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A Lonely Dad and Leaving out a Friend

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: I've always been a very involved dad. But now that my children are in sixth and ninth grade, they no longer need me. I'm constantly begging them to do something with me, and when they can't, I make them feel guilty. I don't mean to do it. I'm just so sad they are so busy. I'm feeling rejected. What can I do to make the kids spend more time with me? --All Alone Dad

Dear Dad: What a pity party you've got going! I'm not sure I'd want to spend time with you either. Laying on the guilt and begging the kids may increase your chances they will hang out with you. But it won't make them enjoy it.

Your kids are not babies, and they don't need around-the-clock care. What they do need is a comfortable place to land when they aren't off exploring their world or deepening their friendships. Be that place. Create a home environment that's fun, inviting and warm. Do the kids have a hangout room? How about investing in a karaoke machine or the new "Guitar Hero"? If your kids bring their friends over, even if they aren't spending quality time with you, you'll feel much better. The house will be lively, and you could at least feed them snacks every few hours or bust out a killer barbecue for dinner.

Try to respect your kids' schedules and desire to be with friends. At the same time, ask them to reserve time for one outing a week together. Be creative. Maybe you could take them to a special breakfast before school, or to Starbucks for an after-school treat. Maybe have a Sunday movie night or football bonanza at home. Or maybe the kids would prefer to spend time making fabulous cakes and dinners for the whole family to enjoy. Whatever you do, skip the guilt and pour on the charm.

Dear Family Coach: My son's 10th birthday party is coming up. One of his friends is awful, and I absolutely cannot stand him. We are having a small party at home. This kid will ruin the party, so I don't want to invite him. But how do I explain to my son why I can't invite his friend? -- Party Planner

Dear Planner: Go with the honest approach, and let your son decide what to do. Just because this kid will drive you to the brink of insanity doesn't mean he has the same effect on your son. On the other hand, it could be true that this child will ruin the entire party for everyone else.

Discuss your concerns with your son. At 10 years old, he is old enough to contemplate the issues. Ask him why he wants to invite this child. Ask him if he shares your concerns, and talk about the potential unintended consequences that could arise if you don't invite him. It's possible this child is a ringleader and is crucial to the dynamics of the friend group. It's possible that if this boy isn't invited, he will make your son's life at school a nightmare. Or maybe this child could use a friend and your son wants to give him a chance.

After discussing the issues, if your son still wants this child to attend the party, consider ways to minimize his awfulness. Invite his parent to stay for the party, or find other adults who can help supervise the kids.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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