Do you have any advice for parents who have to tell their children, ages 20 and 22, that they about to separate? It’s breaking my heart to think of how this might affect them.

I would begin by telling them that you have some really lousy news to share with them, and that you tried very hard but you just couldn’t hold the marriage together. Tell them about the counseling, the weekends away when you tried to shore things up; let them know how hard you tried. And give them lots and lots of hugs. If possible, the two of you should be together when you tell them.

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Hi. My son just turned 4 years old. He is in a Montessori preschool and his teacher is concerned about attention issues: He lacks concentration, forgets to put things away, doesn’t sit in circle time, needs instructions to be repeated, cannot stay on task and has to be told what to do. What should I do with this information? Should he be tested for ADHD? Is he too young? What would be my next step? Thank you.

- – November 11, 2010 9:17 AM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

Hello and welcome to our chat.

In answer to the first question, Montessori teachers do like kids to be a tad more orderly than other teachers and some kids have trouble conforming to that. But to be on the safe side, I’d look at the most obvious cause of ADD--a cause that most parents unfortunately don’t consider: food. Some children simply cant tolerate gluten that is found in breads, barley, things like that. Some can’t handle milk products, as our bodies’ lactase enzyme decreases after around two years old--a time of weaning usually--and they can’t process the lactose in milk. Other children are allergic to a specific food or inhalant or chemical and they react to that. And an increasing number of children get staggered by additives and preservatives, so they should be taken out of the diet right away, along with foods that contain salycilates such as peaches, apples, tomatoes, oranges. To get more information on this diet, contact – November 11, 2010 12:02 PM Q. Out of control teenager

My mother’s wonderful caretaker (hereinafter C) has an out of control 18-year old and C has asked me to write the girl a letter (allegedly the girl has said that I am her role model). I fell ill-equipped to counsel her. C is legal immigrant from Kenya, soon to be a citizen. The daughter, and a son still in Kenya, were born in Sweden to C and a man who is now an American citizen and D.C. resident. C has been working to bring both children to the U.S. for a better education and future. Recently 18-yr has begun skipping school, smoking, drinking, stealing money and disappearing for days without telling C where she is. When C asks for information, the girl refuses, saying she is entitled to her own life. C also has a young daughter born here who is afraid of her older sister. School authorities are ready to expel the 18-year-old permanently. When I have taken the family out to eat, 18-year-old always orders the most expensive thing on the menu despite her mother’s admonitions. She has applied for part-time work unsuccessfully. C recently found out she has been putting exorbitant salary demands on her job applications. The mother is struggling financially and emotionally. What can I do to help?

- – November 11, 2010 11:22 AM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

A tough situation, but of course, you’ll want to help. A letter probably won’t cut it, but you could make a date for a regular weekly visit, just the two of you--a book club, or a supper at an inexpensive restaurant, but first tell her that you only have x amount of money that each of you can spend, tell her what it is and that she can have anything she wants, as long as it doesn’t go over your limit. You could also hire her maybe once a week for 2-3 hours, to enter information into Quicken for you or to file papers or make phone calls for you, all in your presence, so you can tell her before she starts, to smile when she’s making those calls, because people can hear a smile; to be kind and patient, because she is representing you. By teaching her how to act in a work situation, you’re giving her some skills, but don’t pay her more than $10 an hour; she’s still in the learning mode. – November 11, 2010 12:16 PM Q. The Duggars

This might be an odd question, but after seeing the Duggars on TV this morning, I’m once again wondering how they can raise that many kids debt-free. Unless they are getting assistance of some kind. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

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A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

This is really embarrassing. I have never seen the Duggars but I’ll bet they’re not on assistance. I’m sure they use coupons though, and wear hand-me-down clothes, shop at thrift stores and I’ll bet they almost never give in to impulse spending. They may even put money into envelopes with the grocery money in one, the allowances in another, etc. When the money runs out of an envelope they don’t borrow it from another; they go without. Now if the rest of us would do that . . . – November 11, 2010 12:20 PM Q. Not Parents yet

– November 11, 2010 12:25 PM Q. The Duggars are paid by TLC!

At over $90,000 an episode, I don’t think they’re clipping too many coupons.

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Q. Duggar $

Remember, the Duggar family has a TV show contract, and presumably other sources of income that come with that such as book deals, paid speaking engagements, product endorsements. What you see now may not be what their financial situation was pre-TV.

- – November 11, 2010 12:29 PM - Permalink<>

Q. school Issues

I just attended my first-grader’s parent-teacher conference. He is doing fine in his regular class, but he is in a pull-out group for reading with a different teacher and is struggling. He is acting out in that class and the teacher wants us to have him evaluated for psychological and educational issues. I think some of it is a personality clash with that teacher. We’ve tried talking with him to understand why he does not like the class but he shuts down. What should our next steps be?

- – November 11, 2010 12:17 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

First, get a set of the Bob Books. They teach children how to read so fast, because there is only one sound per book, and there are also sets for sight words and for complex words.

