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?

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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

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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 health@irishtimes.com

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

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