Q. My daughter said her volleyball coach suggested she lose some weight. Her doctor and I think she's fine. Should I speak to the coach?
A. It's hard not to want to scream at the coach about contributing to society's toxic messages to girls about being thin. But that's not good parenting. Speak with the coach in person (not by phone or e-mail) and ask him if he told your daughter to lose weight. If he did, request that he focus his comments solely on concrete ways to improve her game. If he didn't, discuss why your daughter has this impression and what he can do to address it. Usually I prefer for kids to advocate for themselves, but weight is such a sensitive and potentially humiliating issue that this is one of those times when you have to directly intervene.
Q. My 17-year-old son doesn't shower enough. Should I say something to him?
A. Here's a rule to follow when you want to talk to your son about something that makes you and/or him uncomfortable: Have the conversation side by side instead of face to face, maybe while driving in the car or watching TV. Then be direct: "Sam, I love you dearly, but you smell. You need to take showers more often. Every day before school would be ideal, but I'll be satisfied with once every other day." If he blows you off or seems to forget, I'd ask him straight up what's going on because his behavior may mean he's resigned to being rejected by his peers or he doesn't notice other people's reaction to him (i.e., he's depressed or he has social skills deficits). Either way, if the problem continues, I'd get him the appropriate psychological help.
Q. My 16-year-old daughter wants to spend Christmas at her boyfriend's house. We'd like her at home but not if she's going to be a grumpy teenager.
A. She should be home with you -- moody or not. That's what the holidays are for, right? Ungrateful, sullen teens moping about wishing they were somewhere else. Just keep her busy with a holiday project she's in charge of, like baking a pie or hanging out with an elderly or younger relative.
Q. After my son struggled through the first quarter of fifth grade, his teacher asked us to review his homework before he hands it in. But now our son says we're treating him like a first grader. Is there a better way we can handle this situation?
A. I'd back up a bit. This is an excellent opportunity for your son to develop some measure of control by learning to articulate the problem and find a solution. Have him meet with his teacher, with you sitting beside him as backup. He should ask her why she's unhappy with his work. If she says it's rushed or incomplete, why does your son think this is the case? He should also tell her what makes it hard for him to do his best and what helps him to do well. Then the two of them should create a plan. When you get home, allow your son to pick a designated homework time and help him organize his workspace.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the December 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.