It is very common for older children to feel ‘usurped’ by their younger sibling and to feel that their parent favours the younger one. File photograph: iStock

John Sharry: See feelings of dislike as a ‘wake-up call’ that something needs to change

When you do talk to your mother-in-law, pick a time when she is sober and your children are not there. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: It is abusive for her to drink chaotically and to be drunk in front of your children

Don’t scold your son for how he feels, and communicate that lots of children can feel this way. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: The good news is there are simple steps you can follow to help him manage

‘She is struggling to settle back in school and dislikes having to be near her former friend.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘They fell out just before the return to school. She is very upset by this’

It is often recommended to start conversations about sex and the facts of life at much younger ages, when children are not embarrassed and take in the information in a more matter of fact way. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: It is normal for teens to be embarrassed when they see their parents being affectionate

Teasing in schools about gender preferences is a form of bullying.

John Sharry: Acknowledge your child’s feelings and name this as unkind behaviour

Encourage him to talk about his feelings specifically: “Tell me what is on your mind. What is bothering you today?”

John Sharry: Avoid criticising and giving out to him as it can make matters worse

Try to build small moments of better daily communication with your son. Photograph: iStock

‘We pass like ships in the night and I am upset I’ll never have a relationship with him’

If possible, identify a safe relaxing place in the room he can go. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: It is important to take action to interupt this behaviour

In 2020, college became a rather grim experience of watching a screen isolated in your bedroom. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: He stays in his bedroom, has cut himself off from friends and has started drinking

It puts a great deal of strain on our relationship with her and each other. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: She always interrupts and tries to make herself a part of the interaction

When you check on your son’s work, always praise any small signs of progress and always empathise with his struggles.  Photograph: iStock

His teachers have to chase him for his work and he will often ignore them

Good parents are able to pause and choose a response that best matches the need of the individual child in front of them.  Photograph: iStock

Effective parenting is about adopting different approaches at different times

Use this experience as an opportunity to talk about sex and relationships with your son. Photograph: iStock

‘When I confronted him, he initially denied it and then got upset and started crying'

‘I am trying to be as supportive as I can and keep the channels of communication open.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘A note in her diary concerned me but I know she will be mad at me for reading it’

‘He got up in the middle of the night to rewash his hands because he was worried that he had not cleaned them well enough before he went to bed.’  Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘I am particularly worried about his reluctance to go out’

My teenage son gets up at 6am to do sit-ups and other various exercises

Ask the Expert: He gets up at 6am to exercise, sometimes doing it for five hours a day

She has him on her phone 24/ 7. Even sleeping with him on call beside her. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I worry about his influence on her. All he seems to do is play Xbox

‘I think he is lonely and misses his friends but he does not talk much about his feelings.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘He feels depressed at not having a structured classroom environment’

Photo of a young boy being homeschooled by his mother in his bedroom

Ask the Expert: Contact the school for help, set a realistic routine and try to reduce stress

What is the best way to prepare young children for a move abroad? Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘I am aware that the move might be hard for them in the short term’

Sometimes I think she is being oversensitive and making a mountain out of a molehill and sometimes I wonder if she is being mistreated. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘She is a sensitive girl. How can I help her?’

Be creative this year as you plan new rituals and celebrations with your family and friends that keep within the public health guidelines. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

During these challenging times it is important to safeguard mental health

‘My daughter confided in me that she is stressed about her friend and told me she often has to talk her friend down and out of her moods.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: I don’t want to lose my daughter’s confidence but I feel she is out of her depth

“The important thing is to persist and not give up.” Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I am a single parent and only see him two days a week for five hours

“The teacher took her aside and asked was everything okay and whether she was self-harming.” Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: She found lockdown difficult and it seemed to knock her confidence

There is complete meltdowns if we try to broach the subject of taking the pull-ups away. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: Now that she is in junior infants this is becoming a bigger issue

My daughter is sensitive and I see that her happiness levels at school directly influence her personal confidence and also her ability and desire to learn in school. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: She has been deeply hurt by her rejection by her best friend

As we face into the second wave of the virus, the public mood is more fractious, jaded and fatigued. Photograph: Getty Images

To maintain good mental health, channel your anger and don’t look for scapegoats

If your son is open to it, you could consider getting a professional assessment

Many people use rituals to manage worry or to prepare themselves for a task

What might have worked in the past, may not work now and you might have to explore new ways of staying connected with your teenage son. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: My son doesn’t want to stay every second weeked with me any more

Preparing school lunches the night before will help set a good routine. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: We have developed bad habits and I’m worried they will struggle with the transition

As teenagers get older they can easily subvert their parents’ ‘surveillance’ and can hide what they are using on social media. Photograph: iStock

The goal is to empower your children to manage their social media use safely

Talk about your feelings to your son rather than vent them at him. Photograph: iStock

John Sharry: Learn to press pause when you find yourself getting angry with your son

We asked you for your pandemic-related issues. Here, our experts tackle some of the trickiest

Toddlers only need one main adult carer and it is only when they become three years or more that they really benefit from the social world of the preschool and being cared by other adults.

