Friday, December 20, 2013

My Boyfriend Keeps Lying To Me

 In the past 30 years, I have asked on about a weekly basis how to handle a boyfriend that keeps getting caught in lies.  Let’s start with what constitutes the basic foundation of a good relationship.  In a healthy relationship both people bring with them trust, honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, the ability to share and compromise, and a positive intent.  If you want to be happy, you have to also want your partner to be happy.  If your partner is lying to you, you need to ask yourself why.  Are they afraid to tell you the truth?  If they are afraid to tell you the truth, have you contributed to that in any way or are they just putting themselves first before the relationship?  Are they lying about money, where they have been and who they have been with, or why they cancelled their date with you or just didn’t show up?  Are they lying about work, school, drugs?  Bottom line, if your partner is lying to you, they are not bringing honesty and integrity into the relationship.  They are not being kind or generous and their intent toward you is not positive.  The first lie you catch, you need to sit down with your partner and find out what was happening and what their reasoning was.  You need to then let them know that lying will not work for you and will be a deal breaker.  It is important that you mean this.  If after this communication and hopefully agreement to be honest, you catch them in another lie, you need to end the relationship and move on.  This may seem drastic to you, but do you really want to spend your life with someone that you can’t trust?  Do you really want to always be watching and questioning?  It is an awful way to live and erodes confidence and self-esteem.  Wish them well and move on and enhance your potential for a happy life.  What we are discussing is a form of boundary setting.  The boundary is not allowing malignant people into your life to suck the energy out of you.  Put your energy into the people that will add to your life as you add to their life. 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holidays and Children

It is that time of year.  Holidays and family and friends and food and shopping and celebrating and trying to decide what is all right to give to children and what is over the top.  This topic actually comes up a lot in therapy.  I think there are many ways to make the holidays about appreciation and giving and sharing, not just receiving.  If your child (children) are like many children in our culture, they have so many toys they don’t even know what to play with.  It is hard for them to even have a favorite.  In our times of electronics, our children are also missing out on basic toys that are still a lot of fun.  If your children make a wish list, explain to them that it is a wish list and not a guaranteed list.  Also explain to them that even Santa will not give them things on their list that are not age appropriate or logistically reasonable, such as a water side in your patio.  Have your children write out some of the holiday cards and even help with holiday baking.  Go through all their toys and any that are kindly used that they no longer want, wrap up and donate.  There are many shelters and foster homes that can really use those toys.  Have your child earn a few dollars and buy a new gift to donate.  If your child receives any duplicates or items they do not really want, request that they do not open them, they can be donated as well, even if it is after the holidays.  

This also makes room for their new items.  Teach your child to write thank you notes; a lost art, but one that is still very much appreciated by the recipient.  If old enough, have your child go with you to a food pantry or shelter to help feed the homeless.  It is so important that children who have a lot grow up appreciating what they have and grow up with a sense of sharing versus a sense of entitlement.  The question I am asked the most is about electronics.  Does your child need the newest version of everything?  I think not.  If your child has an I-phone 4, they really do not need an I-phone 5.  I’m not sure they really needed the I-phone 4 to begin with.  Remember, if you give your child everything now, what do they have to look forward to or work toward?  Also, if they are not as monetarily as successful as you, life may be bitter for them.  If you want to buy them the new model of something, great, but maybe not the new model of everything they own.  And by the way, when they get that new board game and don’t have any idea how to play it because it does not have an on button, play it with them.  Happy Holidays and a safe New Year to all.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't Eat Your Feelings

