Agony Uncle

It's that tricky question that you darent ask your partner or parent. Its the 'What would happen if I?' or 'I'm really nervous about asking' questions that you really need advice on but don't feel confident enough to ask. Our experienced Agony Uncle Frank is here to help. Ask away! He will do his best to bestow you with his wisdom. 

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Hello, My wife has struggled for a few months with post natal depression. We have two under two and the strain this put on her has been horrendous, however now that she's feeling better and I can step back and allow her to do some night feeds again I'm finding that things are catching up on me. With our new daughter I was for a long time doing every night feed and getting up early with her and then working, shifts, but now that my wife is feeling better I'm feeling weirdly rejected and low. I wondered, is that lack of sleep catching up? Or am I doing something wrong?
You are clearly a supportive partner and a good dad and from what you have said, there is no sense that you are doing anything wrong. I think you have just enjoyed the bond that you have now formed with your new baby and the extra close time with your child. You wife will, understandably, want to participate fully in the care of your children, especially if she is now feeling better. It can be a longer road to recovery than seems immediately obvious, and it is a good idea to continue to share the night-time responsibilities and the extra support for a while longer. Perhaps a good idea would be to discuss this with your wife and let her know that you have enjoyed your time bonding with your new daughter and want continue to do a few of the night feeds going forward- it will relieve the pressure from her while she continues to recover and will allow you enjoy your dad/new baby bonding time. Make the most of any opportunity to spend extra time with your kids as it's a gift- they will be grown and off before you know it.
Hi My daughter is 15months and for that entire time she has rejected her dad. It’s starting to really get to him. He is a great dad and hands on but she just pushes him away, especially if I’m there. We are at our wits end and although we know it’s a phase it’s been a bloody long one. Our 5 year old boy was never like this. Would love to hear a mans perspective on this and what we can do to try and help ease the situation
This letter brought back some familiar memories. We had a similar issue with our daughter when she was about 14 or 15 months old, but it was my ( very supportive and hands-on) mother-in-law who was the one being rejected. Our daughter would be as happy-as- Larry, but as soon as she saw Grandma, her face would harden and she'd cry and hit out at her. Just to say here, there was absolutely no reason for this as my Mother-in-law is a kind, gentle and lovely woman. Although we found it hurtful on her behalf, luckily, she was wise enough, and experienced enough, not to let it upset her, and she cheerily carried on as though she'd been greeted with open arms. Grandma played fun, interesting games or activities (on her own) until our daughter thought she was missing out and decided that Grandma was ok to play with after all. We decided to ignore the behaviour completely, rather than react to it, and slowly, it changed. They are inseparable now. I really think this is a phase that many children go through, although, like you, our older son did not develop the same behaviour. Try to be patient and not take it personally -I suspect it really will get better soon.
Dear Agony Uncle, my relationship with my wife is suffering because I haven't adapted to the demands of parenthood. I don't know what to do. I'm really struggling to cope with my one-year-old son's overnight wakes and early morning demands, and I'm often negative about his behaviour when my patience with him runs out. My wife now wants to take all responsibility for him overnight and in the morning but that's not what I want. I want to know how to stop feeling like my son's constant needs have become some kind of psychological war I'm fighting. Please help!
It helps to understand what is going on for your son right now. Your son is at the age where he is learning how to fall asleep and then fall back to sleep unaided and this process will involve some crying and self-comfort. It’s a development stage that most children go through at this age. Letting him learn this new behaviour will almost certainly mean that you and your wife will feel some guilt, but remember, you are learning a new behaviour too so try to be less hard on yourself. You are clearly a good dad, because you simply wouldn’t care if you weren’t. It also helps to know that consistent lack of sleep causes us all to react in a way that is not usual behaviour for us. Tiredness, anger, frustration and, yes, feeling like you are fighting a psychological war means you are reacting perfectly normally. Your wife may just have a differing way of dealing with it. Sharing the night shift can be a really positive way of getting through this difficult stage. Perhaps try one night on and one night off each. This then allows you to mentally prepare for your ‘night on’ and look forward to a more rested night to follow. It helps to tell each other what a great job you are doing too.
