How can you stay close to your Teenager as your relationship changes? It is a real challenge.

When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.

As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.

It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.

It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.

Have fun with your baby right from the start. Even the mundane things can be a huge enjoyment for you both…..

Don’t be afraid to change your baby’s nappies right from the very first time she arrives home. Make it a fun time as well, by singing little songs, or tickling your baby’s feet or tummy while you do it. Subconscious bonding occurs while you do this, as she smiles at you, and you smile back at her. Each time you do this, you are reinforcing the link and love between you. Such a mundane yet intimate task as changing a nappy, lays the seeds for a very strong and involved relationship between you and your child as she grows up.

Whenever possible, try to be present for every bath time. Get used to holding your baby in the water, while you wash her. This will give you the confidence to handle her in a potentially dangerous situation, and create trust between you and your baby. It will be another reinforcement for your growing bond together as well.

Make sure you make bath time fun. This is a part of the day that you and your baby can really enjoy. Once the job of being washed is out the way, serious play time can begin, even when your baby is very small. Always keep little floating ducks or balls in the bathroom that she can push around the bath. When she is so small, you should always hold her very firmly with one hand.

Let her splash you while you pretend to be shocked. Your baby will love the staged expressions on your face as you get wet.

To avoid mishaps with your baby, always check first with your partner when you get home. If you don’t, who knows what can happen…………..but always keep it in perspective.

In my excitement to see my children after a day at work, I almost always forgot to ask whether they had been winded after their evening feed. In my enthusiasm for a cuddle it caused many accidents, many of which were totally unexpected.

One Friday evening I came home after a day at work and picked up our daughter. As usual, I didn’t ask my wife any questions, put her on my shoulder, where she promptly vomited all down the back of my jacket. It was Friday, so I was pretty relaxed and just changed it. My wife and I were going to neighbours for drinks, the babysitter had arrived and with a new jacket on, off we went.

After 45 minutes of hugs and hellos we were chatting to a group of friends when suddenly one said, “Mark, what the heck’s that on your trousers?” You guessed it, my little princess had puked right down my trouser legs too and I hadn’t noticed. At that moment everyone worked out what the unusual smell had been (I think the parents of babies become immune to the scent of milky vomit) and a bit of ribbing and exaggerated gagging ensued for the rest of the evening.

It’s a fact, babies will be sick on you. Of course, this may mean you have to take your stuff to the dry cleaners, but who cares. Your child didn’t do it on purpose, even if she is smiling at you and has that unspoken look on her face ‘caught you out there dad didn’t I?’ She certainly didn’t have any ulterior motives for doing it, so don’t blow it out of perspective.

It’s not worth getting upset or annoyed when this happens. It will happen to you many times, but in the end, it is always worthwhile when you see your child’s little smile after she has got rid of the wind in her tummy.

Teaching Life Skills to your Teenager is vital if they are to avoid potential problems when they are older. It is your role as a Dad to do this.

This is one of the most important things you can do as the father of a teenager. Lead by example: work hard, be nice to people, be consistent, respect others and their opinions, and be honest with yourself and your children (as well as others). Your child will be observing you very closely, although he may very often appear not to care at all what you are saying or doing.

As a Father with a teenager, you need to continue to pass on your life skills (only the good ones of course, even if your teenager quite likes some of your bad ones). These cover a wide variety of areas, such as social interaction with others, management of finances and the need to work hard to achieve things in life.

An area that is very often ignored by parents is the development of personal Financial Management skills. This is absolutely vital for your child to learn as this life skill could have very serious implications and even ruin your child’s life when he is older, if he doesn’t know how to manage this. The importance of grasping an understanding first and then managing this area of his life is a key life discipline.

You will need to make a real effort to teach your child this skill and it should start when he becomes a teenager, if not before. He will by now be receiving pocket money from you, to buy the personal things he wants, some of which he cannot afford. You need to discuss with him about the concept of working to earn money, then budgeting and managing how to balance his immediate need with what he can afford. He needs to understand that he must save a portion of his weekly money until he has sufficient funds to buy that special purchase he wants. This is a very important message to get over to him, as it is very dangerous and potentially disastrous if he doesn’t understand this concept when he becomes an adult.

Your child will already have an idea of what he is good at and what he isn’t, and your job is to guide and encourage him. Always respond positively and always encourage him. This will give him belief in what he can achieve. You also need to be a realist in terms of his ambitions, while at the same time never stifling his dreams. This is a very difficult balancing act to do, particularly as nearly all teenagers are full of self-doubt, not to mention the mood swings. If you get this balancing act right however, you will launch your child into life with a very positive attitude, but if you get it wrong, it will make this transition from childhood to adulthood much more challenging for both of you.

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It is possible to amuse your Toddlers whilst stuck in the car and avoid stress for all the family. Try these games and distractions and enjoy the ride.

