Attending to and understanding our inner voice is the first step in distancing ourselves from constant self-judgment. Photograph: iStock

Positive well-being – sometimes we are our own greatest obstacles to achieving happiness

If you always take the side of your younger son in disputes with his brother, this is likely to make the older boy believe you only favour his brother. Photograph: iStock

I feel my partner favours his first son and excuses him of things he wouldn’t with our own child

Take a few minutes each morning to think about what is most important to you this day. Making some notes in a journal or diary is the best way to do this

Positive well-being – having purpose and creating meaning

Lots of young children develop fears and worries that are related to the childhood stories they hear and the the images they witness on television

His fears are genuine as he can look terrified when he thinks about the imagery

The only thing I noticed is that when they play the warm-up chasing games he does not like to lose and this can put him off

Son (5) doesn’t like to lose and wants to drop out of football club

There are usually underlying issues that contribute to the problems

The two most common mistakes parents can make in reacting to bullying is to either not intervene at all or to intervene as a judge(...)

If she is rude when you just ask her a question, hold her to account on this – ‘listen, I know you might be stressed, but you must speak politely to me as your father’

What can I do to change things? How can I make a connection with her as her father?

I wonder if we should be doing more to foster friendships among females – and if so, how

Be upbeat and positive and  support the other child as well as your son to sort things out in a way with which they are both happy

I have also observed that other boys in the class leave the two of them alone and don’t try to interact with my son

At age three, your daughter is asserting her own independent

Does she need to be disciplined for fear of her behaviour getting worse?

Anticipate that sweet shop visits might be difficult for her, so take time to prepare her for what is happening

If we don't buy her toys or sweets, she often runs out of the shop with them

Family communication – can you easily talk to an adult in your household about your problems?

John Sharry on practical measures to help build resilience in your children

The dynamics of inclusion and exclusion can become problems  and some children can easily feel left out

She’s too young to have to worry about feeling it’s down to her to solve the problem

What will she say? A teenager being offered pot and alcohol at a house party

Kids are influenced by peers and groups, but they can learn to say No

Once the pattern of putting on weight in childhood is established, it is much harder to change

Do you have tips as to how I can help my children? I don’t want to make a big deal of it

A mother catches her daughter using phone when she is meant to be studying in her room

‘Over-permissive’ or ‘disengaged’ parenting leaves children vulnerable and unprotected

It is no surprise that there is a peaking of stress, adjustment and mental-health problems for teens in the first years of secondary school. Photograph: iStock

She is so down and desperately wants friends

Start the conversation when your children are young

Some parents worry that such conversations might put ‘ideas’ into impressionable heads

While being an only child does not necessarily mean children are more likely to seek reassurance, it can make things sometimes more intense in the family

It’s becoming worrying for us now – we wonder if it is because he is an only child

Could you join them in one of their video games or watch some of their favourite YouTube clips together?

Having fun, sharing experiences and talking foster deeply satisfying relationships

Even without the worry of illness, lots of new parents can find themselves worrying more about the future once they have a new baby in their arms.

Our baby is over his illness but my wife is so anxious

How can you proactively prepare your children to deal with problems they might be facing?

A simple principle is to always proactively prepare children for any new challenge

It is all getting too much for this father – so what can he do?

I do a three-day week, while she works full-time. But I’m stressed at home and in work

Don’t immediately jump in and take sides, but instead  spend time trying to understand both their perspectives

I think she is over-reacting and making things worse by how she deals with him

Help your son think more constructively about his worries

We tell him to stop worrying, but it does not seem to be working

Should I keep insisting she does not drink and stand my ground?

I’m glad that she’s being so honest with me and I wonder now if I should relax my underage drinking rule

Being fair and impartial as a parent is crucial to supporting all sibling relationships but is particularly important when one child has special needs.

Because I have been focused on her brother, I think I have not been there for her as much

“Well-meaning parents constantly nagging struggling teens about study leads to stress and resentment.”

He is displaying all the characteristics of troubling behaviour. I’m at my wit’s end and dreading the forthcoming Transition Year

Lots of young children develop a specific fear of having their nails cut

I had hoped she would grow out of this but, if anything, she seems to be getting worse

The best child therapists also  know how to support parents and to assist them in dealing with the situation at home

The most crucial factor in successful therapy is actually picking the right therapist

I have read about Night-time Eating Disorder and feel my son may be suffering from this

I regularly come down to the kitchen in the morning to find that food for that day has been eaten

Sibling rows and disputes are among the most common childhood problems that parents worry about. Photograph: iStock

I worry that my older child will get into the habit of losing out all the time

Responding to anxiety in children in the long term requires a patient approach from parents

He has now started avoiding things or telling me he doesn’t want to go

Reassure your son that the bedwetting is not his fault and that lots of children have this problem, though it is usually kept private.