Hi I have 4 kids 2 boys 2 girls and the boys are from a previous relationship but have come to live with me, the youngest of the boys 9 years old is causing quite an upset with my wife and just will not behave how do I get it to stop she does everything for him while I work full time and he just won't behave answering back and telling her to shut up and go away
It would be lovely if kids just accepted that you have moved on in your life, but they don’t see their parents and family security in the same way that you do. What he really needs is both of you to show love, understanding and support right now to help him to adjust without reacting angrily. Perhaps he can’t understand why you would want to form a new family. Taking the time to talk to your son, one-on-one (without your new wife present), and asking him how he feels and why he does not react well to her, may help and will give him the space to express how he feels. If you try not to judge how he is feeling he will be more likely to open up. Your son has been through a huge upheaval in his life and he is almost certainly feeling a mixture of anger, sadness, hurt, confusion, worry and grieving for the loss of his family unit as it was previously. He will need time to adjust to the new situation ( that time is different for all of us) but if you can help him to see that you’re your wife (and the rest of the family) is trying to adjust to a new family too, he may start to come around. He may also feel that he is betraying his mum somehow by being welcoming to a new step mum. Help him to understand that he is not betraying anyone by being friendly and courteous. Obviously, he can’t go on treating his new step mum disrespectfully, and you will need to agree some ground rules about how he responds to her while he adjusts. Above all, your son will value time alone with you, so try to make time for him regularly.
Please help Agony uncle! My son (1year old) will not meet his biological father during his childhood, so I'd like him to see and be around men who are responsible, caring parents and enjoy being around children. Do you have any tips for me? We go to lots of groups but theyre very mum-dominated, and they're rarely run by men. Where can I find more men for my son to play with? Many Thanks, Jess and Ash
Hi Jess There seems to be a growing trend for 'dad's only' playgroups and coffee mornings, so there has never been a better time or more availability for your partner to join a group where he can spend quality bonding time in a safe space with your son. The NCT have groups registered with them across the country and there is a great article written by a dad here: (https://www.nct.org.uk/local-activities-meets-ups/region-london/branch-beckenham-borders/branch-parent-support-services/branch-dads/local-dad-writes-about-dads-playgroups. There are also a couple of others that I have found, one in Wimbledon and one in Manchester and I will list these below, but I'd suggest contacting the NCT as a first port of call to find a local one. http://stjamesandemmanuel.org/dads-tots/ Didsbury, South Manchester http://www.dadsandlittluns.co.uk/ Wimbledon
My partner is just past 16 weeks and - touch wood - everything is good and normal and healthy so far. With three nieces and nephews, I have some knowledge and experience of what pregnancy is about, in terms of the stages of development - albeit more from a theoretical standpoint. As a first time dad, however, the reality and practice of being directly involved is very different. My partner is very healthy and proactive in eating the right things, taking proper precautions and avoiding the bad stuff. I am finding the biggest challenge to be handling the unexpected and unpredictable mood changes and trying to not let them affect my own positivity. I see myself as an actively supportive partner, I am engaged in the pregnancy and want to care for and support her with everything. It feels like sometime I can't do right for doing wrong, though - trying to help is often 'wrong' and it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening to feel helpless and useless. I *know* the moods are hormonally charged and it isn't personal and we both know irrationality is a big part of it, but it can drag my own mood down when I am trying to be positive, optimistic and supportive. As a 'carer' type, I find it hard to just get on with things if I know someone is struggling, but it seems often there is literally nothing I can do to help. I reason with myself that this is a temporary thing, and something I need to work through and get better at handling?
The main thing to remember is that mood swings are a normal part of pregnancy and are caused by a combination of your partner having heightened senses, a huge increase in hormone levels and the fact that there are huge changes going on inside her body right now. Be patient, understanding and supportive. What she needs right now is support more than anything, and by showing empathy and taking an active interest in what she's feeling now, you will be helping....... even if it is a little confusing for you when you feel you are already trying to help. It will get easier and you may well find that the mood changes go away as quickly as they arrived.
Myself and my wife had a son in 2004, we split, in approx 2010. (Divorced approx 1 year later) During that time, I made many mistakes, 1 being, getting into a new relationship, which kept me apart from my son. Although myself and my ex were initially amicable, things changed, when she met a new partner. All contact then stopped, although I've been through throat cancer, and I've been blocked of any point of contact to my son, who is 15 in January. Mediation was suggested, which I attended, but she refused. I've now not seen or spoken to my son for almost 3 years. Are there any options available to me? Many thanks Paul.