We eat for so many reasons.  We eat because we are hungry, bored, happy, sad, lonely, and as a celebration.  Our associations with food start very early in life; developed within our culture and our family.  The holidays can be a wonderful time of sharing and celebration.  Unfortunately, for some people, it can also be a time of renewed grieving for those lost to us.  Holidays can be a time of connection, but also a time of disconnection.  Whether it is dealing with the holidays or any other time of year, think about why you are eating.  Keep an emotional food journal for a month and when you eat something, also write down your thoughts and feelings.  Did you eat for hunger or were you expected to eat?  Did you eat to fill an emotional gap of some type?  Was eating just something to do or something you do out of habit?  Do you even know when you are hungry?  Describe what hunger feels like to you.  How do we change a life time of emotional eating?  That answer is different for everyone.  The first intervention is to change what food is available in your environment.  You are less likely to eat unhealthy food if it is not readily available.  Most people who eat emotionally want a quick fix.  However, if you are one of those people who will drive to the grocery store or the fast food place by your house, decide on healthy designated food you can get while you are working on changing actual habits. Have activities planned that do not allow you to eat.  For example, if you are giving yourself a manicure, you can’t very well be eating a bag of chips.  Any type of craft can be a good alternative to eating.  Try not to eat while reading or watching TV.  Eat at your kitchen table only so you don’t associate eating with other places.  Most importantly, talk to yourself about why you want to eat and trying to come up with an alternative to problem solving.  If you are bored, do something fun or interesting.  If you are sad, what is causing that void and what can you do to fill the void that does not involve eating.  Can you celebrate with something other than food and if food is involved, plan ahead the foods you will eat, including the treats you will have.  To make food part of your life and not the center of your life, you need to fill your life with activities and people that bring meaning and positive feelings into your life.  As the saying goes, eat to live and don’t live to eat.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Relaxation can mean so many different things to so many people.  There are so many theories and books written about relaxation, who knew that the concept of relaxing could be so stressful?  Basically, relaxation is whatever helps you to balance the stresses in your life.  For some people, it might be meditation (of which there are hundreds if not more, to choose from), deep breathing, resting on a lounge chair in the back yard or at the beach, or even reading.  Other people find projects to be relaxing for them and these may include building or making something, or re-doing something like a room in your home.  Some people find exercise to be relaxing, clearing their mind and helping them to feel invigorated.  Whatever you decide to do as your form of relaxation, the most important component is to actually reserve time for your relaxation on a regular basis.  I have met many people over the years who have claimed that their annual vacation was their form of relaxation.  The problem with this approach is the long, very long, year-long wait to experience any form of relaxation.  This approach involves procrastination, wishing one’s life away by dreaming of their vacation and living for that, and being so stressed by the time the vacation arrives, the vacation only makes a small dent in the stress cycle.  If vacation is the way you want to go, then I suggest you sprinkle some 3 and 4-day weekends throughout your year even if it shortens the annual vacation somewhat.  I would also recommend planned activities on regular weekends to keep the mojo going.  If meditation is your thing, find a few that you like that vary by time interval.  While it is wonderful to reach a meditative state for 40 to 60 minutes, that may not always fit in to your schedule.  
Use your long meditations as often as you can during the week, but learn some that take under 5 minutes for that “pick me up” meditative feeling.  As you train your body to relax to certain cues, it will take less and less time for your body to respond.  Exercise is great on so many levels.  It can relax you, energize you, help keep you healthier, and is a wonderful stress reducer.  If you are not excited about the thought of exercise, that means you need to try different forms of exercise until you find one that you love.  There are so many options out there, from groups to weights to sports to different forms of boating.  Don’t forget the basic, walking.  Find a beautiful place to walk.  If you need company on your walks, enlist a family member or even join a walking club.  Again, whatever you do to relax, enjoy it, make it at least 3 to 4 times a week if not daily, and remember, you are worth taking care of.  Life is not just about work.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Relationship:  Am I Moving Too Fast?