Who or what is to blame? Send your parenting queries to

Once the fear is named, then it is important to encourage your daughter to face it and overcome it in small steps

Sometimes she wakes up in the night panicking that she is going to get sick

“The last time she said she did not want to be alive  was after falling out with a girl in school.” Photograph: Getty Images

Will acknowledging the feeling feed it? Send your queries to

Some studies show that due to the extra adult attention they may receive, some only children can display particular leadership and academic abilities as adults

My family and friends all have bigger families and I see all the children playing with one another

The ideal is to negotiate with your daughter’s father and reach an agreement about what is best for your daughter

Though I have told my daughter about him, he is still effectively a stranger to her

Sport is not all about winning, but some competition can do no harm – and can  bring out the best in children.

‘I don’t know how to manage or help him when he sobs that he is not good enough’

The key to making the routine work is to take the rush out and to make sure you have plenty of time for the important things, like reading to your children.  Photograph: iStock

Send your parenting queries to

The problem: My three-year-old boy is waking several times a night and always very early in the morning

Send your parenting queries to Dr John Sharry at

Tackling tantrums: a useful strategy is to focus your son on something positive he can have and to make his behaviour dependent on this

We dread taking our four-year-old into the shop now due to his aggressive outbursts

My daughter gets into a spin before tests and this affects her performance. Photograph: Getty Images

‘It can really help if she can identify her anxious thoughts and describe the impact’

At 11 years of age, when children enter adolescence, it is normal for them to push for independence and to want to do things by themselves

If you have a parenting question, send your query to

Imaginary friends are best seen as a sign of a creative and playful imagination that can have lots of benefits for children

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

Children grow out of using transitional objects such as teddies in their own time and there are no emotional problems associated with their use.

Children become emotionally attached to objects but it is a natural phase that will pass

To motivate children to be brave and face their fears, it can be helpful to use rewards such as a star on a chart for the preschooler, extra daily pocket money or a special trip at the weekend for older children.

The last of the six-part series focuses on agreeing a plan of action with the child

You should involve the father and other supportive people to help you

If you have any parenting queries, send your questions to

There are many good child-centred pictorial explanations about anxiety that can help children understand it and learn how to deal with it

While a little bit of worry is a good thing too much is overwhelming

The teen years are times when many healthy childhood habits can be abandoned and children experiment with eating unhealthily and making unhealthy choices. Photograph: iStock

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

Deep breaths: Simple breathing techniques such as counting slowly as you breathe can work well for children. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry continues his series on dealing with anxiety. If you have a parenting query, send your question to health@irishtimes.c(...)

An apple a day. In health it is the habit that matters not the exception. Photograph: Getty Images

I want to encourage healthy eating, but am afraid of creating a battleground over food

Taking action is the antidote to worry and rumination. Photograph: PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton

Playing a game of ‘detective’ can help your child move on from worrying too much

It is important to always first listen to your child’s worries and concerns before you begin to problem solve

In helping anxious children, taking action is the antidote to S worry and rumination

It is  important to encourage your son to have good toilet habits

The accidents have never happened at school or with the childminder, just at home

Try to understand and acknowledge what is the source of their worry

How to break the pattern of reacting unhelpfully to your child’s anxiety

At eight years of age,  children are only beginning to learn the important skills of empathy and understanding the context for other people’s actions. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: My child is a perfectionist who can view others in a negative way

With a little bit of help anxious children can be taught skills to manage their anxiety that they can use throughout their lives

Frequently, they don’t draw attention to themselves, which means they suffer in silence

Sometimes it is best to let your daughter make some decisions that you don’t agree with so she can learn to take responsibility.  Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Being accepted by their peers is a big issue for teens, all a normal part of growing up

“I find myself dreading the Christmas festivities rather than looking forward to them this year.” Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Brexit has hit my business hard and money for the children’s gifts is scarce this Christmas

While the expectation might be for a child to be fully toilet trained before their third birthday,  many children are simply not ready until much later. Photograph: iStock

Toilet training for most is characterised by fits and starts and setbacks

At eight years old, it is important to get your son involved and motivated to tackle his anxiety

One the best strategies for overcoming anxiety is to approach it gradually and to overcome it in small step

Many children and adults struggle with getting to sleep

Take action and you can help him break the habit, says John Sharry

Tamtrums at home: most people would not know she does this as everyone thinks she is well behaved

She ends up screaming, shouting and lashing out at her brother

Try to take  the battle about eating out of mealtimes. Concentrate on chatting and enjoying each other’s company as I am sure this is the goal you and your husband have for family dinners together. Photograph: iStock

We don’t want to give up on family meals but what can we do?

The teacher said he is the most disruptive four-year-old she has ever had.

Teacher says he is disruptive, can’t take direction, is calling her stupid and is shouting

As a parent it is easy to become frustrated when we see our children missing out or not reaching their full potential.

Child’s ‘relaxed’ nature is leading to rows and he forged my signature on a report card

Is homework a source of stress in your family?

