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July 2011 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Loss & Grieving / Twice the Advice

Helping children cope with the loss of a parent

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Dear Twins,

I am a single father to two teenage daughters — ages 13 and 14. Sadly, we lost their mother to cancer. I guess we all are having a difficult time recovering, but I think I hide it better than they do. They are both in counseling, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. Do you have any ideas how I can cheer two beautiful ladies up? Please help!— Signed, Distraught

Jacqueline says: Your children have to go through the natural healing process of grief. The surviving parent is often the person the children turn to in coming to terms with the death of the other parent. Often, the surviving parent is incapacitated by his own grief, so support from relatives and friends is essential.

It is important that the children are able to discuss how it was and how it is. Children need to have the facts and feelings surrounding their loss confirmed, so it is important to listen to what they have to say.

Try not to get frustrated. Help them accept their feelings, but above all, accept their time scale.

Kerry says: It’s imperative that they seek a grief counselor as they face a very arduous and painful healing process specific to losing a loved one. If their therapist is such a counselor and they have been seeing her for some time, perhaps you should seek out a new one. Either way, this is going to be a long and slow healing process, so be patient and give them all of your love and support.

• • •

Dear Twins,

My son, an 11th grader, swears his math teacher is drinking alcohol on the job. He says he can smell it on him, and that his eyes are always red and often his speech is slurred. This is the second time he’s mentioned it to me. Should I report it to the principal based on his observations?

— Signed, Appalled

Kerry says: Yes, report him to the principal. You might mention that while you aren’t absolutely positive, you suspect the teacher may be drinking on the job, as your son has mentioned his suspicions to you on a couple of occasions. Ask that the principal look into it and make her own assessment. Should your assumption be right, ask that your son get switched to another math teacher.

Jacqueline says: I disagree with Kerry. Before you throw someone’s reputation under the bus, make sure he is right about this, as the accusation can be very damaging. The smarter move would be to meet with the teacher first, and make your own judgment. Act from there.

• • •

Dear Twins,

My husband and I have full-time jobs and don’t get home until after 6 pm. Therefore, our 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend have all afternoon (after school) to hang out alone in our house, even though we’ve told our daughter not to have her boyfriend over unless we’re there. Our worry is that they will become too intimate because the opportunity is there. We want to be able to trust her, but…how can you be sure?— Signed, Suspicious

Jacqueline says: You can’t. You will just have to trust your daughter unless she gives you a reason to lose faith.

Kerry says: You don’t say whether your daughter has been dishonest before to justify your apprehension. Nonetheless, I disagree with Jackie; I would make it clear that if she doesn’t abide by your rules then she will be grounded. I would also discuss the use of protection now for when she is sexually active as, in the end, that’s the real issue.

• • •

Dear Twins,

My 17-year-old son is late for everything! I can even get him up two hours early, and he will still be late for school. It doesn’t matter what the occasion is, he’s always the cow’s tail. Consequently, he’s always getting into trouble at school for his tardiness. His grades are good, and he can move fast enough if he sees a cute girl. So how can I get this slow-poke to speed up a little, and impress upon him the importance of being prompt?— Signed, Had it

Jacqueline says: Reward and punishment often do the trick. Therefore, when he is late, punish him (no TV, computer, video games, etc.) and when he’s early, reward him (an extra hour out, etc). You get the drift — and so will he.

Kerry says: I agree with Jackie. When he starts associating rewards with being on time and punishments with being late, he’ll get his act together. Make the punishments unpleasant enough and the rewards worthwhile enough to make a difference. Be consistent and don’t renege. I’ll bet you see a difference.

• • •

Dear Twins,

My sister and I attend the same high school. I’m in 10th grade, and she’s a senior. I know the crowd she runs with, and I know she’s smoking pot. But she’s sworn me to secrecy, or should I say she’s “threatened” me to secrecy, so I’m afraid to say anything. Our parents can’t understand why her grades have gone down so much, and why she has such a bad attitude towards them. I could tell them! She’s a pothead! What should I do?— Signed, She’ll hate me

Jacqueline says: As much as you don’t want your sister to think you are a tattletale, you aren’t doing her any favors by withholding information from your parents. For starters, drugs are highly addictive and illegal. They often lead to other drug use. The negative consequences are numerous, to say the least. Inform your parents immediately. There are far worse consequences for her if you don’t. Your sister will thank you one day.

Kerry says: I recommend that you encourage her to seek help first. Perhaps you could help her by finding a therapist or rehab clinic. If she refuses to go, then I agree with Jackie that you should speak to your parents. By trying to maintain a “cool” disposition you are only enabling your sister to destroy her life.

Updated 7:07 pm, October 28, 2016
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