Ask an expert: Counsellor Teresa Tyler

Ask an expert: Counsellor Teresa Tyler

Psychotherapist and counsellor,  Teresa Tyler can help you with any relationship difficulties and post-natal issues you might have

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I’ve been trying to settle my two-year-old in a nursery for three weeks and it’s been really difficult. He stays by my side and won’t let me go. The other children have settled really quickly and I feel like a terrible mum for leaving him like this every day. How long does it normally take for children to get used to nursery?

It really depends on the child – some are naturally more confident, outgoing and happy to try new situations, while others take a long time. Also, whether a child has been used to separations in the first couple of years makes a big difference – it is harder if you have never been apart. Forcing matters usually makes it worse, so a slow, patient approach is best. Don’t feel you have to rush or compete with other mums.

Take it at the pace that suits your son. Be as positive and upbeat as possible, so your anxiety doesn’t rub off and always stress you will be back soon when you say goodbye to him. Some children like to have a favourite comfort object from home to hold till you get back, too

I really don’t want to feel pressured into buying my three-year-old son all the latest toys this Christmas, particularly as he seemed more entertained by the wrapping paper and packaging than the presents he got on his birthday! Am I a bad mum?

Some psychologists believe that buying too many gifts for children can do more harm than good and may cause several problems.

First, they can show a lack of gratitude – children learn to expect too much and can become ungrateful and unappreciative of the things that they receive. They may also develop a particular form of competitiveness – children start to compete with others and come to think that love is about getting the biggest or most expensive gift.

Finally there’s over-stimulation – too many gifts can lead to worn out, grumpy children who can’t focus. So no, you’re not a bad mum! You know your child best so you know what he would enjoy and learn from most. Don’t feel you have to buy anything else.

Since my son was born, my in-laws constantly tell me how they did things when their son was a baby. How can I politely tell them to back off?

The problem with in-laws is that they have been there and done that already. Firstly,
the really important factor is that your other half needs to be on your side. You need to present a united front to them and be in agreement on all aspects of your parenting.

Next, try to include rather than exclude them. Let them know how much you appreciate their opinions but you and your partner will do things your way. Ask your partner to lay down some ground rules with them respectfully, and at the same time reinforce what great grandparents they are.

My son is a year old and I love being his mum, but my husband feels I’ve changed, and keeps joking that he wants the ‘old me’ back. How can 
I show him that I’m still me?

Having a baby brings enormous changes and the shift from being a couple to becoming a family can be a difficult transition. Allow time for you both to discuss how you are feeling so you can
work through this. Try to find a few hours each week where you can concentrate on each other for a while. Becoming a mum
has changed your circumstances, not you.

I’m breastfeeding my three-month-old daughter round the clock, but the lack of sleep means I’m continually tired and short-tempered. My partner is supportive but we still seem to argue a lot. Is this a normal phase?

Having a baby is one of the major events that any couple can experience. It can put untold stress on you both in ways you never anticipated. What you are describing is 
both normal and very common. You are making the transformation from being a couple to a family. The dynamics will have changed and both of you will be experiencing different feelings and tensions around the baby, your roles and your different routines.

For these reasons 
many couples find themselves feeling irritable and can end up arguing. Try to ensure that you spend time 
together when baby is asleep, talk and have fun, don’t ignore the sexual side of your relationship, and most of all try to relax
and rest during these tiring months. If 
you can keep some time for yourselves
 and communicate well, then these minor 
problems should disappear.

Since I gave birth, my sister keeps telling me I need to lose the baby weight and now my husband’s started mentioning it too. I’m so fed up with both of them, it’s making me eat more. It’s a vicious circle. Help!

It sounds like you’re experiencing feelings that are making you feel sad and are seeking comfort from eating. This is very common behaviour as we seek the comfort we used
 to feel as young children, being cuddled
 and fed by our mothers. The problem is your conscious mind starts nagging, along with your sister and husband, about the weight gain. Then you start to feel bad, sad and in need of comfort, and off we go again. The vicious circle you so rightly mentioned.

The important thing is not to blame yourself. Try to figure out what is causing you to feel low in the first place and address those issues. Once you have done this you’ll start to feel happier, your self-esteem will improve and the need to eat for comfort will go, along with any excess weight.