Until your son does learn to read, he’s going to be cranky and frustrated.

I would postpone a test for a few months simply because some children take a little longer to read than others and also because it does sound like a personality clash. If your son does have a reding problem, it will take him a while to read but otherwise, he should get to it within the next year. – November 11, 2010 12:31 PM Q. advice for video game problem

My failure-to-launch 17-year old son is obsessed with video games. I think it is an addiction (he will lie/deceive us to get game time), although my husband doesn’t like that word. My son struggles with anxiety and ADD, I think that he is using the video games like someone might use drugs or alcohol (to calm him and give him an escape). Unfortunately, everything is secondary, including schoolwork. We have limited him to “game” time to after 6:30 on weekend evenings, and the controllers must be turned in by 11:30 (it is all spelled out in a contract.) What else can we do? We are headed to a “risky behavior” seminar at his school this week, where drugs and alcohol will be discussed. Not do discount the importance of these topics, but I feel like schools are overlooking computer/gaming addictions.

- – November 11, 2010 12:21 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

There are programs that you can put on his computer that will stop him from using it for more than x number of hours a day--you set the time, so you don’t have to nag. Also, I think your son would get to his homework better if he has no cell phone use, no TV and no video games between 8 and 11--so much time is frittered awayif these things are available. Also, the computer should be in a common space, like the kitchen, so you can see what he’s using it for as you pass by. – November 11, 2010 12:36 PM Q. Re: Out of Control Teenager

You didn’t mention backing up the mother as a way to help this teenager. If I took a family to a restaurant, I wouldn’t allow a child to order something they’d been told not to. That is, as host I wouldn’t allow the waiter to take the order. The requirements of hospitality don’t include letting children disrespect their parents.

- – November 11, 2010 12:35 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

You’re right, but I wouldn’t like to be around when the young lady heard that her order wasn’t accepted. I bet her response wouldnt be pretty. – November 11, 2010 12:37 PM Q. C’s daughter Um, I don’t mean to be a glass-half-full, but I wouldn’t give her any access to computer information. She doesn’t sound trustworthy.

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A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

The good thing about Quicken or, I’m sure, other accounting programs--your bank information and passwords aren’t required. – November 11, 2010 12:38 PM Q. video game problem

Hi again, He is not allowed to play video games on school nights, no TV, either. Computer is already in common area. I guess i just wonder if there is “help” for this kind of problem, as there is for alcohol/drugs. I think schools are behind the times on this one.

- – November 11, 2010 12:38 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

I think schools are behind the times on this one too, but since the problem occurs at home, they probably think it belongs to you. And yes, I think video games can become an addiction. To keep the issue from becoming a terrible clash, you could ask him to teach you a game and have a match with him, the way you might do with a running game of chess. This would reassure you perhaps and level your playing field a bit. – November 11, 2010 12:41 PM Q. When to discuss “stranger danger” with kids?

Can you give me some guidance on when to first start talking to kids about “stranger danger?” I was talking to my 2 1/2-year-old daughter yesterday about how she needs to always listen to her daycare teacher, when I realized that how I was wording it “always listen to the adults” isn’t really correct. So I changed my wording to be specific to listening to her teacher, and to mommy and daddy. I know I will have to address stranger danger but not sure the best time/way to start bringing this stuff up.

- – November 11, 2010 12:38 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

About 20 years ago, everyone was hysterical about stranger danger and children were warned by their parents. Their teachers. Their babysitters. Their Sunday school teacher. It scared some kids witless. You don’t want to overload them, but you do need to warn them, not of strangers, but things like, ‘don’t let anyone touch you anywhere that is covered by clothes.’ don’t get into anyone’s car without my permission. If they think something is wrong, teach them to say, ‘let’s go ask my mom if it’s okay.’ Mostly you want to reassure your child, that you’re always around to take care of her, and you will be until she is old enogh to take care of herself.

– November 11, 2010 12:45 PM Q. For School Issues - non reading child

Do YOU read TO your child? My son was an early reader - he sat on my lap/next to me while I read simple books to him. Pretty soon he was picking words off the page, and soon we alternated reading pages (helps with attention span/tiredness), and then he was off. And despite what the current reading fad may be, phonics instruction is very important.

- – November 11, 2010 12:38 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

Yes for phonics, absolutely! That’s why I like the Bob Books so much. And I like your idea of taking turns with the reading. And if you’re out of town, you can call home and have your child read to you on the phone or on Skype. It’s a great way to stay connected. – November 11, 2010 12:47 PM Q. Lying

Do you have recommendations for nipping lying in the bud? My 8-year-old has been lying -- not a lot, and never about something serious, but usually about things she’d rather not do. For example, she’ll tell me she put something away; but I’ll go into the next room to see it still on the floor. WE’ve had serious discussions about how these lies erode our trust in her, and that we won’t be able to let her earn more priviledges, etc., if we can’t trust her. But she still does it. I really want to curb this before she hits those scary adolescent/teen years.

