Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My family buys expensive gifts but I can't reciprocate. What can I do?

December 11, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

My family buys expensive gifts but I can't reciprocate. What can I do?

Photo by Adam Brockway

Question: My sister-in-law and her husband are very well off and they tend to spend a lot of money on Christmas gifts for my seven-year old son. I really appreciate all of their attentions, however, I feel bad we can’t reciprocate in the same level and buy something expensive for their two daughters. Our financial situation is tight. How can I handle the gap in our gift budgets?

Answer: A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Your sister-in-law and her husband are probably doing this because they love their nephew, they want to give him nice things and because they can afford them.

So what should you do?

  1. First, accept the gift gracefully and know that you are not obligated to respond in the same way. The only good reasons for not accepting an expensive gift would be that the giver couldn’t afford it or that the gift was coming with strings attached. This doesn’t seem the case for any of these options.
  2. Reciprocate with thoughtful presents that are within your budget. Your son can actually make something nice for his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Handmade gifts are sentimental and ideal for close family members. To some people, getting a store-bought gift isn’t a priority and instead they really appreciate something that you and your son made an effort to create.
  3. If you're not sure that they are the type of people who would appreciate something homemade, ask your son to write caring messages for all of the members of their family, thanking them for their gifts and for being part of his life.
  4. You and your husband should thank them in person saying something like: "Thank you very much! We didn't expect to get this!" Write them a thank-you note, accept the presents, and enjoy them with your child.

Just remember that for this family this was a possibility, and they decided to do it. That’s all! Enjoy the season by being close to the people who love you and be grateful for having such caring family members.


How can I get my daughter to put her phone down and talk to me?

November 21, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I get my daughter to put her phone down and talk to me?

Question: My daughter just sits on her phone all the time. She won't talk to me. What do I do? 

Answer: As much as technology helps us communicate with each other, it also distracts us from the physical world around us. While it’s harder to break habits than avoid them in the first place, it’s still important to reestablish a relationship with people around you and not just people through the phone and cyberspace.

Start by talking to your daughter and explaining your concern. Make it clear that you don’t object to your daughter or her friends, but rather the lack of quality time you have together. Emphasize the importance of respect and consideration within a family, and that spending quality time communicating with each other is the best way of showing you care about each other.

Then, work with your daughter to set rules and guidelines for designated phone-free family times, such as in the car on the way home from school, around the dinner table, or after a certain time at night.

Once you set these guidelines, make sure you’re following them, too. It may be a good idea to reflect on your own technology use and how much attention you’ve devoted to quality time with your daughter. Even if you aren’t always on your phone, think about whether you are often distracted or preoccupied when your daughter tries to engage with you. You may find that she’s modeling more of your behavior than you might have realized.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. See pages 38-39 in Through the Early Years for information on modeling positive behavior. For information about making time for each other, see Through Elementary and Middle School, page 58 and Through High School and Beyond, pages 36–37. See pages 46–47 in Through High School and Beyond for information about monitoring technology use.


My son tells me I don't love him. What should I do?

November 12, 2013

Posted By YOU Program Facilitator

My son tells me I don't love him. What should I do?

Question: My son tells me I don’t love him, but my daughters don’t share these feelings. What am I supposed to do? 

Answer: It may sound simple, but just recognizing that something is wrong puts you in a better position than many parents. Kids act out for a variety of reasons, often lashing out at those closest to them when they’re going through something painful. 

First, find a time to speak with your son, away from his sisters. Reinforce that you love him no matter what. Explain what loving your children means to you: taking care of them, worrying about them, and protecting them in order to give them a bright future. 

Then, ask him what he means when he says you don’t love him. Ask what you do or don’t do that makes him think you don’t love him. Listen carefully to his reasons. When he finishes, respond accordingly. For instance, if he’s upset that you don’t let him do dangerous or unhealthy things, explain you are doing that for his own protection because you love him and want him to be safe.

You can also try to make positive changes, like spending more quality time with him alone. Spend more one on one time with him. Carve out time to develop a hobby you can share on a regular basis. Activities like these will help you bond and create long-lasting memories.

For more information about listening to your child, refer to the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. Specifically, see page 64 in Through Elementary and Middle School, and page 77 in the book for information about talking to your child. 


How can I help my daughter adjust to her new school?

November 12, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

Help daughter adjust to her new school

Question: My daughter just changed schools this year and her friends are still at her old school. I try to make sure she has time with those friends on the weekends, but she’s having a hard time adjusting and making new friends in class. What can I do?

Answer: Transitions are hard no matter what age we are, but kids often have the most difficulty. They don’t have enough experience yet to realize that things will get better, that new friends will be made, and old friends aren’t necessarily lost.

Start Small
Encourage your daughter to find one or two people at her new school who she feels comfortable with. She can invite those kids over to your house after school or on the weekend. Allowing these friendships to grow outside of the awkward environment of a new school may provide an anchor for your daughter to begin feeling more at ease.

Talk to the Teacher
Ask your daughter’s teacher if he or she can help promote friendships within the class. Ask the teacher to keep an eye on your daughter to make sure she is not being ignored for being new or is not displaying any symptoms of extreme distress during the school day, such as frequent stomach aches, disruptive behavior, or an inability to absorb lesson content.

Look for Extracurricular Activities
Look for an extracurricular activity that can boost confidence and provide a strong sense of identity for your daughter, such as a sports team or a martial arts class. Physical activities such as these have been shown to boost young girls’ confidence while giving them a structured, positive social outlet. 

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. See page 58 in Through the Early Years for information about finding group activities. In Through Elementary and Middle School, see page 41 for more about encouraging friendships, page 64 for recognizing signs of difficulty, and page 77 for more about maintaining open communication with your child.


How can I keep my son safe from gangs and still give him room to develop friendships?

November 12, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

Question: I live in an unsafe neighborhood with a lot of gangs. While other parents let their kids go anywhere, I don’t want my son out there with so much danger. What can I do?

Answer: Too many families today face issues with living in a dangerous community. Hopefully your child’s school is within a safe distance, but many inner city families have to cross through gang territories every day just to get an education. Adolescent boys can be especially vulnerable to both harassment and recruitment in these neighborhoods.

Your instincts to keep your son safe are admirable, and in dangerous areas you can’t be too careful. Instead, be creative in finding ways to provide your son with opportunities to socialize and become more independent. 

  • Talk to family members or other parents you know to learn about safe places or events in the community.
  • Contact your son’s school for information about after school programs.
  • If you live near a library, ask the librarians or search the Internet for local community events or enrichment programs hosted or promoted by the library.
  • Look for youth sports leagues or other activities sponsored by community organizations and places of worship in your area.

Choose activities that will help your son socialize, build confidence, enhance skills, and are supervised by adults. Additionally, scholarships are often available to families for camps and enrichment programs that provide academic support while ensuring safety and productive use of time.

For more information about finding group activities, refer to the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher 3-Book Set. In Through the Early Years, see page 58. In Through Elementary and Middle School, see page 80 for additional information on supporting positive social skills, and see page 49 in Through High School and Beyond to learn more about encouraging extracurricular activities.

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