Parenting Answers

Don't know how to deal with the anxiety/guilt I have around my child with special needs

Hello Drea-   First, I want to say that I think you are not kind enough to self to begin with. It is not easy to be in the middle and feeling as if you have to pick between two loves (your husband or your son). I understand you feel guilty, but I truly believe this would be difficult for anyone to deal with. I'm sure you are doing the best you can right now! Supporting and engaging a child with special needs is not easy. There are a lot of complex emotions that come with that. Mourning the life you probably wanted for them. The fear of others treating them differently. There are times when you will have more patience, and others were you won't. Your husband may still be struggling on understanding (or accepting) your son's strengths and limitations. I would ask him, in public, is he concern with how others are viewing him or his family? He may also feel a level of neglect, as I am sure you view your son as defenseless and needing your help, often resulting in you tending to his needs.The best approach is to seek understanding between the two of you. Communicating our fears and desires to help you feel understood and supported. Allow yourself to open up about the difficulties it comes to managing your son's feelings, his feelings, and yours at the same time. I also think it is important to make time for your marriage. Marriage is hard work, period. Parenting is hard work, period. Parenting a child with special needs, is especially hard work, period! I think dedicating and making time for that relationship away from your son will help the two of you feel more connected. That's a lot to carry and feel responsible for. I can only imagine how exhausting that is emotionally for you. I think it may be beneficial for you to seek others who know what your going through. What are your emotional outlets? How do you get to express yourself when your husband may not understand or your friends don't fully understand? Would you feel comfortable joining a support group? This may help you realize what is going to be your new norm and how to accept it. There may also be wives to help you with suggestions on how they got their husband's to see things differently.  I have also attached an article I think that will help support you further.   https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/parents-support.html   Good luck to you and your family.   -Grace
Answered on 10/19/2021

Do you work with an adult daughter and mother who are going through lots of trouble together?

Hello, Mother-Daughter relationships are so unique among each pairing and always carry a deep connection. There are many reasons why mothers and daughters can have anger so the first step of knowing how to heal this relationship is to know how it got to a state of anger and when. I believe the age of your daughter is also a key piece of information missing to know exactly how we could address the issue so I am going to list a few things here of whys and how to work with them to create healing and positive relationships. The number one reason I see struggles with mothers and daughters has to do with independence and autonomy. Depending on the age of your daughter or when the anger started it could have been in a time where she was looking for independence and autonomy and felt stunted by your relationship or role. It can be a challenging place for a mother as it is your goal and inherent form to want to protect her, guide her and ensure she makes healthy positive decisions. This is where a lot of conflict starts and if not healed can lead to long term confusion. Open lines of communication are key. Leaving a space for open, safe and non-judgmental conversation can help bring understanding how perhaps parent techniques didn't align with her needs of growth and seeing if understanding and maybe even apologies for the misconceptions can start towards a positive relationship  Values are another big reason. Do your values align? Is there something that makes it so you can't see eye to eye? Is there anyway to work around that? These would be a few questions to check in on and see if values align and if not how can they at the very least be respected so that it creates an environment of safety and understanding. I deeply believe that through further exploration of some of the missing information and what is currently causing stress among the relationship that we could find a way to create healing for the both of you. I would always advice that, if possible, you each have an individual counselor/therapist to work on things and then trying to come together to work on it as team. 
(LCSW, ACHP-SW)
Answered on 10/19/2021

How do I stop constantly feeling guilty as a parent?

