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My son doesn’t like school
Dear Emma,
My teenage son has shown a marked decrease in interest in school. He went from an avid student who enjoyed school to someone who shows up but barely makes an effort and it shows in his grades and his test scores.
He started hanging out with older kids and I am really worried he is going to get into drugs or drinking or something else equally bad. He has become quite sullen to me and his mother and won’t listen to either of us when we tell him to do something.
I realize this is an age-old problem with teenagers and that it is one many parents must go through but we are at our wits end. Yelling at him doesn’t work, lecturing, even rational discussion as he just sits there and says something along the lines of “yeah whatever” and nods.
Should I change schools? Would a boarding school be better? I am not home as much as I should be as I work offshore and I wonder if that is part of the problem? I cannot quit my job as it is our sole source of income and neither am I interested in starting up some business here as I do not have business experience. Also, I can retire soon and don’t want to put that in jeopardy.
Any suggestions Emma?
At Wits End
Dear At Wits End,
This is a difficult situation and indeed one many parents attempt to tackle every day. It is a stage in which many if not most children go through when they go through puberty. Emma herself once screamed at her mother that she was ruining her life so perhaps be grateful you get sullen silence from the boy instead of screams from the girl!
However, having older friends who are a bad influence is quite disturbing and without you around it seems as though your wife is unable to lay down the law about who your son can see or not see. In this case, a boarding school may not be such a bad idea. Children do take much of their influence at this age from their peers and removing those peers is not always possible but it is possible to remove the child. You may want to consider, instead of boarding school, sending your child back to your home country for a visit with family during the long summer holidays.
This would give him a break from his friends who, upon return will have most likely moved on, and give him a chance to see how others live.
Also you may want to take into consideration the reasons why he is not enjoying school. Ask him. Perhaps he has a teacher he hates, or he is finding it boring and unchallenging. This could be a part of the problem and is worth checking into.
Whatever you choose to do, you have to stick by your decisions and make certain that your son realizes you mean business. Too often parents backtrack and this kind of behavior leaves the child uncertain as to where they stand and also believing that they can get their own way.

My wife is pregnant and I want to cancel our holiday
Dear Emma,
My lovely wife has just found out she is pregnant, and whilst she is currently only a few months pregnant she will be quite a bit more so when the time comes around for our holiday scheduled a few months away.
We were planning on a romantic trip to the Maldives to stay on one of those remote islands but with her around seven months pregnant I am worried this is not safe and want to cancel the holiday. Yes it will cost some money to do so but to me the expense is worth it.
My wife disagrees that it is not safe and wishes to take the trip. I am concerned that if something happens she will be too far from good medical care.
Am I being too nervous as she accuses me?
Nervous father to be
Dear Nervous,
My dear, you have every right to be nervous. Whilst I am certain the Maldives has some excellent hospitals, the point is you may not be anywhere near one of them should something go wrong. Add in the factor that many airlines will refuse heavily pregnant women and you may find your options very limited.
Emma suggests you call the airline and find out what that limit is, this may be the deciding factor for everyone and you won’t have to get into an argument with your wife.
If the airline does say she can fly then check with the hotel that you have booked and find out where the nearest hospital is and what kind of emergency situations they are equipped to handle. Finally, do some research about pregnancy, flights and discomfort and then try to persuade your wife. Lecturing her will simply get her back up and she won’t agree with you but if you can talk to her lovingly, express your concerns, and finally, it may be worthwhile to see if you can bring the holiday up a few months early so she can still enjoy a beach holiday and not be heavily pregnant.