Der Wallace:

Yesterday my only child, a 13-year-old daughter, shocked me more than I can ever explain to you. I love my daughter more than my own life. Everything I do is to insure that she is happy and loved.

Yesterday, Karla told me that she didn’t feel that I loved her; she thought that she was a burden to me, and it might be better if she went to live with her dad in another state.

My ex-husband and I divorced several years ago, but it wasn’t an ugly divorce. It was just that neither one of us was happy with the marriage. I’m a professional woman and earn more than enough money that I can provide my daughter with anything that she really wants. I thought we had a good parent/child relationship and were true friends. Now I feel that I have not done enough to make her happy, so I’m not a successful parent.

Now I’m feeling that I should get another chance to show my daughter that she is truly the love of my life and I would do anything for her. Any suggestions to help me be a better parent would be greatly appreciated.

If I don’t reach my goal to improve as a parent, I will allow my daughter to live with her father and stepmother who is a very nice person and treats Karla very well.

Karla and her father were extremely close when we were still a family and the closeness has continued since the divorce.

— Mother,

Michigan City, Ind.

Mother: It’s never too late! You obviously love your daughter, but perhaps you have been so busy making sure her material needs are met that you’ve neglected her emotional and spiritual needs. Parenting is a tough job, and single-parenting is even tougher. You responded to your daughter’s expression of unhappiness not with anger (“How dare you say such a thing after all that I’ve done for you!”), but with anguish and a determination to change. This says to me that you and Karla will do well in the long run.

I wish the two of you the best of luck and offer the following advice for parents, with the sense that you already know it. But maybe it can help you focus your efforts.

• Tell your children every day that you love them.

• Take time every day to discuss what’s happening in your child’s life. Be a great listener. Everything your child discusses is important!

• Always be considerate of the child’s feelings.

• Be supportive of a child’s interests and be there when the child performs in athletics, music, drama or any other activity. There are very few acceptable excuses why you missed being there.

• Spend some free time with your child. Take a hike, visit a museum, go to a concert or any event the two of you might enjoy and plan the outing together.

• Get to know all of your child’s friends and make them welcome when they visit your house. Never pick friends for your child, but if a friend is unacceptable because of his or her behavior, explain fully why the friendship must end.

• When a child asks why not, give the reason for your “No” answer. Never say, “Because I said so” or “Because I’m the parent.”

• Hugs, kisses, and smiles bring more happiness than material rewards.

• Be a shining example of integrity. Children mimic what they see.

Write to Dr. Wallace at