Hello Norah,   Thank you for your question. I’m sorry to hear that you have been feeling guilt, depression, and anxiety. Feeling this way can lead to feeling like a failure when it comes to parenting. Moms especially experience a lot of guilt because they constantly believe they should be doing more or working harder. The fact that you are here asking for help tells me that you are a good mom that cares.   It’s important to acknowledge that you have things that get in the way of you doing more with your child, like not having the space and also that you are depressed and anxious. Lack of space can make things tough for you since you don’t have the room to be more physical with him limiting you to being indoors only. Maybe going out right now is also hard because of safety and wanting to stay healthy, so this adds to the feeling of not being able to get out. I encourage you to find activities and things you can do with your child indoors. There are some activities that require planning, but others can be easy create and do. It will take time to look through the various activities so that you can see which ones are easy for you to set up and that your child will enjoy.   This step can be hard if you are depressed and anxious because motivation typically goes down when you feel this way. It will be important for you to work with a professional that can help you develop skills to help you cope with depression and anxiety. In addition, a professional can help you understand why depression and anxiety affect you so that you can start taking steps that will help you feel better and decrease problematic symptoms.   You may create the feeling of failure by talking to yourself in a negative way and putting yourself down for not doing more with your son. This will lead to feeling guilt which does not feel good and keeps from doing things that will be helpful. You stated that he is being taken care of and gets his needs met, so it is important to remind yourself of this and to tell yourself that you are doing your best. When you start to think negatively and you feel bad, interrupt those thoughts by saying to yourself, “I am doing my best in spite of how I am feeling/doing.” Avoid giving to much attention to the negative thoughts that create guilt and other negative feelings. Take time to consider what you need to help you with your son. Do you need support with him? Can he attend a day care? Can others help with his care? Parenting is hard, so don’t shy away from identifying the things that can help you parent your child and that are within your reach.   Below are a couple of sites I want to share with you that give you ideas of activities you can do indoors. The first one has a long list of various activities that are easy to set up. The second link is more about physical activities that can be done indoors. You can find more ideas by going online and searching for indoor toddler activities.   https://www.rookiemoms.com/things-to-do-with-toddlers-before-they-turn-two/   https://www.verywellfamily.com/toddler-activities-4013770
Answered on 10/19/2021

How to deal with unsupportive family after coming out as a transgender?

Although your mother claims she doesn't have a problem with trans people, her needing "proof" sounds like she's not able to accept your identity. Insecure parents tend to use their child's successes to feel better about themselves. They also blame themselves if their child does something that's considered wrong or unpopular. Her response is similar to someone who says they are not racist but their actions don't line up. You might need to also accept that she may not be able to accept you for who you are, but also know this is not a reflection of you as a person. We can't make someone feel a certain way. Her other strategy of denial was discounting your level of dysphoria. How you expressed your feelings as a child is completely normal and unique to you. There is no textbook way you're supposed to look or feel especially when you are an adolescent. At the time when you were younger, you're were likely sorting things out yourself through several stages of development. Now at 24, your brain is fully developed. I am sure you have a good sense of who are you now and you likely feel comfortable with your identity. That's what matters. Embrace yourself with those who are supportive and surround yourself with others that allow you to thrive. One thing to explore is how much you need your mother's approval. What also happens in our younger years is we develop a core belief system about ourselves that is negative. If we are not aware of these negative core beliefs, we can easily send out an energy that helps reenforce that core belief. Core beliefs we develop are usually related to safety, trust, defectiveness, or control. For example, if we are hanging on to the core belief that "I'm not good enough" or " there must be something wrong with me" or "no one listens to me." We will attract scenarios that reenforce that core belief. Identifying your core beliefs  may be the key to help you accept that your mother might not ever get to a place of acceptance. If that's the case, just know, it's not your fault. Also change any core beliefs you're hanging on to. Good luck!
(NCC, LPC, NPI, 1649394073)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Should I be supporting step daughter financially?

