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Q: I have several concerns about my nine-year-old daughter. The first is with our relationship. I try to be kind and ask her to do certain chores that should be expected of her, but in most cases she just ignores me and it leads to a yelling fight and both of us crying. I'm concerned about her hygiene -- when she takes a shower, she stands and plays more than cleans herself. I'm also worried about her reading ability -- she's up to a year and a half behind. It is a real battle to get her to sit down and read with me.
Another concern is her social skills. She seems to get left out at friends' birthday parties or if there is more than one child involved in a playtime event. She is also overweight and it's been a real struggle to curb her eating. She has gained 10 pounds just this summer. She is very active -- she plays with the neighborhood kids and plays recreational soccer. Any suggestions?
A: You mention several different things that seem to be going on with your daughter and you are wise to want to get a handle on them. Start with your pediatrician. Ask him to talk with your daughter about her hygiene and her weight and start her on a plan of healthy eating and exercise.
Talk with the school counselor about screening your daughter for learning differences with regard to her reading difficulty. It's often hard to tell what problem comes first and leads to the others, but her reading, her weight, her social skills, and her self-esteem could all be tied together. Ask the school counselor to give your daughter some individual time or include her in a small group.
You also may want to get some family counseling for you and your daughter outside the school. The school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.