My Baby Doesn’t Like Me

Dear Mr. Dad: My two-month-old baby doesn’t like me. He’s perfectly content with my wife, but when I try to hold him, he gets upset and cries. I’ve backed off a little, thinking that he just needs a little time to get used to me, but that doesn’t seem to be working. I’m starting to think I’m just not a very good dad. Is it too late for me to build a relationship with my baby?

A: There’s not much in this world that can make a grown up man feel more incompetent than a baby can. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to get past those feelings—and no, it’s not too late. Not even close.

Before we get into the what-to-do part, we need to do something about the way you’re thinking. First, get the idea that your baby doesn’t like you or that he thinks you’re a bad father out of your head. Do you really believe that someone who’s a few months old is qualified to make a judgment about your parenting skills? What other dads could he possibly be comparing you to?
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Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce?

Coping with divorce is never easy, but you can make things a lot easier if you choose a strategy that allows you to divorce without going to court. Staying out of court reduces time, expense, and trauma for everyone involved, especially the children.

There are several ways to handle a divorce without court. Ultimately, your personal and family situation will dictate which option is best for you. If you’re a dad, you may be concerned about visitations and the impact that your divorce will have on your children.

I spoke to the divorce lawyers at Galbraith Family Law, in Barrie, Ontario, who said “Although separation and divorce can be heartbreaking and challenging with the emotions that come along with it, having an experienced divorce or family attorney can help with this process tremendously. These lawyers can help you with your cases and settlements using out-of-court options such as Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Law. This is the best way to ensure there is minimal effect on all parties involved. Especially those fathers who most often experience suffering after divorce, as well as the children.”

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 3 Bonding Activities for Preteens & Dads

dad-preteen bonding

dad-preteen bondingAs your kids grow closer to their preteen years, it might be difficult to find sustainable ways to connect and bond. Your preteens are asserting their independence and likely vocalizing their opinions on clothing, television choices and the friends that they prefer. Dads might struggle with trying to find a middle ground during this transition, but it is important to stay involved to provide them with the love, guidance and support that they need. Bonding over activities is the best way to create a dialogue with preteens.

Skiing

Preteens who enjoy adventure will definitely love to go skiing. Skiing is an activity that will offer the opportunity to bond on the slopes as well as provide some downtime when you head back to the lodge. As you and your tween ski together, you can converse about the beauty of the terrain and share a few moments when you are riding the ski lift together.

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The Pain of Pain

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is a freshman in high school, and until the beginning of this school year, he was a happy kid, with lots of friends and plenty of extracurricular activities. But over the past few months, he’s changed. He’s lost a bunch of weight, is sullen most of the time, and has taken to wrapping himself up in an oversized, floppy hoodie that covers everything but his face. After school, he goes to his room, and barely communicates with me or my husband. He also seems to have lost all contact with his friends. We’re really worried that he’s doing something self-destructive, like cutting himself. What can we do?

A: I appreciate your email, but you really need to contact your son’s pediatrician or family doctor. Sudden weight loss, mood changes, secretive behavior—including major wardrobe changes—are huge red flags, and your doctor will be able to put you in touch with an appropriate mental health professional.

Your next call should be to your son’s school. You want to find out whether any of his teachers have noticed the same kinds of behavior changes as well as whether he’s being bullied.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of data on the percentage of kids who deliberately hurt themselves, largely because they tend not to tell anyone. But studies I’ve looked at estimate that between 10 and 25 percent of adolescents and teens engage in some kind of self-injury at least once. Girls are thought to be a little more likely than boys to self-injure, but that might be because some of what boys typically do (such as punching walls, getting drunk, and engaging in risky behavior) isn’t always seen as self-injury. But both boys and girls cut, bite, or burn themselves—and baggy clothes are a good way to hide the evidence.

How much do you know about your son’s social life? Did he recently break up with a girlfriend or have a major feud with friends? According to various surveys, many teens self-injure to get reactions from someone, to feel more in control, to express depression or anxiety, and to stop bad feelings.

Maybe the most horrifying part of this is that many kids who injure themselves learn how from websites that actually encourage self-harm and even suicide. What a revolting thought. The good news—if there is such a thing—is that, according to Dr. Mathilde Ross, a psychiatrist at Boston University, most self-injurers aren’t suicidal and generally outgrow the behavior in their 20s.

Whether your son is harming himself or not, though, he needs help right now. And again, even though you and your husband are clearly concerned, neither of you is the right person for the job.

While you’re waiting for an appointment with the pediatrician, spend some time reading some of the resources at selfinjury.com. At the same time, pay very close attention to the way you’re responding to your son. It’s not going to be easy, but try to stay calm. Showing concern is fine, but expressing shock or horror, making threats, or getting angry will only drive him further away than he already is. He needs to know that you love him and that he can trust you. Engaging him in even the smallest conversation is a good sign that you’re on the right track.
An important part of a teen’s development is pushing boundaries and making mistakes. If your son knows he has a safety net, he just might use it.

We’re Looking for Great Content for Military Families

Brott, Military FatherAs the military families expert for about.com, I’m always on the lookout for organizations, programs, and practical advice and strategies that can help our military servicemembers, spouses, and kids.

If you have any suggestions, recommendations, and even guest posts, I’d love to share them with our readers. So please email me.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse the site, http://militaryfamily.about.com/

I Know You Love Me, But I Need to Hear The Words

Dear Mr. Dad: My dad is an engineer and has always looked at the world in a very logical, no-feelings-allowed, Mr. Spock kind of way. I guess that’s just his style. The problem is that I don’t think he’s ever told me that he loves me. He’s always been a great dad and I have no doubt that he does love me. But as I get older—I’m nearly thirty—I start second-guessing myself and I really need to hear the words. I tell my kids all the time that I love them. Why won’t he tell me? Do you think he ever will?

A: Whenever I get an email like this, I’m nearly overcome with sadness. It’s tragic that your dad has never told you that he loves you. But I’m encouraged that he’s found other ways to get the point across and that you’ve gotten the non-verbal message. That still leaves your questions. Going in reverse order, yes, I think he will tell you, but it may take a little work on your part. As to why he hasn’t said those three magic words, there are quite a few explanations.

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