Dealing with a blended family can be difficult and demanding. It sounds like you have been very supportive to deal with the emotional reactions of your step-daughter, so far, which may or may not end when she has the disability hearing. There seems to be lingering issues from her parents' divorce or some type of ongoing conflict at play. In order to appropriately respond to your question, I would need to know more in-depth about: relationship and/or some family history; previous treatment, diagnostic, and medication history; and any other active complaints or symptoms you may be experiencing at this time. I would like to hear more about how you define the problem and what treatment goals you wish to achieve.  In my opinion, this is a parenting issue where it is important to discuss how to establish age-appropriate expectations for behavior for your step-daughter with boundaries of agreement in place to direct negotiation, communication, etc. for structure. It may be that you and/or your husband may unknowingly enable these behaviors out of guilt or other negative reinforcement of some kind. You may need to discuss specific mental health diagnoses as related to the pending psychological assessment from social security in order to become more informed in your response to improve the situation. Raising your awareness about parenting strategies around negative consequences of your husband's divorce from a previous relationship may or may not reduce your step-daughter's personal feelings of separation anxiety and anger. So, you will also have to decide your own boundaries about how you want to continue to emotionally support and encourage your step-daughter to implememt healthy identity development, healthy self-esteem, and treatment, in order to improve the connectedness within your family.  I commend you on your effort to process your thoughts and feelings in a way that helps to resolve your family issues and self-care in a safe and confidential setting. I would like to further discuss your treatment and help you move forward, if you like. When you are ready you can schedule a time to talk more. I look foward to speaking with you.
Answered on 10/19/2021

I am looking for a therapist

"I am dealing with stress and anxiety and aggravated and frustrating and depressed," is not a question, but a statement that you are making about the way you are feeling and I want you to know those feelings are real and I would love to help you discover where they originate. I want you to know that these feelings are probably origionating from your statement "I been dealing with my Mommy am she been beating on me and stuff like that." This tells me you are going to continue feeling like this and that your what your mom is doing is not working for you or her. If you are an adult, you are continuing to suffer with the trauma of childhood abuse and if you are still allowing your mom to beat on you that is assault, and no one deserves to be assaulted. I am not sure your age and I do not have the total picture, so I am going to reserve the right to make a clinical decision about you being a victim or suffering with the trauma of being a victim. I will say this, whoever you are you have too much value and worth to continue to remain in this environment, and I would like to help you to get out of this situation. I want you to know there is a way out, let me help you. If you are a child, or teenager, I would like to ask a question of your parent to clarify where these statements are coming from and why they think it is necessary to cause you this hurt. I might need to work with your parent and you, or if your parent lets, we (you and I) can just work together to get you to a better place. If you are a teenager, I would like to say to you that I am on you side, and that I would like to work with you to help you to get the help you need to become the person you want to be. To your parent, I would beg you to let me work with your child, who you have for a very short period of time, to help him or her become the young man or lady you can be proud to call your child. Martin
Answered on 10/19/2021

What can I do to better help the situation when someone is going thru attachment issues?

"What can I do to better help the situation when someone is going thru attachment issues?"  I am thinking you are speaking of your children with attachment issues.  Your oldest is having difficult time seeing anything but "mom and dad".  She is an adult now so encouraging therapy is all the control you do have.  But what you have more control over is hearing her.  Listen to her feelings and thoughts.  Don't try and solve her problems.  She  needs to be able to express her feelings and have them validated.  Acknowledging how difficult the situation was for her. Asking her if there is anything you can do to support her.  Spending more time with her and doing things together.  Encouraging her father to spend time with her or checking in with her.  If that is possible and healthy of course.  There is a time that you can be honest with your daughter because she is an adult.  You can share how you feel and what your thoughts are.  Not to pull her into your business but to express your feelings of this new person and what this person does for you.  Acknowledging your x and the positives that came from that relationship (children, etc) but the struggles (simple as possible) as well.  Sharing your thoughts, feelings, needs and wants.  Being able to share your dreams of your future self.  Your hopes for your children.  There is  no perfect formula for this but it is a matter of patience.  Deep breaths and give her space when she asks for it.  If you think she needs space ask her if she would like some space and reassure her you are there for her when she is ready.  Be aware again that you cannot control others and that communication is a moment where you can bond and connect.  This is also an opportunity to connect with your son to help him process his thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes boys don't express their feelings and act out later.  Give the opportunity to be vulnerable with his mother and sister and have these conversations that people usually ignore and wait for time to change the dynamics.  Bless your journey.  
(M.A., LMFT, M.A., LPCC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Is it the first time mom feeling ?