Playing games in the car will normally stop your child getting bored and agitated. A good one that you can play with him, is ‘the snooker game’. You ask him to spot the colours of cars in the order of the balls played in a game of snooker. You start with white, then a red, then yellow, and all the way up to black. Have you ever noticed how few yellow, brown or pink cars there are on the roads? In fact there are hardly any pink ones at all. You can keep this game going for as long as you need to. It will keep your child amused for a long while, as well as distracting you.

Another game you can play is looking for the type or make of car. For example a Volkswagen Beetle, or an Aston Martin DB9. If you want the game to last a little longer for your child, then choose a rare type of car. If you want your child to find it quickly, choose a more popular model. There are many variations on this theme that you can use depending on how creative you want to be. For example, it could be marques of lorries, buses, vans or even caravans and trailers.

If you prefer to play more educational games with your child, you can play ‘Capital cities of the world’. This game is both interesting and educational for you and your child and keeps him focussed on fun learning instead of getting frustrated because he is bored in the car. Start with very easy ones such as the Capital city of England or Scotland. You call out the country and your child has to guess its Capital city. Once he gets used to some of the answers, you can progress to other more difficult ones from European or South American countries. You will be amazed just how much knowledge your child will pick up and retain.

As you know, the car can be a very challenging environment with your small child. Occasionally if the games don’t work, you can start singing songs together. This will work well for you and can be used as a means of passing time between two points on the road. If it is fifteen minutes until your exit, you can devise a game for all of you to sing songs, one after the other and you can all give marks out of ten. For example, between two junctions on a Motorway, suggest to everyone in the car to sing an agreed song or nursery rhyme, until the second junction is reached. There must be no exceptions, and everyone must join in. Let your child choose the song as soon as the one you have chosen is finished.

You will see that time passes very quickly like this and it is very good for strengthening bonds between you and your child. It also reinforces your child’s sense of doing fun things with you. Remember you want to have really good fun with your child, and that is an important part of your relationship together! For example, while going under the Dartford Tunnel, you and your child could sing “10 little ducks went swimming one day”. The goal would be to finish the song exactly at the moment when you leave the tunnel. Your child will be enthralled.

You can also invent stories to tell to your child in the car. He will be captivated. For example, you could invent a story about ‘The Wicked Witch of Gott’ (this is a totally made up name). She is an old witch who sits at her window watching the children go to school. If somebody pulls a face at her, she will cast a spell and that face would become permanent on the child who pulled it. You can only get your normal face back if you go up to the Witch’s house and apologise to the Witch in person (nobody wanted to do that). The only other way to get your normal face back is if the wind changes direction. You can adapt this story with different characters and draw it out or shorten it depending on the length of time you are in the car. This will be subconsciously teaching your child to be polite and not to pull faces at people, also to respect others who are different.

Your child will love stories which are told by you, so you can be very creative with them. For example, you could invent one about a family of dinosaurs and its prehistoric adventures, with each dinosaur representing one member of your family. You can let your Toddler choose who is what dinosaur, then you can recount a story which you can make up as you go along. If you let your child choose who you are, you might find that you always end up being the Brontosaurus! I wonder why……

If your Toddler is tired, he will sleep through anything, so you don’t need to worry.

Bedtime can be a stressful time for you, but you don’t really need to worry, as once you have got your Toddler into bed, if he is tired, he will go to sleep. You don’t need to close his door either. Many children can be afraid of the dark for no reason at all. Therefore, it will be reassuring for him if he wakes up in the middle of the night and doesn’t feel cut off from the rest of the family. Pitch blackness can be very intimidating and scary for a young child.

In any case, most young children do not need complete darkness or silence to sleep. When they are tired, they will sleep anywhere, even in bright sunlight in a noisy store or park. How many times have you seen a small child fast asleep in his parent’s arms or a pram, in the middle of the day? Leaving his door open can also be a good discipline for later on in life. It may well help keep your child with an ‘open’ attitude to you and others as he grows older. It should help avoid him trying to always close himself off in his bedroom when he is a teenager and distancing himself or becoming aloof from the rest of the family. It’s amazing how something as simple and unscientific as this, can help promote good habits, later on in life. And these habits die very hard in later years.

Children don’t need silence to sleep. Young children sleep if they are tired, and if they are not, then they won’t go to sleep. It can be reassuring for your Toddler to hear normal family background noise when he goes to sleep, so he does not feel cut off at bed time. It also means that your family can continue its normal household (sometimes noisy) routines in the evening. It is very important for your child’s development that he is raised in as normal household environment as possible. It goes without saying that normality is relative and based on your particular religion and culture. You will also feel less stressed as you will not be trying to keep other children quiet or keeping the general level of noise down.

A little night light in the background, particularly when your child is very young, will also help prevent him becoming afraid of the dark. Because he has this light on, as he grows older, darkness should never become an issue for him.

Make sure you kiss your child goodnight or he will remind you, irrespective of what you are doing. It could be very costly!

When you tuck your Toddler in at night, always kiss him ‘good night’, and when you go and greet him the next day, kiss him ‘good morning’ as well. If you do this from birth, it will become second nature to you both. It is yet another little brick in the castle of emotional ties that you are building up with your child, which will stay with both of you for the rest of your lives. Even if your child is asleep when you do this, subconsciously he will know and sense you have done it. It will also allow you both to close off the old day, and start an exciting new one together, the next morning.

