Q My dad's new girlfriend wants to be my friend but I can't stand the sight of her.
She is high maintenance and boring and only ever talks about what she has seen on the telly, or what she has bought in the shops (with my dad's money - so essentially my money!) I'm 15 and have enough friends, thanks. How can I get her to get out of my space when I visit my dad at weekends?
A This is no doubt a sensitive issue, and one which I have seen to crop up quite regularly. It is absolutely natural for you, at your age, to feel a distinct lack of interest in your dad's new woman, especially if she's as inane as she sounds.
Despite all that, I think it's important for you to remain polite and civil and to respect and support your dad.
He must be feeling the strain of trying to keep you both happy and you must value his attempt at finding happiness with her.
Have a chat with your dad in private about her, and point out that at weekends when you go to visit him, you would really like if you just spent dad and daughter time together without her.
Explain gently that you feel she's trying too hard with you and you're more interested in investing your time building on your relationship with him instead.
You can remain friendly to her - but make sure to keep your distance.
Q My parents will freak when they see my belly button ring. I am 14 and look older, and got it done without a problem. We are going to Spain at Easter, and my parents are bound to notice the ring when I am in a bikini. What can I do to stop them getting hysterical?
A I can absolutely relate to how you feel because, at the age of 16, I arrived home to my parents with a pierced belly button. It was the fashionable thing to do in my school and since I wasn't certain they'd approve, I just went ahead and got it done.
Luckily, they accepted that it was my body and my decision. In your case, you are a couple of years younger than I was and it's more likely that your parents' initial reaction will be disapproval.
I strongly recommend that you sit them down and break the news to them at least a week before you leave for Spain and they inevitably see it for themselves.
It is the mature thing to do and will, hopefully, reduce any unwanted tension on the holiday. Behaving as a reasonable adult will undoubtedly earn you more respect.
Explain to them that you considered your decision carefully, went to a reputable piercing facility and have taken all the necessary steps in hygiene and care for your new piercing. Do point out that it's not a permanent marking like a tattoo and can be removed at any stage. Experimentation is all just a part of growing up and developing into a young woman. I hope they're understanding towards it.
Q I am devastated at the prospect of not going to college after my Leaving Cert, as both my parents have been made redundant. My dad says it would be better for me to postpone college and get a job to bring some money into the house. I'm the eldest boy in a family of four. I've no qualifications, and feel taking a minimum-wage job would be a disaster for me.
A This is very much a decision to be made as a family and is obviously dependent on your parents' ability to find employment as soon as possible.
Since you're so keen to experience college and gain an important third level qualification, which is highly admirable, I would urge you to follow your dreams.
I suggest you explain to your parents that it will be of benefit to both you and the family in the long run to spend the time now investing in your education and your future.
A gap year spent working is an option but you will probably find it more difficult to leave employment and begin student life at that stage. In this country, university education is still free but I recommend you look for a part-time evening or weekend job to supplement the overhead costs of college, such as registration fees and books. Work with your family to find a solution which suits everybody and doesn't put pressure on your parents, who are no doubt struggling. Good luck.
Q I'm a 21-year-old single mum, and my four-year-old boy is asking where his daddy is. I'm a student, and my parents help rear my son -- I got pregnant after I got very drunk on my first holiday abroad with my friends, which was paid for by my parents. I've been doing my best to make up for my mistake, but my son asking for his dad is breaking my heart. How can I make him feel special and loved without a dad in his life?
AIt is probably difficult for your son to witness the relationship between his friends and their dads, which must have been the catalyst to his questions.
It will probably get harder for him over the next few years as his understanding develops further, so I absolutely advise you to be as honest as possible with him and explain that he doesn't have a daddy in his life but he has a loving mum and grandparents instead.
I don't agree with spoiling children with sweets and presents to relieve guilt or fill a supposed void in their life, the most important gift you can give him is your time, patience and understanding. Through positive feedback, praise and regularly explaining how loved he is by the people in his life, he should grow up not feeling like he's missing something in his life, but blessed to have what he has.