Hi Paul I am so sorry to hear that you are in such a frustrating and upsetting position. Have you got any idea about whether your son may be the driving force behind this deliberate non contact? Children, particularly teenagers, can become angry with one or both parents in the aftermath of a relationship breakup as it is their way of coming to terms with the situation and trying to make sense of it. You said that you had made some bad choices - could those choices have made him feel unloved or not considered by his dad? Often, when you experience a serious illness it makes you take stock of your life and what is really important, but your son will also have been affected by that diagnosis and may have thought he would lose you altogether. I imagine he is very confused right now. My first reaction was to suggest that you seek advice from a solicitor, but that really should be a last resort as it can cause an unnecessarily adversarial position to start from. I would suggest trying to speak to your son directly, possibly by social media or even write to him, to explain how you feel, let him know that you are sorry and that you want to repair the damage that your choices may have made. At 15 years old, he will have a strong opinion of his own and will almost certainly be able to discuss what he wants to do from there with his mum.
I’m a father to an almost 2 year old boy.. he is profoundly deaf but such a happy little boy, now me and his mum have been split since before he was born... we fight and argue so much and she is constantly calling me a bad father... I have him everyday I’m not working... I put him before my personal life.. but her on the other hand is always going out and recently split from I think her 5th boyfriend since me... it seems like every other day she is threatening to not let me see my son again, she knows this hurts me but I don’t know how to make this stop... we are both on birth certificate but he lives with her... is there anything I can do to stop the emotional abuse
I am sorry to read that your ex is using your access to your son as a threat. I’m assuming that your contact arrangements are informal still at this stage? For your peace of mind, you may ultimately end up obtaining a Child Arrangement Order, but before you go down this legal route, have you tried Mediation? It can often be a good way of meeting on neutral ground, finding a way to see the issue from each other’s point of view and can often take the heat out of discussions. The National Family Mediation website is at http://www.nfm.org.uk/ and they will have mediators who are very experienced in supporting your situation. The court would also want to see evidence of this type of mediated discussion being attempted first. Continuing conflict between parents is what has a negative impact upon children, not the separation of parents, so while you can’t control your ex’s behaviour, you can control how your son sees you reacting to it and what kind of dad you want to be.
I have a 2 week old son and his birth was so traumatic that I nearly lost my wife. The forceps cut an artery and she lost half her blood in her body. I'm now struggling to bond with my son and am quick to pass him off to his grandparents when they ask if we need a few hours break. I don't know what to do. I feel like a terrible dad.
You are not a bad dad. It is natural for you and your wife to be in shock following a traumatic event like the one you have both just been through. Having to watch that event unfold, while feeling unable to do anything to help, can leave fathers with a feeling of lingering self-doubt. It sounds like you have a supportive family around you and you should take their help when it’s offered to give you and your wife the time recover physically and mentally. Also try to spend some time alone with your little boy – perhaps lying him on your chest, in a quiet moment, so that he can hear and be comforted by your heartbeat. He will need the comfort of his dad, especially while his mum recovers her strength. This alone-time (when he is fed, changed and settled), can be a really good way to start forging a bond with your new son. Take your time, the bond will come. It’s also a good idea to talk about your feelings to your health visitor and GP. They will be able to offer some really sound advice and support for you.
I feel like I'm not a good dad or at least that's what my wife is making me feel, I'm first time father to a 5 week baby , I'm supporting my wife as much as i can. I get she has the most difficult job out of us 2 , I'm being understanding of her and i love them both. But she puts me down whenever i do something wrong
A new baby can put strain on relationships as you are both so tired. Babies don’t come with instructions, so everything is about finding your feet. It also means you have less time to talk to each other and spend time as a couple. With your emotional energy focused on your new baby, there is little time for consideration of each other which causes misunderstandings and resentments on both sides. Perhaps ask her what you can do to support and take time to explain how you are feeling too.
My daughter is obsessed with making and buying Slime and Oobleck. They are both gross and it's everywhere. I keep saying 'NO' every time she asks me to buy it, or help her make it, but then some miraculously turns up after she has visited friends or school. She is 11. How do I convince her that she is too old for this?
Yuck, it sounds like a bad episode of Fungus the Bogeyman at your house! The good news is that, like all crazes, it will pass and she will soon be more interested in boys (which brings different problems - trust me!) . You will soon be longing for the innocent days of slime. In the meantime, invest in good cleaning products and encourage her to use it outside if possible.
Hi - my son is 13 - disvovered he has been urinating on my daughters (11) sanitary towels leaving them in the bin , my daughter hasn’t started her period yet but it won’t be long so I’ve bought some just in case - I know my son will deny it but want to know why he’s doing this Martin
Hi Martin I think the place to start is to talk to your son to see if there is a reason that may be creating this new behaviour. Is he OK at School or worried about something? It would also be a good opportunity to talk to him about boundaries and how your daughter’s private possessions, and his own, are just that–private (I would mention a few examples including the sanitary towels). It may be an awkward conversation but it would be worth it. If it continues, maybe have chat with your GP.