Key to encouraging change is a gradual shift in usual routines

In the teen years, young people have to learn how to make social arrangements themselves.

Try to understand her perspective and what might be behind her social reluctance

Early, relaxed bedtime routines help everyone unwind, get the rest they need and set the tone for the next day.

Your children's routines can be calmly managed back in place following the disruption of lockdown

Should I seek some type of intervention for my son’s increasing anxiety?

It sounds like your son may have developed traits of obsessive compulsive disorder

As the lockdown begins to ease, sit down with your son and plan some positive events that he can look forward to.

It is understandable that he is upset and depressed at his change in circumstances

She talks a lot to us about her feelings and we listen and try comfort her, but we seem to go around in circles. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: She can be really pessimistic, saying it won’t be the same ever again

Tensions and rows between children are some of the most difficult things to deal with as a parent. Photograph: iStock

Have a family meeting with your children to discuss how the dynamic could improve

While the restrictions are extending into the future, it is helpful to focus on the positive steps and milestones that are outlined in the national plan. File photograph: iStock

Social experiences that help shape young people have now largely stopped

The circumstances of individual families vary and the individual needs of children and parents can be different

Children’s contact with both parents should continue as before where possible

As well as setting aside ‘school time’ in the day, it is also important to set aside daily play times.

Most parents would be better off by relaxing their approach

Try to find an assertive and respectful way to communicate your feelings and state what you need without being aggressive. Photograph: iStock

Covid-19: Never before have we needed such patience and conflict resolution skills

Reach out to people from a safe distance. Photograph: iStock

Accept the new reality, exercise each day, limit social media use and more

Last week, in the middle of a row, her brother called her fat and she burst into tears. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I am overweight myself I don’t want her to go through the same thing

When you are talking to your children, think through what you want to say so you can be calm and clear about what they have to do.

With Covid-19, the key is to show children how they are helping others by their actions

‘I am unsure how to proceed with supporting this wonderful but troubled young man.’ Photograph: iStock

His father is barely involved in his life. My friends think I should reach out to him for practical supports

‘Midterm was really difficult, with cooped-up kids fighting all day. It was worse when we tried to make a few family trips.’ Photograph: iStock

You can’t look after your children unless you first look after yourself as a parent

John Sharry on the best way to approach a family conversation about Covid-19

In the same family, parents are usually different in how they respond to and discipline their children.

Ask the expert: He’s a great father but he often gets locked in arguments with our daughter

Raising a worry about alcohol or  drug use with a family member is a difficult conversation to get right. Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: I’m concerned about how to raise it with him in case he flies off the handle

My daughter often gets so frustrated by the sound of us chewing that she eats on her own or if we insist she eats with us, then she will wear earphones. Photograph: iStock

It’s awful for her that she feels this way and, of course, is bad for our family dinners

January can be marked with a frenzy of new goals, resolutions and promised lifestyle changes. However, research shows that most people fail to keep their resolutions beyond the first few weeks.

John Sharry gives a three-step weekly journal exercise to help you focus on goals

Mealtimes can end up being an unpleasant battle with them complaining and me getting annoyed

Ask the expert: My eldest has always been negative, but now the two young ones are joining in

Over-tiredness is a big factor in tantrums and this is often missed as many over-tired children find it hard to settle, resist going to bed, and become very fractious during the bedtime routine. Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: He cries, kicks and screams at the slightest thing and seems exhausted all the time

Nighttime is frequently a time of peak anxiety for children and as a result, lots of children find it hard to fall asleep alone. Photograph: iStock

He can’t cope without one of us staying with him all night and gets distressed even if we just leave to go to the bathroom

Acknowledge that is normal to be excited by and drawn to look at porn, but then encourage him to critically evaluate what he might witness online. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘A classmate showed it to him at a party, should I tell the boy’s parents?’

As with communicating any challenging and difficult news – such as the burdens of a changing future –  it is most important to take into account each child’s age and stage of development

For starters, make sure you are well informed and facing up to the crises yourself

 A firefighter douses flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California on November 1st. Photograph:  Josh Edelson/AFP

Changing World, Changing Minds: Eco-grief and preserving the natural world

 Extinction Rebellion climate change activists lie on the floor as they perform a mass “die in” in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London. Photograph:  Tolga Akmen/AFP

Changing world, changing minds:

Climate change activists in London. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty

Denial makes us feel better in the short term but is not the way to deal with problems

Rather than being overwhelmed by the powerful emotions that are evoked by climate breakdown, we can channel them into constructive action. Photograph: iStock

Changing World, Changing Minds: Understanding our emotional response to the climate emergency

It can be a challenge to navigate a path of being sympathetic and understanding to your child’s woes as well as being firm and encouraging to get them to school. Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: Sometimes he says he is sick and it’s a big battle to get him out the door

‘It breaks my heart to see her upset going to school and I don’t know what the matter is’

Ask the expert: Separation anxiety during the first year of primary school is very common

‘It is hard to be consistent at night when you and baby are over-tired.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: The goal of sleep training is to teach your son how to self-soothe

“One of the big challenges for any busy working parent is making the most of the limited time they have with their children and family.” Photograph: iStock

My husband is a stay-at-home dad while I work long hours. I feel guilty about not being there

‘If I say no to my 20-months-old daughter  she throws a big tantrum and can hit out.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I hope this is a phase she is going through but worry it might get worse

‘I try to limit phone and video games but it is like world war three trying to enforce it.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘It has been difficult to get him to leave the house. What can I do?’