 In a new relationship, what is too fast and what is too slow.  Some people believe in love at first sight and some people believe one must grow in to love.  Whether you are moving too fast or too slow depends on the two people involved.  However, that being said, there are some general guidelines that might help you.  As you become intrigued with someone, you need to take a closer look at who this person is.  How does this person talk about their ex if they have one, their children, boss, parents?  Do they have friends?  Is everything in their life someone else’s fault or can they take ownership of their choices?  If you have children, do they accept you as a package and are they willing to develop a positive relationship with your children while also respecting the parental boundaries of the other parent?  This works both ways.  If they have children, you need to develop a positive relationship with their children.  If you both have children, be prepared to work on blending the family.  Discuss discipline and have a plan for parenting both sets of children so the children perceive the house rules as equal and fair.  How does this person deal with frustration and anger?  Does their reaction match the crime or do they over react?  Are you able to approach them and talk about anything?  Are they possessive of you or are they willing to share?  Are they supportive of you maintaining your prior relationships with friends and family or do they seem to want to separate you from your past and your support system?  How do they handle their finances and are they even willing to discuss finances with you?  If they are moving too fast for you, are they willing to slow down and match your pace?  If not, there may be some control or impulsive issues to consider.  As you climb each step of the relationship path, do it together and with your eyes open.  Deciding on a life partner is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life.  Finding a new partner is easy, finding the right partner is the challenge.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When Feeling Disliked

When Feeling Disliked

We have all had the experience of feeling that someone does not like us.  It may be real or just perceived, but either way, it makes most people feel uncomfortable.  When this happens, the first thing to do is to look at your own behavior.  If you think you have not done anything to make the other person dislike you, than it is not about you.  People’s reactions are about themselves, even if in response to you or directed toward you.  This is easy to understand intellectually, but actually quite difficult to live.  It takes some practice.  For example, suppose you are meeting three friends or co-workers for lunch and you are 30 minutes late and your cell phone died and you just can’t call anyone.  You arrive at the restaurant and friend number 1 says, “Yeah! You are here, let’s get started.”  Friend number 2 says, “You are so inconsiderate.  I can’t believe you made us wait and now you have ruined lunch and we have to go back to work late all because you are so inconsiderate.”  Friend number 3 says, “I’m so glad you are all right.  I was worried about you.  It’s me, not you, but I imagined you on the side of the road in a ditch.”  You have not said anything yet, you just walked in.  You were the stimulus to your three friends.  Your first friend is the healthiest of the three.  That friend trusts you and is just happy you are there and knows if you want to tell them why you are late you will do so.  The trust is there.  The second friend is all about themselves and became very paranoid that you were late intentionally and just didn't care about them.  This is a malignant response because the person had an intent to harm you back in retaliation of perceived harm.  The third person is benign and even stated that their reaction was about them and their anxiety.  Where it gets interesting is you.  Your reaction is about you.  Do you feel guilty, get angry back, or just accept that everyone has their own reaction and maybe you and Friend 2 are not really friends?  Back to the scenario of feeling disliked.  If you do not feel you have done anything wrong, then the other person’s behavior or dislike is about them and not you.  Maybe you remind them of someone in their past who hurt them.  Maybe you remind them of an ex or a boss who was mean.  The list can be endless, and we will never be able to figure out why someone reacts the way they do.  We just need to understand and accept that it is not about us.  I would also like to note that it is not possible to like everyone we meet and not everyone we meet will like us, so basically, it’s a wash.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cover Letters and Resumes

Cover Letters and Resumes

Many patients show me their resumes and cover letters when applying for new jobs and there are some basic rules, that if not followed, may ruin your chances of even getting an interview.  In fact, we are currently reviewing resumes and I am amazed at the glaring, but simple mistakes that could so easily be corrected.  To have more success even getting to the interview stage, please follow these rules:
1. Keep your style consistent throughout your resume. Do not change the font mid-way.
2. Spell check, and then check again, and then have someone check again for you.  Spelling errors do not look professional.
3. Edit and be grammatically correct.  Have someone with really good writing skills edit for you.  If you say that one of your assets is your writing skills and you make grammatical and spelling mistakes in your resume, you may be round filed (thrown in the trash).
4. Bold and capitalize your subject headings so they stand out.
5. Education should be on your first page, not your last page.  Your first page is what the potential interviewer sees, and if that does not look crisp, professional, and appealing they may not even look at your second page.
6. In your cover letter, don’t emphasize how you want to learn from the job; emphasize what you will contribute to the job.
7. Be careful about student status as most employers do not want to spend the time and resources to train you, only for you to leave and have some other company benefit from their training.
8. When you reply to a job listing that provides salary, don’t include salary requirements that far exceed what is offered or you are likely to not even be considered.  You may be seen as over qualified.
9. Unless a job is advertised as temporary, don’t present yourself as wanting a temporary job.  For example, don’t say you are working your way through school or working on a degree in a different field than the job you are applying for.
10. Write a cover letter for the specific job, a generic letter will stand out in a bad way.  