Dear Christina,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backward, especially when we become parents for the first time. As a parent myself (I have 2 young kids), I can relate to your struggles.   However, the reality is that the night is always darkest before dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is that you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being, we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyway.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles, and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete and latched onto that line like it was the end-all-be-all relationship concept is that we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse, and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts were much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others, we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values, or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at, and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happy alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for a fearsome stranger who would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable, and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Stuck on autopilot?

Hello! Thank you for writing. First, let's take a moment to acknowledge what you are doing well. Even when you feel so overwhelmed and depleted, you are showing up for your kids. I hear how important it is to you to be emotionally connected with them. It would be wonderful if we could be perfectly present one hundred percent of the time for the people we love. The truth is that we can't - our resources are finite, and we can't give what we don't have. I am hearing that you are giving what you do have. Although I understand this does not feel like enough right now, it is still worth noticing. Second, you haven't mentioned what the last 18 months have been like for you, but if it is anything like how it has been for me and my community, you've been through a lot of chaos, uncertainty, and negative stress. Almost everyone has been pushed beyond their limits trying to adapt and cope. Humans are usually okay at handling small to moderate amounts of stress from daily life, and most of the time we can also manage the occasional crisis. The impacts of long-term, unrelenting stress are different, and they sound a lot like what you are describing. When we are constantly draining ourselves, we need more time to rest and recharge than when we are recovering from normal stress. From what you have shared so far, it does not sound like you have had any kind of time or space for yourself, and you have been pushing yourself further and further beyond your limits. Anyone would be burnt out in that position! Finally, you are wondering how to fix what is happening. It sounds like you mainly want to feel more in control and more in touch with your surroundings and with your kids. Counterintuitive though it may seem, this is going to mean putting some of your own needs first. Just like on an airplane, you must put your own oxygen mask on before you can help your kids with theirs. What this looks like will vary based on what has been missing for you and what your resources are. Even five or fifteen minutes at a time to breathe and check-in can make a difference. If counseling is an option for you, a therapist can help you problem-solve around whatever obstacles you are currently facing, sort through the thoughts and feelings you have about what you've been going through, and work on developing skills that can help you moving forward. Online platforms like BetterHelp make it easy to work around a busy schedule, and community mental health organizations often have free and reduced-cost counseling programs. Many private therapists also offer income-based sliding scales to help make services more affordable. You deserve support, however, you choose to seek it. Thank you again for reaching out. Warmly, Kate
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

How do you work with a spouse who parents differently than you do?

Now the early months are the common nights of sleep deprivation.  So, some of your conflict or difficulty coming up with a compromise on care can be due to your sleep deprivation.  When your child and you can sleep through the night, your difficulty finding compromises may end. Care for a one-year-old is pretty much, they complain and you try to figure out what is bothering them.  As they learn to speak, it is a blessing and a curse because they are always asking you for something.  But at least, they can tell you where it hurts or what they want/need.  All parents parent differently.  Even you will parent differently in the morning than in the evening or when you had a good day at work.  Every parent parents differently from one day to the next.  As your child ages, you will find that to effectively parent you will have to change your parenting style.  When your child goes to school, s/he will have teachers that teach and manage classrooms differently.  Children are amazing plastic and learn what they can do with mom, they can’t do with dad or with grandma and grandpa  Your child will learn to play you off each other.  It is good to learn to ask them, “What did your mom/dad say when you asked her/him?”  So, is your child going to develop some kind of mental problem because you parent differently – within limits – probably not.  However, you and your spouse should discuss differences in private and provide an agreed-upon front to your child.  You should agree on boundaries that are firm.  Children will almost always test your boundaries, such as curfew.  And consequences must be consistent as well.  Believe it or not, consistent boundaries and consequences give your child a sense of security and stability in their world – regardless of what they say.  So, you and your spouse need to have discussions about these also.  I had a fourteen-year-old say to me in private, “I wish my mother loved me enough to make certain I was home by my curfew.”  But say that to your face – never going to happen. Marriage should be a collaboration on the things and responsibilities you share.  Believe me – in raising children, two minds are better than one.  What worked yesterday, may not work today.  Get as many ideas from your friends and family members as to how to handle different issues.  Share fresh ideas with your spouse and see if you can come up with a collaborative solution so you can prove a shared front to your child. Now, if you are finding it so difficult that you need a third-party mediator and a friend or family member won’t due, seek a counselor to mediate the issue for you and teach you how to collaborate on parenting.  Now as for sleep deprivation, most parents survive.  Take turns letting each other get a good night’s sleep.  Taking turns will give one of you the energy to deal with today’s problems.  And even if you don’t do it the same way, it is unlikely your child will be emotionally damaged.  Good luck.
(PsyD, LSSP)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Can I set this up for my 20 year old daughter?