My daughter tends to sleep on in the mornings and wants to spend lots of time in her room

Her problems started when she became very sick with flu. Could it be linked to a vaccine?

“Anxiety is often a sign of sensitivity and thoughtfulness and many children with anxiety have great strengths that can be harnessed in other areas of their lives.” Photograph: iStock

I’m not much help as I suffer with bad anxiety myself and feel terrible I have passed it on to him

‘Parenting a child with a nut allergy, which presents a serious health risk, can be particularly worrying and stressful.’ Photograph: iStock

He asked me if nuts could kill him and when I hesitated went into a panic

‘It takes time to adjust to a new diet and this can be particularly challenging when other people around you are eating different foods.’ Photograph: iStock

She’s only seven and I worry if denying her a small amount of the food she craves will cause long-term food issues

‘How come it is accepted by the parents that 16-year-olds will be drinking in their houses?’ Photograph: iStock

We’re not allowing her to go to places where drinking is involved but don’t want the summer ruined for all of us by constant argum(...)

‘I was a bit taken aback when she asked because there is no way I will ever let that happen.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘She doesn’t understand why I’m saying no and I’m worried she is seeing herself in a negative way’

To help your daughter feel more comfortable about her next tooth loss, the first thing you can do is to explain the whole process in a positive child-centred way that she understands and makes sense to her.

Ask the Expert: I told her about the tooth fairy and this seemed to only terrify her more

Adolescence for children with an intellectual disability can be particularly challenging. Photograph: iStock

If I’m honest I think there was something a bit sexual about one hug with a girl

Should we just make the decision for her and tell her if it doesn’t work out she can lay all the blame on us? Photograph: iStock

She has become really upset and overwhelmed. Hormones are not helping matters

Ask the expert: The earlier teenagers start to drink alcohol the greater the risk of later problems

If you criticise your daughter, it is important to direct your comments at her behaviour and not towards her personally.

Ask the Expert: She appears to over-react and get upset and has written me an apology note

Trying to reassure an anxious teenager is hard enough, but when they are worried about a serious and real issue, it is much harder. Photograph: iStock

Acknowledge her feelings of anxiety and worry and how understandable they are

The arrival of a new baby is a big change for a first child who has been used to being the centre of her parents’ world. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: She became very upset when we left her with a new childminder and now won’t even stay with her grandparents

It helps if you alternate doing the sleep routine with your husband. File photograph: Getty

‘There is no one right way to approach sleep problems and a lot depends on what you want as parents’

Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: He doesn’t even notice he’s doing it but even his teacher has commented

A growing number of studies link young people’s mental-health problems – whether increased anxiety, depression or disturbed sleep – with excessive technology and social-media use. Photograph: Adam Hester/Tetra/Getty

Sign of the Times: Irish survey is latest to link poor mental health with use of technology

Sleep training that cuts out crying takes a lot of patience. Photograph: iStock

She has started waking up constantly during the night and I am becoming exhausted

Is there an age you should allow sleepovers?

Ask the Expert: Should I let it go ahead or hold my ground until she is older?

Toilet training takes time and lots of patience. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rushing toilet training or adding parental pressure can easily backfire

‘I have tried to take her phone away in the past and it was like world war three.’ Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I am really worried about her obsessive behaviour. What can I do?

Her friends do seem to wear a lot of make-up, but my daughter seems to wear the most. Photograph: iStock

As her dad I should probably stay out of it but I’m worried about how insecure she must be

You can take steps to encourage your daughter to communicate more positively.

Our household has become very tense how can we improve things?

I try to reassure him that I am the parent and he does not have to worry about these things but it does not stop him. Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: ‘His anxiety does wear on me and sometimes I react impatiently’

When seeking professional support for your child, often the most important thing is the quality of the individual professional and their ability to relate to and engage your child (rather than their particular discipline)

Ask the Expert: I worry do we need to get him further assessed or to address the psychiatrist’s report

She is still in great form at home but gets teary when discussing school breaks and so on. Photograph: iStock

We are wondering if we should consider moving her to a smaller school

Encourage your son to challenge his own thinking so he can learn to reassure himself.

Ask the Expert: My son keeps saying he is stupid and has no friends

Each family is different and what matters is that most days you have this connecting time with your children. Photograph: iStock

Healthy Families: The closer we are to the people we love, the happier we feel

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