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When You Feel Betrayed at Work

How do you deal with an unexpected betrayal at work?  The same way you deal with any betrayal.  First you look to see what you may have contributed to the conflict.  For example, were you harsh or overbearing in some way.  Then you look to see what the other person may have contributed to any conflict.  If you see a contribution on either side and the other person does not want to attempt resolution, then their reaction is about them and not you.  If you feel there was no conflict, then the betrayal may have been fear and/or avoidance, or may have been an enabled sense of entitlement or even a combination of the two.  There are some situations when we may be too nice, have not set firm boundaries, and the other person mistakes our kindness for weakness.  Even when a staff member promises and commits to something, that is not necessarily going to be your reality.  When someone does not live up to their commitment, it is their integrity that is in question and you need to thank them for letting you know now what they are really about.  Even if this is a fleeting time in their life, it is not all right to take advantage of another person and their good will.  For example, in my office, two weeks after hiring someone she became pregnant, did not have an easy time, and was allowed to work the hours that were best for her and her health.  After having the baby, we waited for her to be ready to return to work, gave her the options of part time or full time and even let her bring her baby to work.  When she subsequently moved an hour away, we let her decide what time her day would start and how many hours a week she wanted to work.  The only thing we asked was that she come in when she said she would, and to give us 2 to 3 weeks’ notice if she decided the commute was too much.  How were we rewarded?  She just did not show up for work on Monday, no notice, and no response to our attempts to communicate with her.  Her abandonment of her job was about her even though it hurt her and made things more difficult for us.  I would like to thank her for letting us know that she is not who she presented herself to be and to make room for the possibility of a new staff member who is committed, creative, and lives by the rule of integrity in all things.  If you have had a similar experience of feeling betrayed at work, share it with us and let us know how you handled it.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Coping With Adult ADHD

Many adults come in to our office stating that they have ADHD.  Of those adults, only a handful have been diagnosed either as a child or an adult.  Most have self-diagnosed themselves.  If you suspect ADHD, it is important to undergo a professional assessment as you may have ADHD, but you may also have other overlapping issues, such as learning disabilities.  While medication and skills learning will help you manage the ADHD, learning disabilities are a whole different arena and need a different type of attention and intervention.  That being said, there are many ways to learn to manage your ADHD symptoms.  A lot of management has to do with how you view and conceptualize the world, how you learn to structure your tasks and responsibilities, and even how you reinforce yourself.  For example, if you tend to lose your keys and then you are chronically late because you can’t find your keys, it would be helpful to establish a place in your home for those keys.  Have a place in your kitchen or bedroom that is designated for your keys, wallet, purse, and anything else that you must take with you when you leave your home.  If you have to mail a package, put the package in your car the day before or leave if by the front door so you don’t forget it.  Make a checklist of all the things you have to do in a day and monitor your checklist as the day progresses.  If your closet looks like a bomb went off in it, have an organized friend or relative help you clean it out and set it up and coach yourself each day when you put things away.  

Basically, train yourself to keep that closet reasonably organized by training yourself to develop a schema for an organized closet.  A big complaint I often hear in my practice is how difficult it is to concentrate at work when required to listen to a presentation.  Take notes, it will help you focus.  If you are distracted by extraneous noise at work, find a way to block out that noise, even if you need to wear headphones.  There are many strategies for your particular ADHD symptoms and a Licensed Psychologist or Social Worker can help you with that.  If you are interested in reading about self-help strategies, you can refer to our new e-book, ADHD:  A Guide for Consumers.

