Dear Majella: I am very worried about my parents. They are both in their 80s and have always been very active and independent. My dad was even driving up until last year. However, in the last year or so my mum has been unwell and is now quite frail. She had a fall and broke her hip and has limited mobility and quite a lot of pain since.
They have always had an old-fashioned relationship where mam did all of the cooking and cleaning. Now that she's not able for it anymore, my dad doesn't know where to start. The house is getting dirty and I'm worried that they don't get proper meals. I do what I can with the cleaning and putting dinners in the freezer but I live a few hours away so I can't be there all the time.
They need some help about the house but my dad just goes mad whenever it's suggested and says that they can look after themselves. How can I convince him to accept some help without hurting his pride?
Majella replies: It's very sad to see our loved ones getting older and not being able to manage as they once did. I think it's a very frightening time for them and I can understand how they don't want to give up their independence. It must be hard when your children are telling you what you can and can't do.
I can also understand exactly where you are coming from. I suppose the first thing I would suggest would be to get 'home help' but I presume that you have already thought of that and your dad is against it. You really need to be very tactful about how you address this with him. You don't want to make him feel useless or past it, but at the same time he needs to know that the house has to be kept to a decent standard and he needs to have a proper meal every day.
Maybe you could talk to him and explain that you are worried that he and your mum are not eating enough and that you would like to show him how to prepare some basic meals that he can do for himself. Tell him that you know he is capable but that you need to show him how because it is something he has never done before. Try to build his confidence a little.
You could also do a light cleaning rota for him that he could manage on his own just to keep on top of things. Let him know that you want him to be able to take care of himself and your mum for as long as he can, but that he has to realise that may involve getting some help from time to time.
Tell him that, because you live so far away, it would ease your mind if you knew that someone would pop in every now and then to see that they are OK.
I'm sure that when he knows that you are only trying to do what you think is best for the two of them, he will understand and be more willing to accept a helping hand.
My 15-year-old daughter has me at my wits' end. She throws tantrums at the drop of a hat and won't do anything that she's asked. She doesn't always come home on time, and last week we were called to the school where we heard she'd been skipping classes. I've grounded her and taken away her mobile phone as punishment, but that's just made her stop talking to me. Her older brother and sister were grand teenagers - moody by times but there was none of this drama. What can I do?
Elaine, via email
Majella replies: Dear Elaine
Oh boy - how I remember that stage! I know it can be very difficult dealing with teenagers. Their hormones are all over the place. They are at that stage when they are not children but they are also not adults either. It's a frustrating time for them and of course for the parents, too.
All teenagers push the boundaries at this stage in their lives. But by doing so, they are also learning what is acceptable and what is not. They are learning about parenting from you, so, even though you may think you are getting nowhere, they are learning from you all the time.You just have to ride it out and try to be as supportive and patient as you can be. When she does something that you don't approve of, ask her how she would handle a problem like that when she has her own children. It may help if she looks at the situation through your eyes and she realises that you are only doing what you believe to be the best you can for her.
Talk to her and explain why you don't want her to miss classes or why you want her to come home at the time you set for her. Let her see that you are not doing just to be awkward but that you need to know that she is safe.
Teenagers sometimes think that there is no one else in the world except them. Your daughter is not unusual and I'm sure she will change as she gets older and more mature.
From what you have said, she really doesn't sound like a bad girl. I don't think you need to be too concerned about her behaviour. She is just being a normal teenager. It's not fair to compare her to her siblings. All children have different personalities. Your daughter is her own person. She may be difficult at times but, as I always say "this too will pass".
Just continue being the loving caring mother that you obviously are and try not to let this difficult stage get between the two of you.