Baking together is far more beneficial than an hour of homework the child finds boring

Children with delayed social skills are often seen as ‘bold’ or ‘troublesome’ in class, when it would be better to treat them like any other children who are behind in certain developmental areas. Photograph: iStock

‘I constantly have to coach my son about his manners. He can be quite rude at times’

Avoid  going down the sweets aisle if your pre-schooler finds it hard to resist or discuss with older children in advance what treats are allowed when out in order to get their cooperation. Photograph: iStock

Encouraging healthy eating, part 3: putting aspirations into practice

Selective mutism: Don’t make a big deal about the fact a child is not speaking. Don’t put tem under pressure or ‘bribe’ them to speak. Photograph: iStock

Improvements in selective mutism are gradual. The key is to slowly expand progress

The biggest challenge is saying “no” to children who, when you don’t give in, might act up, become unco-operative and even throw a tantrum. Photograph: iStockphoto

Developing healthy eating habits at home means saying ‘no’ to children sometimes

Struggling to cope: sometimes, teenage blow-ups are in the context the teenager trying to work out their identity and who their family is. Photograph: Getty/iStock

I feel I have failed in being a mother. I have run out of ideas on how to talk to my ADHD son

Start small and use positive thinking to motivate everyone in the family to change

“Seeing the scary character from the movie has so badly affected your son that it has interrupted his sleep”.

My eight-year-old son was shown a character from an over-18s movie by his friends

The first goal is to stop the family having food treats every day.

Children are bombarded by ads for unhealthy treats, so get them into good habits

While lots of children are quiet or shy, selective mutism is a more serious problem when a child does not speak at all in certain social situations.

Lots of children are quiet or shy, but not speaking due to anxiety is a more serious problem

Many three-year-olds display boisterous physical behaviour that occasionally goes over the line. Photograph: Getty

‘My son (3) kicked the childminder in the face ... I blame myself for his bad behaviour’

The grief process for children can be very individual and unique to that child.

His grandfather died four years ago. Should my son be doing better?

There are many awards programmes that emphasise holistic development in young people such as the Gaisce or President Awards. Photograph:  Dave Meehan

The power of helping others is as true for children and young people as it is for adults

The transition to secondary school comes in the middle of adolescence when they are already dealing with the emotional turmoil that this brings. Photograph: iStockphoto

My son has been very protected in a small primary school until now

When the preschool child first learns to feed or dress themselves, they feel a delight that they are in charge of their environment and are beginning on the road to independence.

When a child first learns to feed themselves, they feel a delight that they are in charge

Learning how to make and keep friends can be a big challenge for lots of children. Photograph: iStock

Three-way or group play dates can be fraught with problems

Focusing on the shyness can inadvertently make a child think something might be wrong with them. Photograph: iStockphoto

Saying ‘don’t be shy’ or ‘has the cat got your tongue?’ can increase his anxiety

Whether shouting does damage to children depends on the frequency and severity.

‘My daughter seems fine but my little boy is sensitive and I know he gets upset’

Simply baking: by doing activities they love, children can feel confident and strong and forget their self-consciousness. Photograph: iStockphoto

In part three of this series, John Sharry looks at how to build your child's self-esteem

For teenagers, bereavement can be particularly difficult to come to terms with. Photograph: iStockphoto

She is struggling to get a proper night’s sleep and is very anxious before going to bed

Enjoyment is very important when it comes to close family relationships. Photograph: IStock

In part two of this series, John Sharry looks at how we need to love our children uniquely, not just equally

Help your son to experiment with food by allowing him to smell or lick new food, and to put it in and out of his mouth. Photograph: iStockphoto

Our three-year-old boy is even refusing to eat those tasty things like pizza or sausages. Help!

Courage is a virtue that is hard to teach. You know you have it only when you face adversity or challenge. Photograph: iStockphoto

Part one of a new series with John Sharry looks at making your child brave

The key to managing the trip is to map out the different stages of the journey for them and make each one of these an exciting adventure. Photograph: iStockphoto

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

Your son might feel he has to engage in the ritual of blowing his hands as a means of avoiding germs. Photograph: iStockphoto

If you have a parenting question, send your query to

The transition to secondary school can be a big challenge for many young people. Photograph: iStockphoto

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

While you are empathic with her about her worries, you also want to help her set boundaries around them so they don’t dominate her life. Photograph: iStockphoto

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

Children who have experienced a trauma may not share all their feelings initially and will need to return to talk about it at various points. Photograph: Thinkstock

The other boy has left the school but our son still suffers from anxiety about going to school

By talking to your son in advance about your father dying, your son has time to prepare to say goodbye, maybe by making a final visit to see Grandad. Photograph: Thinkstock

If you have a parenting query, send your question to

There are particular trigger situations for young people with Tourette’s such as stressful situations or particular social situations. If you can identify these triggers with your son, you can explore different strategies he can employ to manage them.Photograph: Thinkstock

If you have a parenting question, send your query to

Graphic images on TV tend to worry young children the most. As a parent, it is important that you protect your children from the impact of these bad news stories. Photograph: Thinkstock

If you have a parenting question, send your query to

It is important that as her mother, you continue to reassure her that you are okay with her father getting married. You want to remove her potential need to be ‘loyal’ to you and give her permission to accept the changes.  Photograph: Getty Images

If you have a parenting question, send your queries to

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