I really don’t want to feel pressured into buying my three-year-old son all the latest toys this Christmas, particularly as he seemed more entertained by the wrapping paper and packaging than the presents he got on his birthday! Am I a bad mum?

Some psychologists believe that buying too many gifts for children can do more harm than good 
and may cause several problems. First, they can show a lack of gratitude – children learn to expect too much and can become ungrateful and unappreciative 
of the things that they receive.

They may also develop a particular form of competitiveness – children start to compete with others and come to think that love is about getting the biggest or most expensive gift.

Finally there’s over-stimulation – too many gifts can lead to worn out, grumpy children who can’t focus. So no, you’re not a bad mum! You know your child best so you know what he would enjoy and learn from most. Don’t feel you have to buy anything else.

I’m a working mum and finding 
life a struggle. I feel very low and tired, and there’s too much on my plate. I lose patience with my family and cry often. How can I regain my emotional strength, especially with the additional stresses of Christmas fast approaching? As a working mum you are bound to be feeling stressed, especially with Christmas just around the corner. There are a few things you can do, however, that may help 
to ease the burden.

-Be organized – making sure you have effective routines in place helps the day- 
to-day things run smoothly.
-Manage boundaries – there are times when you will feel everyone wants a piece of you, but remember that it’s ok to say 
no from time to time. Be realistic about what you can give of yourself and to who, and don’t sacrifice your needs for others.
-
Look after yourself – you won’t be able to cope if you don’t take care of yourself. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat well and plan some down time into your day.
-Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Hopefully these tips can help you reduce the stress in your life and maintain your sanity – over the festive season and beyond.

As my maternity leave approaches 
I’m getting more and more worried about how we’re going to cope financially while I’m off work. My husband says we will be fine, but 
I’m not particularly convinced and 
it’s starting to get me down.

Money can be a controversial matter and often leads to arguments between couples. But unfortunately we all need money to survive and so it’s an unavoidable subject. Ask your husband to sit down with you and talk through your finances, explaining why he thinks you will manage without your salary. You could also explore each other’s attitudes to money, perhaps set some goals regarding spending, and try to find a way in which you can share responsibility for the finances as equally as possible. By regularly checking in with each other regarding your money situation, hopefully you will feel more secure and in control of things, then you’ll be able to relax and look forward to your new arrival.

How can I stop my dad giving my son sweets without upsetting everyone? 
I was determined to limit sugary snacks, but feel undermined when 
he winks at my son and says, ‘A little sweetie won’t hurt, will it?’

Grandparents often think it’s their right to spoil their grandchildren, and sometimes this is lovely. Unfortunately, if you don’t agree with what they are doing, you can look like the ‘bad guy’ when you try to maintain some boundaries.

This is what you are experiencing and it’s creating an awkward situation with your father. The only real solution is to talk to him. He needs to understand why you don’t like your son to have too many sweets, and how you feel when he seems to undermine your decisions. If you can have an open and honest conversation, hopefully he will understand and work with you, rather than against you.

I gave birth over a month ago and
 despite lots of support from family
 and friends, I am feeling miserable, depressed and unable to cope with 
life as a first-time mum. My friends keep telling me that it will pass, but 
I’m not so confident. I know I should
 see my GP, but I’m terrified about 
any professionals finding out.

Postnatal depression – also known as the ‘baby blues’ – usually makes an appearance around four weeks after giving birth and  affects as many as one in 10 new mums. GPs and other professionals are very aware that feeling low after having a baby is a common and treatable condition, and in no way means that you don’t love or care for your baby. Postnatal depression can be distressing, but feel reassured that there are many treatment options available to you, so don’t delay speaking to your GP because the sooner you can get treatment, the sooner you will start to feel better in yourself and more able to cope with and enjoy your baby.

We have a gorgeous four-month-old boy, diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome at birth. I dote on him, but have noticed my husband has become unusually
irritable and too ‘busy’ to spend time with his son. I feel he’s in denial, but 
I don’t know how to broach the subject.

