Ask Fiona: I’ve made a mess of raising my 3 kids

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Advice columnist Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas and emotional issues

I’M FAILING MY CHILDREN

I’m forever arguing with my three teenagers and they say I never listen to them – I do but I still feel like a failure.

I’m making such a mess of bringing them up, but I’m trying my best. I don’t understand their behaviour and they don’t understand me. As a single mum, I feel like I’m in a battle every day.

A Have you ever tried to sit down and talk to one another?

Most of the time we’re too busy to just sit and have a conversation together – most of what we say ends up being on the run. Don’t pick a time when you know they’ll want to be doing something else or when their favourite programme is on TV, but just say “can we talk?” and sit down as a family.

Explain to them how you feel – not as a complaint but as a means of explaining you want to make things better. Ask them to tell you how they feel and really listen. Ask open-ended questions and try to find out what they want out of life.

If there are good reasons why they shouldn’t do certain things, then explain – not a “because I say so” but with good, reasoned arguments.

I’VE FALLEN FOR MY HUSBAND’S FRIEND

I got married eight months ago but I’ve fallen for another man and I don’t know what to do.

What makes it worse is that he’s my husband’s best friend – he knows how I feel and he’s told me he has feelings for me too.

Within days of telling me this, though, he took a job abroad and I’ve not seen him since. He’s not called or explained and I feel as if I’m in limbo.

I’m sure you’re feeling hurt by what you regard as his desertion, but have you considered your husband in this?

I’d suggest that he has – he’s concerned for the feelings of his best friend so he’s taken himself away from temptation.

Presumably you loved your husband when you married him, so put some serious effort into rekindling that love again.

Your husband’s friend may be appalled at the speed with which you’ve switched your affections to him – something else that’s driven him away. You’re in a very serious, difficult situation.

You can’t mess around with other people’s feelings and then expect them to care about you.

HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT?

Five years after my divorce, I met a lovely man; he was recently widowed.

I fell deeply in love with him but he never said he loved me. He said he cared a lot for me. I wanted more and so we separated.

But now we’ve got back together and I’m hoping it will work this time. He’s still not told me he loves me though, so do you think it will work out?

You say he’s a widow, so he may still be grieving for his wife and unsure about developing a new relationship.

To expect him to declare his love for you is probably asking too much. You are trying to force the pace and he may not be ready. Can you not enjoy what you’ve got for the present and give him more time?

Hopefully something deeper will develop but, if it doesn’t, you can still spend quality time with someone you love and who cares for you.