Thank you for your question. You can absolutely set this up for her. She will need to complete the intake process and questionnaire. Since she is 20, I would say you should sign her up as an individual from the main Better Help page as opposed to signing up a teen. Then you and she can together explore what she is seeking. As long as she is there with you, you can sign her up as an individual as the option.  I think the other part is regarding her fit for this type of counseling. Telehealth is the way of the future for young adults. With someone with more significant mental health concerns, they may struggle with this set-up in that they receive one 30 to 45-minute live session per week, but they can contact the therapist via the chat feature at any time. When you mention she is suicidal, the therapist she selects or is assigned from this site will assess, although if she has a plan or intent of harm to herself, she may be referred for a higher level of mental health care. I would also encourage you to ensure she has a strong investment in the program. The reason for this is that with it being online, once she sets up an appointment, she needs to hold herself accountable to attending, as challenges may arise with two or more no-shows. She is old enough to consent to treatment, etc, so it would just be you paying financially for the service. There is the possibility that once matched you could also speak with the therapist and the client together if your daughter may have a hard time independently articulating her difficulties so that the provider has an understanding of how to best support the client. Otherwise, the process is simple if you follow the steps, beginning with signing her up as an individual on the initial home page and following the steps following that. It is a great introductory service and is not hard to set up by following the home screen instructions. I hope this helps. You have a head start by knowing what her challenges are so that they can be articulated so she receives the support she needs and desires. 
Answered on 10/19/2021

Can you prescribe? I was previously on buproprion, but lost insurance and therapist. Restart?

I am so sorry that you are struggling with all these stressors. I am not a physician and cannot prescribe medication. I am here for therapeutic support if you need it. I am sorry to hear you have lost your insurance. I would suggest reaching out for state coverage if this is available to you and your primary care physician for medication. In the meantime, to better deal with stressors, I would suggest meditation practices and making sure that you are on a healthy routine of exercise. I understand that this can be very difficult when you care for a son with autism, but self-care is very important for overall mental and physical health. Making sure that you are engaging in healthy eating and exercise can kickstart a lot of healthy chemicals in your brain and make it easier for you to handle stress as it comes your way. I would also strongly support healthy sleep practices. Making sure that you have a good bedtime routine that promotes restful sleep can make a world of difference. If you struggle with sleep, make sure that you set a time to go to bed every night and maintain that time, go to bed without any devices (tablet/phone) and without a television on. The light from these devices can cause your brain to produce cortisol (which is the stress/waking hormone) and can make it a lot harder for you to get restful sleep. Also, if you are struggling to get to sleep for longer than 15 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity (such as work a puzzle or read a book). For further stress relief, it is important to reach out to those that care for you and spend time with family and friends. Try not to be afraid to ask for help when you really need it and talk to those closest to you about some of the struggles you are facing. Additionally, do your best to set boundaries with people in your life that are not the healthiest for you. It can be hard to do this with ex-spouses but can be ultimately very helpful. I hope that I was able to help in some way. Please take care of yourself!
(MA, NCC, LPCC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

How do i get Chris to have honest and heart to heart talk?

