Agony advice

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


Q My son is nine years old and has always been a happy child, but recently he’s become difficult and moody.

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He’s just started at a new school and I don’t think he’s very happy there.

He comes home and goes straight up to his room and will not talk about his day at all.

His father says he just needs to settle but I think there may be something more going on.

He really doesn’t want to go to school in the mornings and I am wondering if he is being bullied.

A He may be unwilling to talk but try to raise the subject of school with him and perhaps go gently, asking him how he is getting on with the other children.

I think you should talk to his teacher and see whether he is mixing with the other children in his class.

Certainly, if you get any clue there is bullying going on, you will need to talk to the teacher about this, too.

Schools are much more attuned to the reality of bullying these days and most are determined to prevent it or stamp it out when it occurs. has a helpline for parents who are worried about bullying on 08451 205 204, and you can find a lot of information on the website.


Q After 18 years in an unhappy, violent and loveless marriage, I finally left my husband for a wonderful man with whom I’m very happy.

Sadly, though, my children have suffered and distanced themselves from me and I can’t say I blame them; they put up with all kinds of nastiness over the years.

I think they resent me for not leaving sooner and I wish I could make things right again. My son has been through several unhappy reltionships and is now living in a grim flat on his own after his last girlfriend took most of his money.My daughter has four kids and is struggling to make ends meet. I’d love to be a proper family again, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

A Have you ever told your children why you stayed in an unhappy marriage for so long?

If not, now might be a good time to do so.

Building bridges when relationships are damaged is never easy, but be honest with them and make sure they know you are around if they need you.

Tell your son you would like him to visit and perhaps offer to help with your daughter’s children. Sharing memories of your difficult past together may be painful, but it might help you all to heal.


Q I’ve been married for three years and I’m getting really fed up with cleaning up after my husband.

He doesn’t do a thing to help around the house and leaves everything for me to do.

I do all the washing, the cleaning, the ironing and the shopping. He occasionally does the cooking but leaves such a mess afterwards that he might as well not bother. How do I get him to change?

A If you’ve let him get away with this for three years, you’re going to have to work hard to get him to change now!

Have you ever explained to him how you feel?

Talk to him, explain that you are doing more than your fair share of domestic chores and ask him to help.

If he’s been brought up without ever having to do things around the home, then he may need to be shown what to do, so be persistent.

If he refuses to help, leave his share of chores and see whether he can do them on his own for a while.

It may be hard but the idea is for him to understand what’s fair. If he gets to understand and still won’t help, then you may have to reassess your relationship.