Q My five-year-old son has not been himself since my husband and I divorced earlier this year. He has started wetting the bed and seems to have frequent aches and pains.

A Dr Arne Brosig, neurologist and psychiatrist at the German Centre for Neurology and Psychiatry, (04-4298578, www.gnp-dubai.com), says:

"Children are receivers of their parents' emotions - when parents are stressed, so are their children. Adult depression is high in Dubai, so childhood depression is too.

"Children as young as five can become depressed. However, it can be hard to assess because of their behavioural patterns. They do not express it the same way adults do - instead, they often show physical manifestationss, such as headaches or bed-wetting.

"Parents' separation is the most stressful thing that can happen to a child. Watch out for the following signs of depression - apathy and changes in sleeping pattern or behaviour, such as lowered motivation or becoming aggressive.

"If he is depressed, validate his feelings rather than dismiss them, and book an appointment with a psychiatrist, as depression can be toxic for health and brain development."

Q My seven-year-old son still sucks his thumb at night. Will this damage his teeth? What can I do to break his habit?

A Dima Zein, business leader at 3M Unitek orthodontic solutions (www.3MUnitek.com), says: "If your child only sucks his thumb at night, it probably falls out of his mouth when he goes to sleep and is unlikely to displace his teeth or deform growing bone. On the other hand, thumb and finger sucking can affect jaw development if practiced forcefully for extended periods of time."

"Watch out for gaps between the front teeth, upper front teeth being pushed outwards, lower front teeth being pushed inwards. or a narrow, high-arched palate - these symptoms will need an appointment with an orthodontist."

"There are orthodontic options to help prevent thumb-sucking, such as a simple retainer made specifically for children aged three and up. Don't nag or forcibly remove his thumb from his mouth. Try distracting him with an activity that requires both hands, or painting something unpleasant, like vinegar, on his thumb. Supportive comments from a doctor, dentist or orthodontist can be helpful to reinforce the idea that your child has given up the habit on his own."

Q My 18-year-old daughter will be heading off to university in the UK next summer. How can I prepare her for living on her own and taking care of herself?


A Therese Sequeira, parent educator at Australian Family Care (04-3694433, www.australianfamilycare.com), says: "Follow these tips to prepare your daughter for independent living, which means looking after herself, leading a healthy lifestyle, being assertive and reliable, making decisions, solving problems, choosing supportive friends and planning ahead:

Encourage her to take an active role in helping out with family chores at home.

Encourage her to make her own decisions and resist making her decisions for her.

Coach her to problem-solve and evaluate what to do if things don't go the preferred way.

Help her develop self-discipline by setting goals for the future and talking about how she needs to rely on herself to make things happen.

Model being assertive and praise her for attempts at assertiveness.

Show an interest in others and talk about interesting things. Give and receive compliments and listen to others' points of view.

Talk about how to handle risky situations.

Most importantly, keep communication alive.