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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Monday, April 22, 2013

Helping Your Child Deal With A Teacher Bully

Typically, when we think of our child being bullied at school, we assume it is another child.  However, sometimes it may be a teacher.  Emotional bullying can be subtle, and sometimes direct.  In Grade School, negative behaviors and attitudes may be directed toward a child who is difficult, may be not attentive, or just not as fast as other children in the class.  In Middle School and High School teachers have more flexibility in how they interact with the children, but a constant and consistent pattern of interaction with a targeted child is still considered abuse. Children often feel they can not stand up for themselves without getting into more trouble. Here are some complaints children and their parents have shared with me in sessions:
Teacher tells student they are lazy.
Teacher tells student they are irritating.
Teacher tells student they are annoying.
Teacher tells student teaching them is a waste of time.
Teacher tells student they feel they are better than the other students.
Teacher tells student they are average at best and the teacher is disappointed in them.
Teacher tells student they do not deserve the teacher.
Teacher yells, curses, and throws objects in class.
Teacher calls the entire class they are sub-average and a waste of time. 
An occasional lapse by a teacher is not typically considered abuse.  Abuse is a pattern of behavior in which one or more select students are targeted by the teacher.  At times, it can be an entire class.  However, there are options for dealing with this situation.  The first step is for the parent to contact the teacher and discuss that their child feels targeted and you are trying to figure out what is going on.  Many teachers will deny any wrongdoing, but once they realize the child has disclosed to the parent and the parent is now involved, that is enough to stop the abusive pattern.  If talking with the teacher in a rational and cooperative way does not work, it is time to set up a meeting with the teacher and the guidance counselor at the school and see what can be done to help the teacher student relationship.  A parent has much more power within the school system than they may realize and can work their way up to the principal and even the school board, although it is very rare to have to climb this high on the ladder of authority.  Once you get to the level of assistant principal, you can typically have your child transferred to another class.
All this being said, make sure your child is being honest with you before you go out on a limb for them.  If they are contributing to the problem with disrespect or “bad behavior”, than your job in defending them and intervening for them will be much more difficult as the tendency will be for the school to emphasize the child’s behavior and not the teacher’s behavior.  However, even if the child is contributing to the problem, it does not give the adult teacher permission to become emotionally abusive.  If a teacher becomes abusive, it is not uncommon for classmates to follow suite.  Stay calm, be the voice of reason, and most adults in authority will listen to you and will want your child to have a good experience in their school.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Coping With Chronic Illness

While none of us want to hear that we have a chronic illness, it does not mean that life is over.  What it does mean, however, is that we need to make some adjustments in order to have a satisfying and full life.  How we deal with a chronic illness depends on so many factors, such as our age, the nature of the illness, our support system, our current life style, our personality and our expectations.  Since there are so many different combinations of factors, there is not just one way to overcome and learn to co-exist with whatever illness we are dealing with.  If we are dealing with chronic pain, depending on our pain tolerance, the type and location of the pain, and whether we have successful pain management, we may be more or less limited in what we are able to do.  Whatever your limitations, work with them and learn to co-exist with them rather than letting your life be totally controlled.  For example, some of my patients have been sad at the thought they might not be able to travel because of chronic pain or the need to take medical equipment with them on  a trip. If you want to travel, you might have to modify your destination and you might have to extend your trip so you can take rest days in between your active days.  Cruises are great for this because you typically have sea days in between port days, allowing you to still enjoy your trip, but providing a lot of time to rest and enjoy. If you want a physically active vacation, it might have to be time limited or the activities might have to be modified.  
Many patients have resisted the idea of using a wheel chair to navigate the airport.  However, the use of the wheel chair is just a tool that allows you to conserve your energy for the actual vacation or event of the day.  Once you turn around your thinking and see the wheel chair as a tool versus a sign of loss or vulnerability, the world and its possibilities will open up to you.  Maybe you don’t have chronic pain, but have a disease such as diabetes or crohn’s disease and now you have to modify your eating and exercise. Healthy food does not have to taste horrible.  Give yourself permission to learn new cooking styles.  There are so many free web sites with recipes to try, as well as many books to read on the subject of healthy eating.  When  eating out, most restaurants will accommodate you if you make a request.  As a paying customer, it is your right to at least ask what they can do for you.  Exercise. People seem to either love it or hate it.  First you need to accept that exercise will, in the long run, make you feel better.  Decide if you like to be in a group setting, such as a class, or by yourself. Do you want to work out alone or with a trainer or a friend or family member?  Do you want to walk/jog, or do you want to dance?  There are as many exercise options out there as you could possibly imagine.  The most important factor is to find something you actually like versus something you just tolerate.  In addition to thinking outside the box, remember, you are not your disease. You may have a chronic problem, but that does not have to define who you are.  You do not need to be embarrassed about what you have.  If you are comfortable with who you are and do not apologize for whatever accommodations you need, other people will be comfortable and treat your issue in a matter of fact way. And if they don’t, their reaction is really about them and not about you.  Be proud and live your life as best you can.  To get you started, see our link for some healthy recipe suggestions.
Healthy Recipes

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Coping With A New Baby

We are finally back after several weeks of not attending to our blog.  Our IT department, consisting of Rachel, just had a new baby girl.  We warmly welcome our new office baby, Addison.  That being said, it seemed like a good idea to talk about adjusting to a new baby, especially when it is the first child.  Whether your baby is planned, a happy accident, or a scary accident, there is still going to be a major adjustment.  Embrace the time you have with your child as an infant and toddler is actually quite brief and you can never recapture those times.  Obviously, your first adjustment was to your pregnancy.  Some women are blessed with an easy pregnancy and some are not.  If you had a rough pregnancy, separate that experience from the birth of your child.  It was not their fault or your fault; pregnancy is a medical condition and any medical condition can be smooth or rough.  The biggest adjustment that most people complain about is the lack of sleep, fatigue, and lack of opportunity to be spontaneous.  Sleep when your baby sleeps and challenge the guilt you might be feeling about sleeping during the day.  You need to catch up when and how you can.  The fatigue is related to the trauma your body has been through and your current lack of sleep.  
You are also going through some hormonal changes.  If you do not have someone to help you with the baby so you and your partner can get out, plan some outings that you can do with the baby.  It is not healthy to stay in the house all the time.  Strolls in the park or a walk through the mall are good options.  My favorite option was always the book store.  Postpartum depression is another issue faced by many women.  There are many different manifestations of depression from going through the motions and just not enjoying anything, to feeling hopeless and suicidal.  Many women feel guilty that they do not feel bonded to their infant.  It is not a lack of bonding, but an inability to feel pleasure.  Please do not look at this as a character weakness.  Your body has just been inhabited and vacated by an alien being and your body is trying to adjust and may just need a little help.  Yes, you may be able to tough it out, but why be depressed and/or anxious for six to twelve months when there is help readily available.  In addition to medication, therapy can also be very helpful with building your confidence and coping skills.  Babies and toddlers can be a lot of fun if you just let yourself go with the moment.  Seeing the world through new eyes is a real treat. 

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