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Promoting The Father/Daughter Relationship

I have met many fathers over the years who have questioned how to have the best possible relationship with their daughter.   At first it seems much like a mystery to many men, but in reality, it is really quite straight forward.  The most important thing you can do for your daughter is to spend time with her.  Bring her shopping with you, let her help you with your projects. Go on a father daughter date to dinner and a movie.  Go to the park with her, play ball with her, play board games with her, teach her your favorite card game. Just spend time talking to her about her life and stories about your childhood.  Build her self-esteem and tell her what you love and admire about her and compliment her on her successes and accomplishments. Encourage her to pursue her dreams. As she matures into a young woman, it is even more important to spend quality time with her and talk about issues teens’ face, issues in the world, and her opinions about what is happening both in her life and in the world. Most importantly, be honest with her and value her, and this is what she will expect from other men in her life.  

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Do you think you are burned out?  How do you know?  Is it really your job or are other issues hiding behind the daily stress of work?  Let’s take a look.  First, take a look at your personal life.  Assess whether or not your personal life is balanced with joy, taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, socializing, and having enough down time for yourself.  Make sure you are eating healthy and getting some exercise at least three days a week.  Do you feel you just can’t take care of your personal life because of the demands of your job?  If yes, you definitely need to look at your options.  If you feel that you are living a balanced life and your personal life is balanced but you still dread going to work, than look at the factors that make you dread work.  Is it the work setting, the people you work with, or the actual work itself that you are unhappy with?  Fortunately, in our culture, most of us have options and are only limited by our own creativity to problem solve and willingness to make a change.  First, what kind of life do you want to be living (note: be realistic in your assessment). Maybe you want to stay in your field but step up or down in level of responsibility depending on where you are in your life.  Maybe you want to do something different within your field or you want to switch fields.  You may even dream about going back to school.  Whatever you are thinking about, apply your problem-solving skills to your particular situation and don’t hesitate to get some professional advice.  You can seek out advice from a vocational career counselor, college guidance, and even professionals in the field you are considering.  Of most importance, do not allow yourself to stay stuck.  Everything in life is a tradeoff and you need to assess what tradeoff you are willing to pay.  At the very least, arrange to take some time off so you can think about your options.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

When Your Spouse's Ex Is Toxic

You get married to someone who has been married before and you are excited to be married and both excited and scared to be a step-parent.  You meet the children and you might even meet the ex-spouse and everyone is in the honeymoon phase.  Then slippage starts to occur and your step-child tells you they don’t have to listen to you because you are not their mother.  You ask them where that came from and they tell you that their mom told them that they don’t have to listen to you.  What do you do?  Your step-child tells you that it is your responsibility to buy them school supplies and new school clothes because you have all the money and their mom does not have any money.  You find out that mom was also the source of this mis-information.  What do you do?  You have your own child and your step-child tells you that you are spending all your money on that child which is why they don’t have what they need.  Yet again, the source is the ex-spouse.  What do you do?  Information is withheld from you and you don’t show up at an activity and the child tells you that you missed their game because you don’t really care about them and didn’t really want to go.  Maybe the ex-spouse does not show up for visitation and somehow that also becomes your fault.  What do you do?  These are scenarios and questions most therapists hear on a weekly if not daily basis.  There is no one right answer as it depends on your unique situation, the personalities involved, and the ages of the children.  Blending a family is never an easy process, but there are some general guidelines that might be helpful.  First, never bad mouth the ex-spouse as the ex is an integral part of that child.  At a level the child can understand, stay with the facts.  For example, if a step-child says they don’t have to listen to you because you are not their parent, agree with them that you are not their mom or dad, but you are a parent and you are an adult in charge, so they will have to listen.  Repeat this conversation with the child with you and your spouse both present, providing a united front.  If your step-child says you need to buy them school supplies and new school clothing because you have all the money, calmly and gently explain that you do not have all the money, the money is shared with mom, and you have  a back to school budget for them and will buy some of what they need, but not all.  Let them know that their mom will share in the expense.  If you miss an activity, let the child know that you were not aware and you will find out their schedule and will put it on your calendar.   

