will help your child make friends and maintain them. Then talk with your child to find out who he considers a friend, and which classmates he would like to be friends with.

Help your child find ways to make new friends and practice his social skills. Meet the parents of those children to set up play dates. Enroll your child in an extracurricular activity to meet children with similar interests. And finally, talk with the teacher to find opportunities in the classroom for your child to be paired up with those classmates he or she would like to become friends with. 

Continue to monitor your child's positive social skills and talk with your child about his or her friendships. These skills and friendships will continue to be important as your child navigates the world. 

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How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?

December 3, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my teen appreciate holiday time with our family?  | A teenage girl sits on the couch, ignoring her family, talking on her cell phone.

Question: My teenage daughter doesn't want to spend time with our family during the holidays. She would rather hang out with her friends and their families. How do I get her to appreciate her time with us?

Answer: You’re not alone with this concern. Many parents of teenagers have the same issue, as teenagers are in a time of transition. In order to compromise with her and keep the peace, acknowledge this growth and allow your daughter to take on a more adult role in holiday preparations and celebrations. Being part of holiday preparations will allow her to feel included and welcomed as an adult participant in the family instead of as a child. It will also validate her by showing that you recognize her transition and value the woman she is becoming. You may consider the following:

  • Ask her to choose and prepare one recipe for the holiday menu, offering help as needed. Sharing the kitchen and working on the same project will help you bond and will demonstrate that she can share responsibilities with you.
  • Start a new tradition. Your teen may feel a sense of loss for the role in the family she held as a child, or even for the level of holiday excitement and wonder that fades with age. A new tradition, such as holiday volunteering or planning a trip, can be a great way to unite the family.
  • Stay true to the family traditions your teen is still attached to. No matter how busy your family life is, or how much tension your teen brings to the family, make a point to continue the traditions that still excite her, whether it’s holiday baking, decorating, or watching classic holiday movies or TV shows together. This is a great way to reaffirm your love and appreciation.

Whatever you do, try to limit fights by working with your daughter to find happy compromises. Make it a goal to help your daughter associate holidays with fun times with parents, grandparents and extended kin, while still allowing her some time to see her friends when activities aren’t planned.

Learn more about the issues addressed in this question in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series. For information about making time for each other, see the Through High School and Beyond book on page 36. In the same book, read about sharing responsibilities with your child on page 40.

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How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

October 2, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I tell if my child is being bullied? | A mother hugs her son.

Question: As a parent, how can I tell if my son is being bullied? Are there signs I can easily recognize?

Answer: This is a great question, as it can be difficult to know when your child is being bullied at school or in daycare. Ideally, your son will tell you if he thinks he is being bullied or if other kids are being mean to him. Unfortunately, though, many children don’t communicate these feelings to their parents, which makes it more difficult for you to help them.

If you suspect your son might be the victim of bullying, first try asking him about it. Ask him what his most and least favorite parts of school or daycare are. If his least favorite parts include the social activities, like recess or lunch, ask him why he doesn’t like them. You might find your answer there.

If that approach doesn’t work, you can look for the following signs of difficulty:

  • tries to avoid school, daycare, or other social activities
  • won’t talk about friends 
  • sudden drop in grades
  • low energy or no motivation
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of interest in activities
  • rapid mood swings

If you notice your son is demonstrating any of these signs, speak to his teacher or daycare manager to see if he or she has noticed bullying or any other unusual behavior. Then you can work together to remedy the situation.

For more information on addressing bullying and fostering your child’s emotional and social well-being, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set, which addresses these concerns from birth through high school and beyond.

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How can we tell our son we won’t have more kids?

August 22, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can we tell our son we won’t have more kids? | A smiling toddler swings from his parents' arms.

Question: My wife and I decided not to have any additional children after our first child, and she had her tubes tied. Now our 6-year-old son is asking when he’s going to have a sibling. How can we tell our son that we can’t have children anymore because we chose not to?

Answer: It’s wonderful that you and your wife want to be honest with your son and tell him the reason(s) why you both decided she would have a tubal ligation (which is the medical term for having her tubes tied). However, your son is young and likely doesn’t fully understand the human reproductive system or the complicated reasons couples choose to prevent reproduction.

Take a step back and think about his perspective. He wants a playmate, a sibling to look after, and a new friend. Give him an answer that he will understand at his age.

“Mommy and Daddy love you so much that we don’t need another child.”

You may also want to assess the reasons he wants a sibling. How are his relationships with friends or cousins? Does he bond with one or two other children whom he considers his best friends?

Feed his desire for a dependable playmate by encouraging friendships outside of school. Schedule play dates and talk to your son about what it means to be a good friend. If he’s close with his cousins or kids of family friends, let him know that they are like his brother or sister.

If he wants to look after someone, pets are a great addition to the family (as long as there are rules on who is in charge of feedings, grooming, and messes).

When he gets older and learns about the reproductive process in school, you can give him more information if he asks. At that point, you can tell him that Mom had surgery so she wouldn’t have more kids. Depending on his maturity, you might talk to him about the reasons you both chose for not having more kids. The truly honest answers can wait for a time when he’s emotionally and physically mature enough to understand both the surgery and the reasons for it.

The information on building friendships comes from the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book, Through Elementary and Middle School. It is available for purchase on Amazon.

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