How do I help my teenage daughter deal with mean girls?

Q: When I hear about some of the things these girls are doing and saying to each other, my blood just boils! I know I can't call their mothers or confront them myself, but what am I supposed to do when my daughter comes home in tears day after day?

A: That movie Mean Girls did not come out of nowhere. It was actually based on a book called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, which is a pretty good read, as I recall.

Here's the first and most helpful thing you can do:  Calm and soothe yourself, so you can attend to your daughter and her upset feelings without becoming fearful, angry, or feeling compelled to intervene on her behalf.

It goes without saying, of course, that if she's involved in a violent or abusive situation, she needs your help contacting the proper authorities.  But if you assess the situation as ugly and uncomfortable but not dangerous, then read on.

How do I instill a strong work ethic in my teenage son?

Q: My 13 year old son was given the opportunity to make some extra cash this summer by doing yardwork and other small projects for friends and neighbors, but because he often decides not to put out much effort, he's earned much less income than he could have. Of course I hope he grows up to become responsible and make a worthwhile contribution to the world. How do I teach him a strong work ethic?

A: My guess is that you are already doing the very most important and effective method for teaching a strong work ethic:  Modeling it.

Joint Custody: How to Answer Your Child's Questions about Parental Conflict or Disagreements

Most children of divorce are well aware when conflict is going on between their co-parents, even if they have no idea what it's about and you've taken great pains to protect them from witnessing or overhearing it. (And by the way, kudos to you for protecting them from these things -- it's very important that kids not witness parental conflict.)

Sometimes your savvy and perceptive kids will ask questions about your conflict that you know you shouldn't answer. A good rule of thumb here, if you need one: NEVER share the details of a parental conflict with your child -- it's too painful, divisive, and confusing for them. 

Truth is, even when it appears otherwise, your kids are rarely actually interested in the details. What they are really asking for is reassurance that their parents are still able to love and take good care of them, even during times of conflict.

So what do you say when they ask you?