Here you have the excitement of your new arrival, but confusing feelings that having
 a baby with Down’s Syndrome is not what
 you signed up for. Your partner may not feel as positive as you at the moment and may seem rejecting of your baby, but try to remember that it is the condition he is rejecting, not his son. It is important that you allow him to 
react as he feels; he needs to grieve for the baby he was expecting and adjust to the 
son he has now. Invite him to talk about
 his feelings, and listen and acknowledge what is going on for him. Encourage him to talk with other parents who have been through similar experiences who can 
provide vital support, too.

I’ve been trying to settle my two-year-old in a nursery for three weeks and it’s been really difficult. He
 stays by my side and won’t let me
go. The other children have settled really quickly and I feel like a terrible mum for leaving him like this every day. How long does it normally take
 for children to get used to nursery?

It really depends on the child – some are naturally more confident, outgoing and happy to try new situations, while others take a long time. Also, whether a child has been used to separations in the first couple of years makes a big difference – it is harder if you have never been apart. Forcing matters usually makes it worse, so a slow, patient approach is best. Don’t feel you have to rush or compete with other mums. Take it at the pace that suits your son. Be as positive and upbeat as possible, so your anxiety doesn’t rub off and always stress you will be back soon when you say goodbye to him. Some children like to have a favourite comfort object from home to hold till you get back, too.

My partner won’t have sex with me now I’m pregnant – it’s like he’s seeing me in a different way. How can I tell him I’m still a woman and not just a mum to be?

Your guy is trying to get his head around your transition from lover to mother. It’s not so much about how your body is changing, but more to do with his responsibilities and the realities of impending fatherhood. Try 
to reassure him that you are the same person as before and encourage him to talk about what is going on for him. Explain that being pregnant doesn’t mean you are too fragile 
to enjoy sex.

In fact many pregnant women have an increased sex drive, so encourage him to experience your more voluptuous body in ways that are satisfying for you both.

I’m dreading wearing a swimsuit on holiday as my body is not what it was after giving birth. Although I am a confident person, since having my baby I’m more conscious of being surrounded by younger, fitter women on the beach. But I want my husband 
to still fancy me, too, and for me not 
to feel like this!

You have just been through the most life-changing of experiences. Your body changed enormously during pregnancy, and the fact is that it will never be the same again. But that’s OK – it really is! You are a real woman who gave birth to a real baby and that means your waistline may be permanently larger, you may have stretch marks that will never completely disappear, and your breasts may be a different shape. But while your body changed on the outside, on the inside you grew up and became a mum. So don’t feel self-conscious about your body. It shows 
your status as a mother, and you should feel proud and confident.

We have beautiful twin girls age two and a half. I’m pregnant again which hubby and I are delighted about, but
I know he very much wants a boy and is pinning his hopes on this. How can
I manage his expectations?

It’s not unusual to want a particular gender baby. For most though, once the baby is 
born healthy, they are thrilled either way as I’m sure your husband will be. It’s a good idea to discuss your concerns about his possible ‘disappointment’ with him in advance and explain how his enthusiasm 
for a boy makes you feel, too. If you do have a girl, allow him some
space to grieve over the boy he had wished for and he should soon accept and fall in 
love with his beautiful new baby.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression and how bad should it get before a new mum sees their GP?
 I’m worried I’ll be blacklisted as a parent if I make it official, but I’m feeling very down having given birth to my son more than five months ago.

Postnatal depression is extremely common and easily treated by your GP. A few of the symptoms are listed below.

• Feeling low, or down.
• Feeling tired and very lethargic. Not wanting to do anything.
• Feeling unable to cope and feeling guilty about not coping.
• Being unusually irritable, which makes the guilt worse.
• Difficulty sleeping.
• Being hostile or indifferent to your husband or partner.
• Being hostile or indifferent to your baby.
• Having panic attacks, or feelings 
of anxiety.

If you experience any of these types of symptoms please seek support from your GP.  You won’t be judged or ‘blacklisted’ and it’s important for you and your baby that you get back to feeling your old self again.

Counsellor and Psychotherapist

Teresa is an acredited member of the British Association of counselling and Psychotherapy, and can help with relationship and post natal issues.

If you'd like to ask Teresa Tyler a relationship or post natal question, please email below. Not all your questions can always be answered but we will try to look at as many as possible.

[email protected]

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