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

Healthy family: make sure the routine includes time for some special connecting time between you and your children. Photograph: iStock

A relaxed bedtime routine is a key component of a healthy family

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter have no interest in your children’s improved concentration or long-term health, they simply want  to lure them back to log in as frequently as possible. Photograph: iStock

Managing screens and technology in the home

To be successful you do have to carve out time for family meals. Photograph: iStock

How to make time for your family over food and dealing with ‘fussy eaters’

Get active: replace  your family’s bad habit of weekend television with a nice afternoon walk. Photograph: iStock

With a little time and patience families can break bad habits by working together

Take time to involve your children in preparing a meal once a week. Photograph: iStock

By taking small steps, we can dramatically improve our own and our children’s health and well-being

She was anxious going into school today on account of what was being said. Photograph: iStock

I am worried about escalating things, so what is the best thing to do?


When we correct her about something, she kicks, hits, punches and becomes extremely violent and verbally abusive

“My son cries all the time about how mean he was and how he should not have retaliated to this boy’s taunts.” Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: ‘The incidents happened two years ago, but he can’t get past them’

“Bullying such as name-calling and put-downs can be hurtful to children and unfortunately damage children’s self-esteem over time when it is not addressed.” Photograph: iStock

She calls my daughter ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’ and ‘a cheat’ but the school principal has dismissed my concerns

“You want to protect your daughter from early drinking, but you also have to teach her to handle these pressures herself and to make her own decisions about peer pressure and fitting in.” Photograph: iStock

Should we let her go out with the girls, even though they are drinking under-age and going to pubs?

Lots of children find it hard to resist taking treats when they are available. Photograph: iStock

We find the wrappers under her bed but she still denies it

Working parents reading your question will identify with your struggle. Photograph: iStock

To achieve a more relaxed routine, you need to focus on the priorities each evening

Reading should be the main home learning priority rather than formal rote homework.

Huge focus on homework at primary school level can be counterproductive and damaging

My 13-year-old son says he has not made friends in school with anyone. Photograph: iStock

Ask the expert: ‘He told me he hides in the locker room in school for some breaks’

“One of the myths about toilet-training is that children can be toilet-trained before the age of two years, when this is almost never the case.” Photograph: iStock

She seems to be getting obsessed, and distressed, about pees and poos

In helping your daughter, the best approach is to build on her strengths and expand out the situations when she is the happiest. Photograph: iStock

She is an only child, and I worry that she is missing out on being egged on by siblings

Being a parent to young children is one of the most demanding and busy times of your life. Photograph: iStock

‘I’m losing it with them and not coping but my husband ignores my pleas for help’

“Getting over a first relationship is a big deal and, though unlikely, sometimes it can be a trigger for depression or other mental-health issues.” Photograph: iStock

He says it’s my fault because I wanted the relationship to end and that I don’t care about him

Lots of parents have the experience of a child who is grumpy and moody at home while being well-behaved and amiable when out with others.

In trying to help your son, it is important to understand why he might be negative and grumpy at home

It is important to support your daughter, when any incident happens, but be careful about escalating it in any way.

In resolving things, the key is to do what you can to de-escalate the dispute

Many anxious children develop physical symptoms related to their anxiety. These can include dizziness, tummy pains, headaches and vomiting. Photograph: iStock

She was so anxious about summer camp she was sick. We are now worried about school

“In their journey to independence, it is normal for teenagers to pull back from their parents and to become more private about certain aspects of their lives.”

Work to keep lines of communication open as children switch to needing more privacy

“While moving back to Ireland may bring you back closer to your family and supports in Ireland, many of these fundamental stresses are likely to continue.” Photograph: iStock

I’m finding it a struggle to bring them up in Portugal but their father won’t discuss leaving

One of the key challenges for children with Aspergers and autism is learning the social skills to make and keep friends

A parent is concerned about their child’s anxiety around social involvements

Think carefully how you might talk to your son about the decision around his new school depending on his level of ability and understanding of the issues.

Parents face a real dilemma as experts often disagree regarding the best option

“Sometimes I think he judges me for the way I manage.” Photograph: iStock

He says she is just ‘quirky’. I am coping alone and we are fighting a lot over this

Listen to what is challenging for her and thank her for the ways she helps in the family

'I just wish she would open up and talk to us.' Photograph: iStock

Ask the Expert: I found her crying on her bed the other day and I am very worried

Research shows that excessive screen use and poor sleep routines are associated with obesity and other health problems. So it is important to agree positive rules and routines around these with your daughter

Classmates have mentioned her weight to her and I am worried this is bothering her

Hearing that your child is being picked on or bullied by other children is very upsetting as a parent. Photograph: iStock

I told her the next time it happens, to call the other girl ugly. Is this bad advice?

Secret eating and binge eating are common problems among adults and children. Photograph: iStock

The first thing you can do is to try and break the shame and secrecy your daughter feels about the problem

Xbox: encourage your son him to have alternatives, whether playing a musical instrument or reading a book

Ask the Expert: The key is for you and your son to map out the next three months

Sibling relationships can be far from easy and are frequently subject to tensions and problems. Photograph: iStock

My eldest son is jealous of his little sister and she is jealous of her brothers’ friendship

Sometimes there are specific triggers for nightmares such as seeing a scary image in a film or hearing about tragic news on the TV or dealing with a stressful event in school, but sometimes there are no definable triggers. Photograph: iStock

I’ve tried everything to relax him at bedtime but he still wakes very distressed most nights

“Take an interest in your teen’s study and progress. Listen to the details of what they are studying and what progress they have made.”

Many young people will be under pressure but there are ways to make things easier

She blames them for starting rows even though a lot of the time she initiates things herself

If we bring this to her attention, she turns it back on her siblings

Preparing your son in advance of social situations can help them go well

I was very embarrassed and I’m sure everyone was thinking he was an ‘awful’ child

“Things are generally fine during class but much harder at break times.” Photograph: iStock

We are now in a situation that she will spend many lunchtimes on her own

The best type of optimism is one that is balanced with a little bit of pessimism

While largely thinking optimistically and being focused on the most positive explanation of events, sometimes it is helpful to thi(...)

Responding negatively and punishing an older child for bad behaviour towards a younger sibling tends to make things worse. Photograph: iStock

We are exhausted from the refereeing and repetitive behaviour and losing patience with the whole situation

We are surrounded by unhealthy foods in shops and are too time-poor to prepare healthy dinners at home. Photograph: iStock

Good mental health is rooted in the care of the body

With the widespread usage of smartphones and tablets, children and teenagers are accessing and viewing pornography more frequently than ever before. Photograph: iStock

I am worried that viewing porn at such a young age might mess up his expectations of sex

Many people get their greatest sense of satisfaction in their roles outside of the ‘day job’

Work becomes really meaningful when it expresses your strengths, inspires your passion and is aligned with your values

Apart from all this, he is a happy little boy who is full of fun

I get upset but he does not seem to care. It has been going on for five weeks

Be proactive in your personal relationships and attend to them

The importance of attending to our personal relationships and to the communities we belong to

The advice for step-parents is to take time to build a relationship with their partner’s children

We both want more children and I feel if that happens then we would become a stronger family unit

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

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