Coursework and exam preparation for GCSEs is now much more time-consuming than it used to be, and most young people are having to do more work out of school time. Perhaps it would help if the two of you went through all her work commitments and needs, and sorted out some priorities for your help. For example - does she want you to help with timetabling and planning her work generally, or to talk you through an essay or piece of work that she's completed, or for you to provide information and ideas about particular aspects of her work? Agreeing what sort of help she wants might make the sessions you have more productive. Try to get her to pace her work too, incorporating breaks and rewards. Perhaps you could plan a long work session with her with an agreed 'reward' for you both afterwards. Remember that she's probably anxious about the work that she has now and that she knows is ahead, so reassure her that you want to help and that you care about how she's doing.
Dr Debra Roker, psychologist, Trust for the Study of Adolescence, 23 New Road, Brighton BN1 1WZ. Tel: 0273 693311.
I had a place at university five years ago when I became pregnant. My family were keen for me to have an abortion but I couldn't bear the idea and so had the baby and gave her up for adoption. I took up my university place and got very absorbed in my work, so that I really didn't think too much about the baby. Everyone said I was very brave and it was the right thing, so that helped me. But now I have completed my degree and have not found a satisfactory job, I think about the baby all the time and I feel despairing. I wish I had kept the child, but I know I can't wind time back. It's not easy to bring the subject up as everyone thinks it's over and done with.
I wonder whether you are feeling you want information about your daughter and perhaps even to see her. Adoption agencies will often ask the adopters to let the birth mother have regular information. Obviously this may stir things up, but it could also be comforting. I would suggest that, in any case, you find a reputable post-adoption agency such as Post Adoption Centre in London or After Adopt in Manchester - many local authorities have a service - and ask for counselling to help you look at your feelings.
National Parents' Support Group. If you write, please enclose SAE for reply. 10 Alandale Crescent, Garforth, Leeds LS25 1DH (no telephone number).
My wife died two years ago and my son, now 10, is very quiet and uncommunicative or very babyish. It seems time for him to have come to terms with his mother's death. His behaviour also makes me feel he doesn't love me, because he seems only to think of his mother. I find it all very upsetting and I get angry at his babyish behaviour and tell him he has to grow up.
Your son may well take a very long time to get over his mother's death. He is probably missing his mother and the things she did which were probably different from the things you do. This certainly does not mean he doesn't love you, but obviously there is a tremendous gap for him and a great sense of loss, particularly if you cannot be there after school, at the time when he could unburden his 'babyish' feelings and be made a fuss of. I would suggest going, with your son, to a professional who would help you both to talk about what is going on and how you feel, and which might allow you to grieve together. I have seen situations like yours improve in quite a short space of time.
Kathy Duguid, child psychotherapist, Tavistock Clinic, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA. Tel: 071-435 7111.
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