- – November 11, 2010 12:38 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

The question is not how to stop the lying, but ‘why does she lie?’ Is she scared of the punishment? Does she feel overly controlled?

Please remember, the more responsibility you give a child--to make the tuna fish salad--without micromanaging her efforts--and the more you depend on her and the more you congratulate heer for doing things right, the less she will need to lie. The way I see it, her lies are just her way of saying, ‘You’re not the boss of me.” – November 11, 2010 12:50 PM

Q. Worst day with a child comment

Hi Margeurite, I loved your comment about how much better life is with a child. I think of you often and how you must miss your son. You are amazing to be able to keep giving parenting advice without becoming impatient and frustrated. Thank you for all that you do to help other parents.

- – November 11, 2010 12:44 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

I treasure your comments. Thank you so much. – November 11, 2010 12:54 PM Q. estranged teen

my bipolar college student daughter stopped talking to my younger teen and me a few years ago, went to live with her dad. the younger girl really thrives in the calmer atmosphere, notably so. I feel sad to have few ties to the older child. how do you melt an alienation, when the young adult is determined to turn her back?

- – November 11, 2010 12:46 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

I’d keep sending her notes of love; news of the sibling who’s with you; notes about the neighborhood; messages about missing her; but no criticism, please. She’s criticizing herself in her head all the time; she doesn’t need any more.

If you think she won’t open them, and if you’re on good enough terms with her father, you might send these letters to both of them and ask him to tack the latest letter on the bulletin board. She’ll find it hard to resist reading it. And please start keeping a notebook of the latest findings about bipolar and other mental illnesses. There’s a lot of information about the physical causes of these problems and how they can be fixed. – November 11, 2010 12:59 PM Q. picking a preschool?

We have a 2.5 yr old daughter and a 1 yr old son. DH and I both work full-time. The kids are in an at-home day care 3 days a week and with grandparents the other 2. They have some structure and lots of playtime at day care but not a lot of learning - which we’re ok with. However, I’m wondering about when to start preschool and how to pick a good one. Thanks!

- – November 11, 2010 12:50 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

The best preschools emphasize outdoor activities, singing, art, but not ABCs. A child prepares her mind for learning academic subjects by using her arms and legs. Only then will she be ready to coordinate her hands with her eyes. Parents and preschools should follow nature, rather than rearrange its order. – November 11, 2010 1:02 PM Q. Getting a Child to Read

Additionally, do you read yourself? I mean, does your child see you enjoying reading for interest and pleasure? When I was little, parents were discouraged from teaching their children reading skills, and I was wild to learn because my parents were always reading for themselves. I think in many homes, reading is presented as something children ought to do, rather than something that adults enjoy.

- – November 11, 2010 12:51 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

One of the best ways to push reading is to have a mother-daughter book club, with a half-dozen other children as part of it. They can read a new book a week, then come together to discuss it with the mother overseeing the afternoon and providing cookies and lemonade. – November 11, 2010 1:05 PM Q. Helping young child with divorce

Parents of a child in my son’s pre-K class are in the process of getting divorced. Since he and my son are good friends at school, what are some things that I can do to try and make this difficult time a little easier for him and his family?

- – November 11, 2010 12:58 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

Have them over for dinner once a week for a while. Invite the mom to the movies while your husband babysits your son and hers. And please, reassure your son that you and his dad aren’t planning to get a divorce. Children see this happening to their friends and then every argument you and your husband have can sound like the death knell of your marriage. – November 11, 2010 1:07 PM Q. Parenting perspectives

Are you familiar with Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting and/or Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline? I am having a hard time sorting out just what to take in and how to implement it... do you have thoughts or advice?

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A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

Yes I am and in fact I took much the same approach in m first book, The Mother’s Almanac. It’sa tad out of date, but the discipline section is clear and the ideas are easy to implement. – November 11, 2010 1:08 PM Q. To clarify

I didn’t mean the teenager shouldn’t be served a meal. I would tell her, when she placed her order, “No, your mother said not to order from the expensive part of the menu. Your limit is $X, in line with what everyone else has ordered.” That might also serve as an example to her mother on how to set clear limits rather than “admonishing.”

- – November 11, 2010 12:57 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

I have only one caveat. It would be better to call the daughter aside beforehand and tell her what the $ limit for each person will be because teenagers are so self-conscious, and get embarrassed so easily.

A public mention would make the rule harder to accept with grace. – November 11, 2010 1:10 PM Q. Cost of parenting

Your answer to the potential parent-to-be was incomplete. You cannot coupon-clip and craigslist your way out of childcare costs. You can balance out the cost of diapers, maybe, which cost about $100 a month. But if both parents intend to keep working, you’re looking at a minimum of $12,000 a year in the DC area (probably more like $15,000) for childcare, for the first four years. That money has to come from somewhere; it’s a very realistic concern.

- – November 11, 2010 12:40 PM - Permalink<>

A. Marguerite Kelly writes:

Sorry I couldn’t answer the last few readers; it was great to hear from all of you.