When a step-child asks why their biological parent did not show up, tell them that you don’t know and they will have to ask their parent the next time they talk.  Don’t make up excuses such as the parent was working because if you lie to a child, they will never believe you.  Since you can’t change how anyone behaves or acts, your only viable and healthy option is to change how you cope with that person.  Stay consistent with your step-child and function as a voice of reason and not as an emotional responder (no matter how much you would really like to say on the subject of their biological parent).  As your step-child sees your behavior, he or she will learn and realize that what they experience with you is not consistent with what the other parent is telling them and they will decide on what relationship they will have with each of you.  Best of luck and make sure you take some time for yourself.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

When A Neighbor Violates Boundaries

Most of us either have, or know someone who has the neighbor from hell.  That neighbor who drops by uninvited, has an opinion about everything, wants to hang out with you, brings his own beer while doing all of the above, or wants to tell you how to manage your home, your yard, your life.  You don’t have to move away, but you do need to set firm, concrete boundaries.  Let’s begin with the neighbor who drops by uninvited.  If you like uninvited drop ins, than not a problem.  However, if you don’t like uninvited drop ins, do not let your neighbor into your home.  Answer the door, step outside placing your body half in your home and half out, holding the door, and let your neighbor know you are busy at the moment and can’t visit.  Doing this a few times will usually give the message you intend, which is, please don’t stop by uninvited.  For some neighbors, you may even have to tell them you don’t like drop by visits, and that is nothing to do with them, it is your own issue.  The neighbor who wants to drink with you and sees you outside so decides to join you with his own 6-pack, may be a little more challenging.  You may have to gently but firmly tell them that you are busy with what you are doing and are not able to visit.  When that neighbor is advising you on how to manage and live your life, smile, thank them, and keep doing what you are doing.  Eventually, your difficult neighbor will look for someone much more fun to interact with and you will be able to wave as you go in and out of the neighborhood, with that being the extent of your relationship. If all else fails, you might have to tell your neighbor that you have a policy against developing a friendship with a neighbor in case something goes wrong and you prefer to keep your relationship pleasant but distant.  Remember, it takes two people to have a relationship.

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Parenting Multiple Children

The question is, what do you do when you have two or more children close in age, and you have to be King Solomon and decide who is the instigator and who is really the culprit?  To begin with, you have to know your own children and what their pattern of interaction is with each other.  That being said, you may be wrong and you have to also know that.  If your children spend a lot of time together, especially in the summer, you may need to separate them with different activities, different camps at different times, or even playing in different rooms in the house.  Siblings tend to spend a lot of time together and it may be difficult for them to be generous with a younger sibling they experience as annoying or an older sibling they experience as mean.  With multiple children, it is more challenging to have a parent to yourself and not have to share.  If possible, it is helpful to spend time alone with each child, even if it is just going out for a walk or an ice cream.  

When your children are fighting and refuse to cooperative, share, or get along, instead of trying to figure out who started what, the bottom line is that everyone involved participated in the acting out.  Since everyone involved participated in the acting out, everyone gets a naturally occurring consequence, whether that be a time out (in different rooms with no toys), or a chore, or both.  After the consequence is completed, debrief your children and have them explain to you why they received a consequence.  If they are not able or willing to explain, than extend the consequence a short time and try again.  All consequences should be immediate, concrete, and short term.  Another chaotic time for families with multiple children is bedtime.  Rather than trying to put all your children to bed at the same time, stagger the bedtimes.  If you have a child that frequently gets out of bed, try sitting quietly with them as they fall off to sleep.  You may feel that you are losing time you could be doing other things, but in reality, you are probably gaining time and experiencing less frustration.  Children are not little adults and they do not yet have well developed problem solving skills.  You have to teach them problem solving skills, which is why having them explain why they were given a consequence is so important.  You want your child to learn to own their behavior and not just say you are a mean mom or dad.  By the way, if they do call you mean, or even the meanest mom in the world, accept it as a compliment, it means you are doing your job.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Parenting A Child Whose Sibling Is Special Needs