This habit will last all the way through to adulthood, and if you happen to forget one night, you can be sure your child will remind you. I once had an embarrassing episode with my daughter, while I was taking an evening phone call from a potential new employer. I had answered the call before I had kissed her goodnight. She was 3 years old at the time.

I was downstairs trying to sell myself for this particular new job that I wanted and she was standing at the gate to her bedroom shouting “kiss me goodnight Daddy”. I could hear her very clearly, but was trying to remain focussed on the call. Eventually having been distracted for about 15 minutes, the call was about to end and the person interviewing me said “next time you should say goodnight to your child before you do a phone call like this”. I was shocked as I thought she couldn’t hear my Toddler. I then stumbled out some lame excuse, about why I hadn’t said goodnight to my daughter yet, before saying goodbye to my interviewer. I didn’t get the job by the way, so be warned…..

This and many more anecdotes and tips are in my Book Help I’m a Father, by Mark Hearn, which is available through Amazon

How do you stop any ‘Emotional Distance’ growing between you and your child?

In years gone by father’s didn’t show their emotions like mothers did. Boys had to follow in their footsteps and show the ‘British Stiff Upper Lip’. Girls were considered different from boys and allowed to show their emotions. Yet life is full of emotion no matter what sex you are. Whether it is happiness or sadness, elation or despair, you should never be afraid to show your emotions as a father. Children need to know that their father experiences the same type of emotions that they do.

They also need to be able to see you showing those emotions. This will demonstrate to them that this is completely normal behaviour. The last thing you want to do with your child is to build barriers to communication. So by being open with your emotions, it prevents any subconscious mental barriers being constructed within the vital relationship between you as a father and your child.

It is also important to be very tactile with your children, they need physical contact with you as their father just as much as they do with their mother. A strong tactile relationship will strengthen the emotional bond between the two of you. A kiss goodnight, or a reassuring hug when your child is upset or unsure about something will reinforce that emotional bond immeasurably, irrespective of what age she is, 2 or 22.

For a child, at the beginning, it is totally normal that this should happen, after all, you are her father. You are one of the two most important people in her life and you should remain as that until she starts her own life with her own partner and has children of her own. Even then that bond will never be lost. If you have created a relationship built on substance, respect and love, it will last a lifetime.

What should you do if your baby is under the weather, and you can’t get his temperature down?

If your baby has a temperature and is a little under the weather, the temptation is to ensure that he doesn’t get cold sweats and keep him well wrapped up. If you do this, his temperature will keep rising. Wrapping him up will make him even hotter and make matters a lot worse.

It seems crazy now, but we did that with our oldest child and couldn’t understand why his temperature was getting higher and higher. The first time this happened, it was very stressful for us, as we just couldn’t reduce his temperature. Eventually we called the hospital in a panic and got some very sound advice which thankfully worked really well. We put it into practice immediately and the effect was almost instantaneous. Every time any of our children ever got a temperature from then onwards, we just followed this simple advice.

So, if your child has a temperature which is proving difficult to reduce, you can use a moist cloth or flannel to dab his forehead, neck and body. This will start to cool those parts of his body specifically and his body in general and will help bring it down. You can even use a fan if you have one, as a cool breeze will also help to reduce it. While doing this, leave him without any clothes on, apart from his nappy, so his whole body can benefit from the cooling down measures you are using. Of course, the strategic use of a children’s paracetamol medicine mixture should help as well.

However, sometimes it is more serious and all these measures fail and you make no progress in bringing it down. If this happens, then you should of course seek medical assistance immediately.

Don’t ignore your child’s questions, even if it is uncomfortable to answer them. Every one is important to your child.

If your child asks a question, it is because he wants to know the answer. Of course depending on the age of your child, you respond appropriately, but never brush off their question as not being important. The fact that your child asks you a question, shows that he is curious. He has a desire to discover the world he is growing up in and a need to interact with you and you with him. The question is important to your child based upon his current points of reference, or he would not have asked it

He will value your undivided attention so much, which will become evident in later years, when you ask him a question, or need an answer. He will give it to you, because that has always been the way you have treated him. As his father, you lead by example.

It is at a very early age that you should set the ground rules for the quality of communication between you and your children. This will determine what happens throughout their whole childhood. If you get this right, at the start of their lives, it will reap immeasurable benefits for the quality of your relationship together in later years. This will be very evident during their teenage years, when the challenges are very different, and can sometimes seem insurmountable for both of you.

Think of the amount of times you have heard fathers say to their child “ask me later”, or “go and ask your mother”. By doing this, you are sending a subliminal message to your child. ‘I do not have time for you right now’, or ‘I’m not interested in what you want to know’, or even ‘it doesn’t concern me’. Potentially this can be the start of the construction of subconscious barriers to communication with your child, which as he gets older will be very hard to overcome and could lead to serious consequences in later years.