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Dr. Sylvia Rimm

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Dad's Bed Not the Place for 10-Year-Old Girl

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Q. I'm a divorced mom with primary custody of my 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. My question revolves around my daughter. She has entered puberty and will begin her menstrual cycle soon. My concern is that when she stays at her father's house she and her brother take turns sleeping in his bed. Is this a normal situation for a child her age? Is this appropriate, considering that she's pubescent? My daughter is very worried about making her father "sad" but I'm having a hard time dealing with this. I don't believe there's anything inappropriate going on, but I'm very concerned for her mental health. Do you have any advice?

A. Make no mistake about it; it is not normal for 10-year-old girls to sleep with their fathers. Neither child belongs in bed with Dad, nor should they feel like their co-sleeping is required for their dad's happiness. While I hope there's nothing inappropriate going on, and I don't like to suspect every father who sleeps with his children from time to time, why not be on the safe side? Your daughter's expressed worries cause me to think her dad might be expecting too much from her; although admittedly, some kids imagine they must take more responsibility for adults than adults intend. You might explain to your ex-husband that he may marry someday, and rather than the children feeling displaced by a stepmother, it's better for their independence that they become accustomed to sleeping on their own. You can even say you read this in a newspaper column.

For free newsletters about "How to Parent So Children Will Learn," for tweens, or helping children after divorce, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read other parenting articles at www.sylviarimm.com.

Younger Children May Struggle Or Excel

Q. I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I'm a first-grade teacher. I often see kids that are struggling as younger students or older students that excel within their grade.

Her birthday is August 1.

The school start deadline here is September 15. I'm debating about when she should start school. She's social, outgoing and academically has met or exceeded the milestones for her age group at this time.

Her sister is 16 months behind her ... so they will be either a year or two apart in school, based on this decision. Any advice?

A. The difficulty of making the decision about entrance to kindergarten is that whether it's the best decision can't always be judged in kindergarten or first grade. Those young children who struggle in first grade may turn out to be the best hard-working students by middle school, and those older students who excel in earlier grades may be the underachievers and troublemakers by middle school. Neither is always the case, and a careful evaluation before you make the decision will truly help. If your daughter has the above-average readiness and good social skills that you've observed, follow the entrance guideline, although she'll be somewhat young in the class. If you hold her back a year, she may be bored and become accustomed to learning so easily that later challenge in school will feel worrisome. On the other hand, if her abilities and readiness are only borderline, according to testing, waiting a year may be a better answer. In general, girls mature earlier than boys, so being young in the class is less of a disadvantage. You do need further information before making that difficult decision.

For a free newsletter about children's readiness for kindergarten or "Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child," send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read other parenting articles at www.sylviarimm.com.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or srimm@sylviarimm.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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