It's very common for young children to want to wear clothes specific to another gender, and the vast majority of these children don't continue this activity as adults.
Try getting a few different dress-up, creative play outfits your child can play with, like a variety of Halloween costumes or ones they keep in the pretend play area in preschool. Don't freak out about it.
You can also explain how certain clothes are appropriate for certain places. Like you wouldn't wear a swim suit to the store. You can wear dress up clothes when you are playing, but school is for school clothes.
Ask yourself, why is your child wearing these clothes? Is it because a little sister just got a bunch of sparkly new dress-up clothes for her birthday? Or is your child just very expressive and like costumes and drama? In our house we have a huge collection of dress-up clothes, most of which are left over Halloween costumes. I find all the kids try all the costumes, regardless of gender.
Father-son relationships are complicated, much like mother-daughter relationships can be. You can only control your side of the communication. Make sure he knows he know you love him and are there for him. He will talk when he's ready. Also, not all bonding has to involve talking. If there's a particular activity you can do together, even silently, such as watching a movie or ball game, that is important. Just your physical presence is important, too.
Such a hard problem, yet so common... John, some teens are just stoic, but others are truly suffering from depression and anxiety. I would start to plan regular outings together, such as breakfast together once a week. Also, try to do some daily chores together, such as dishes or laundry. Make sure you are really spending time with him in joint work and recreational activities, not just trying to talk to him for a few minutes per day at a meal or in the evening.
Don't ignore the chores. Make your son do chores and do them with him. Find some dishes or laundry or vacuuming to do. Clean up the yard together. Have him help you drive a car to the shop to get it fixed. You will be building a relationship and setting a good example.
It's best to try to find a daily chore to do together-- dishes and cooking are easy ones.
Is what you perceive as anxiety impacting other parts of his life? He is able to sleep at night, enjoy time with friends and family and have fun in social activities? If so, whatever he is anxious are likely things he is not familiar with or outside his control. When you feel like it's interfering with is ability to enjoy life or complete tasks or form and maintain relationships, talk to a counselor.
You should seek medical care for anxiety if it is interfering with your child's quality of life. Is your child unable to sleep well? Struggling with social activities? Having panic attacks? Regularly anxious at school? Then it's time for professional help. I would start by calling your pediatrician.
Rather than pathologizing the way tweens and teens primarily communicate, set up boundaries that makes sure they are behaving responsibly, safely and courteously toward others. Set up 'sacred times,' like meal times or in the car or certain hours during the day when the phone is off-limits. If your tween or teen cannot abide by those hours, enforce consequences, such as loss of phone privileges until he or she can better manage their time and behavior.
All kids and teens need screen time limitation and phone curfews. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting recreational screen time to two hours per day. Texting counts as recreational screen time. Your daughter's phone needs to be put away (usually docked at a charging station in the kitchen) three times a day for meals and every night for at least 8-10 hours.
Slamming doors is not acceptable. If it continues even after you've told her about the consequences of such behavior, take the door off the hinges.
I would recognize your daughter's anger. It's not really that different than a four-year-old who stomps away in an angry pout or throws a tantrum. Give your daughter all the time she needs to be alone, then talk about it. Slamming a door is a way of saying, "I need space and time alone right now," which is actually a healthy choice. Eventually, try teaching your daughter to use words and say that, rather than expressing the same thing by slamming a door.
We have very different opinion on this one, Dr. B.!
Whenever you are not sure what to do as a parent, default to loving your child.
There is no one right way to be a parent!
I agree with that sentiment completely.
Thank you for your great questions and for your time, Dr. B. We will see you all here next month!