It is so difficult parenting a child with special needs, whether those needs are physical, emotional, or both.  It is heart breaking, and at times joyful.  But whether heart breaking or joyful, it is beyond a full time job and takes tremendous time, energy, and resources.   Every day may center around that child, seeing specialists, Doctors, teachers, etc.  What about the other children in the family?  The siblings are often left to themselves to be more independent, to help with care-taking  to often feel that they are not as important or even as loved as the their disabled sibling.  How does a parent take care of this child along with everything else that has to be done in a day?  First and foremost, the parent has to give themselves permission that they cannot do it alone and not only is it ok to reach out, it is necessary.  Accept the help of family, friends, and volunteers.  Second, and this is vital, spend time alone with your healthy child/children so they have an opportunity to be with you without having to share you with anyone. 

 Do something fun with them, but also save time to talk with them about their world, their life, and how they feel about the family and their role in the family.  I have met many adults over the years who felt a great deal of resentment about their childhood, feeling that they were often overlooked.  Many parents report feeling guilty if they do not include their disabled child in everything.  I tell them, even if all your children were healthy and without any disabilities, it would be important to spend some quality alone time with each child individually.  It is also very helpful to explain to your healthy child what you are doing and why, and get their thoughts and feedback.  Try not to force them to do something they may not be ready to do, such as share a disabled child with their friends.  This behavior needs to come from them.  When allowed some independence of thought and action and when felt heard, many healthy siblings express a great deal of love and compassion toward their disabled sibling.  Treat your child’s disabilities in a matter of fact way so people around you will also take that attitude.  Explain what you need to, but don’t apologize for your disabled child.  Be proud of all your children.  Finally, as much as you do for your children, make sure you take some quality time for yourself and your adult relationships.  Live balanced and be a role model to your children of that healthy balance.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

What is the Difference Between Pampered and Spoiled?

This is a question that I am often asked.  How much is too much when it comes to raising children?  This is a great question.  I am a big believer in pampering children.  After all, one is only a child for such a short time in life.  As both a psychologist and a mother, my rule of thumb has always been that children need to learn to appreciate what they have, they need to learn to share and give to others, and they absolutely need to learn and respect the concept of “no”.  The best way to pamper your child is to spend time with them and enter in to their world.  Play with them, watch shows and movies with them, and talk about what you watched and what was fun about their games.  When my children were little, we spent hours painting, making art with modeling clay, and building towns and forts with every kind of building toys and materials we had available.  We once built a roller coaster on the kitchen counter that had to stay there for over a year because it would fall apart if we started to take it down, and we just had too much fun playing with it to take it down, adults included. 

 Maybe give your young children an allowance, but instead of money, make a checkbook for them and teach them to add and subtract their money and be aware of their balance.  Also, even though it is their money, purchases must be approved by an adult and should not involve the purchase of food (such as unhealthy snacks).   Your child is capable of having an assigned chore even at a young age, but it should be easy and quick.  For example, a 5 or 6 year old can clear their place after dinner and bring their dirty clothes to the hamper or where ever you want them.  Each year, add a privilege and a responsibility.  Remember, they are still children and chores should not take more than 20 minutes on a week day and maybe 30 or 45 on a weekend if they are helping you with a task such as getting your patio area ready for summer.  
Teach your child to say “Thank you”, “Please”, “You’re Welcome”, and “Excuse Me”, and mean it.  These simple social skills will help them all of their lives.  If they are given a gift and will not use that item or already have that item, they should be able to say thank you, and be ready and willing to donate that new item to a good cause for use by children who don’t have as much.  Each birthday and holiday season, have them go through their belongings to donate and make room for new possessions.  Also, most importantly, be able to say “no” when they want something, even if you can afford it.  Your child does not need every electronic game system ever made and they do not need every update.  Your child does not need a cell phone until they are old enough to be by themselves.  If they are walking to and from a bus and you want them to call or text you regarding safety, great, but they don’t need the most up to date version of the latest and greatest smart phone. 
Your child does not need the most expensive clothing your mall sells.  Teach them moderation as they may not have your life style when they grow up, and if they achieve a greater life style than what they grew up within, they will understand the concept of balance and financial responsibility.  Teach your child how to save money, both for something they want and for later, like contributing to a car when they reach that age. 
 As your children age, continue to spend time with them and talk about what they see and hear and ask their opinion.  You will be amazed at how much they have learned from you.  You will know your child is not pampered when you see how grateful they are for what they have; when they accept that something is just not in the budget, and when they don’t ask for the moon on a regular basis.  

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

           When A Friend Is Not A Friend

Several times a week I hear from patients that they are upset and disturbed by the behavior of a friend.  Usually a story unfolds about a friend who used them, abused them, and used them as back up.  One of the first things we do in therapy is define what is meant by a friendship.  In a true friendship, each person is there for the other in crisis or need, and the relationship does not become the crisis.  However, many people will call others “friend” based on a history of knowing the other person.  For example, having gone to school together, living in the same neighborhood for many years, or knowing each other because the two families have been friends.  A relationship based on history is not necessarily a friendship, but simply a long-term relationship.  Have you ever had a “friend” who would cancel plans with you because something better came up, and you were not included in those new plans?  How about the “friend” who borrows money or items, never returns them, but gets upset if you ask about a return?  The friend who stole your boyfriend or girlfriend may have done you a favor by stealing the relationship (which couldn't have been so great or it would not have been stolen), but a real friend would never even entertain such a thought.  In a real friendship, you respect each other’s boundaries and have each other’s back.  If you are in a relationship in which you repeatedly suffer and feel taken advantage of or abused, IT IS NOT A FRIENDSHIP!  You need boundaries that do not allow other people to use and abuse you.  You can still be a good person and protect yourself, surround yourself with healthy people who respect you and eliminate unhealthy people from your life, stand up for yourself, and even say “no”.  Ask yourself what you are getting out of this so called friendship.  In a true friendship, both people should feel they are getting something special from the association.  Respect yourself and walk away from relationships that are one-sided and abusive so you will have the mental energy to develop healthier relationships with other potential friends.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When You Think Your Adult Son Is Gay

I have met many parents over the years who have had a strong suspicion their adult son was gay and have waited years for their son to disclose this to them.  Even though a homosexual lifestyle is much more accepted these days, many young men are fearful of losing their families if their life style is not accepted.  They do not want their parents to be angry or disappointed and it is very scary for them.  Your son might tell you that they have a room mate and not a life partner, but you are never invited over to their home and your son never brings his room mate with him to your home.  Some young men tell their parents they are dating, but it is never serious enough to bring them home to meet mom and dad.  They may have a long term girlfriend you have met, but it does not seem like a romantic relationship to you; rather, they just seem like really good friends.
Many parents have shared with me that they have suspected their son was gay from a very young age, sometimes as young as three years old.  They will give examples of their son liking traditionally female activities, having a lot of female friends but no male friends, and being somewhat effeminate in their presentation.  If you strongly suspect your son may be gay, and you feel you have a good relationship with them, just ask them if they are gay.  You may want to start by telling them that if you ever had a gay child you would be fine with that as you only want your child to be happy.  If they do not follow up on that parental lead, try the direct approach and ask them.  Often times your child does not want to lie to you directly and will be relieved to let you know what is really going on in their life.  If you tell them you just want to be part of their life and will accept their partner, their life, as well as yours, will be richer for the disclosure. 
 If any of your other children have trouble accepting that their brother is gay, work with them to understand that as part of the family, all are loved and accepted.  Most siblings do not appear to have a major issue these days.  Grandparents may be a different story.  Some are very accepting and some are not.  You know your parents best and you may have to direct your son on the best path and timing for disclosure.  For those of you who are not as accepting or comfortable with having a gay child, being homosexual is not a choice or a mental illness and there is no treatment to make your son straight.  The best you can do for your child is accept and love them for who and what they are.  Although we are talking about sons, this advice also applies to daughters.

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