Hello, First, I will say that it seems you’re a very supportive father and husband and it appears that you are doing you’re best to keep your family healthy and together in a very stressful and volatile situation.  That being said, I have to note that the behaviors you’re describing are concerning. The volatility of Chris’ anger and the aggression in his past behaviors might be symptoms of an underlying mental health condition such as intermittent explosive disorder, major depressive disorder, Autism, or bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is often associated with extremely creative and intelligent people, such as Vincent van Gogh, Ludwig von Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, Salvador Dali, and others, although I’m unable to provide that or any diagnosis under these conditions. If you can plan a way to do it, you might want to have Chris agree to see a psychiatrist or licensed clinician (LPC or LCSW) who can provide an appropriate diagnosis and medications. As a note, neither an LCSW nor an LPC can prescribe medications, however, a psychiatrist is able to prescribe medications and so can your family doctor.   As far as having a heart-to-heart talk with Chris, here’s what I can suggest: it seems like Chris is one of those people who need to think that an idea is their idea, even if it might be someone else’s idea. What that means is, that Chris is very sensitive, as you’ve suggested, and any suggestion from you will potentially be taken as an affront or offense. In that case, he needs to believe that whatever is suggested comes from him. If you can talk to him when he’s in a good mood, or perhaps open by touching on his strengths of creativity and intelligence, you might be able to lead him into a conversation of alternative ways that he thinks he might be able to get back to NYC where he appears to feel that he will be recognized.  While that conversation might be had in any number of ways and will likely take place over multiple attempts, some things to consider focusing on might be the art and cultural centers in nearby cities such as Philadelphia as well as Trenton, where he might begin to have a stage for his work. Although neither may seem as important to Chris as having a career in NYC, both are likely to have a vibrant art and cultural center where he might find some success and give him enough satisfaction and confidence to pursue a career independently or as a contracted artist.   Another way that you might introduce the idea of change, is indirectly inspiring Chris to provide his unique perspective to the world of great art collections, although that might require displaying and following through with greater interest and understanding of his work and perspective than might have been engaged in previously.  Sensing some type of increased interest in his passion, perspective and skill might encourage Chris to engage more with local opportunities or even make some independent attempts to have his art begin to generate financial, social, and cultural value.  Thank you for your question, and I hope the response was useful.  Best of luck to you and your family.   
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/19/2021

How does one coparent with a narcissist?

Good afternoon!  What a painful question to consider.  It must be very hard to shoulder the challenges of full-time professional work, parenting full time, and also recognizing that you will carry the emotional burdens in your small family too.   From the perspective of a parent, I understand the desire to protect your child and allow them their innocence for as long as possible.  But, regardless of who you co-parent your child with, your child will idealize their parents and need to idealize them developmentally.  Children grow up believing their parents are the BEST....at everything.  And it allows them to feel safe and secure in the world.  Knowing that as your child's awareness grows, that this idealism may sour, and create self-doubt in their world, as to their importance in their father's eyes, or even, blame toward you for blocking access to him, must alarm you!  As it would any loving parent. My professional experience has included making and supporting caring considered and thoughtful match relationships for a local Big Brother Big Sister agency where the children I matched struggled with just these questions over time.  I did this professionally for a very long time and watched this dynamic unfold over years in multiple ways and in multiple families.     One very important lesson that I would help a child and their mother sit with, over time, is that any love, connection, and relationship with a parent as long as there are no safety concerns is important to foster.  Research plays this out as well. That is a hard one....isn't it?  Fostering a relationship with a parent who can say hurtful things about you, and, may let your child down by not showing up or making promises they can't keep?  Isn't that inviting hurt into your lives?    I have seen children create larger hurts, in their own minds even without regular visits, hurtful words toward a mother, or forgotten promises.  It hurts terribly to have an absent father.  Children create all sorts of scenario's in their minds to excuse or explain the absence much of which is self-blame.  All in an attempt to keep the parent idealized.  This is a key developmental need and a way children make sense of the world. This is not easy then, to make space for the father to visit, without much structure or routine.  And be angry at you at times as well.  I don't want to suggest that it is.  But, it would make it much easier for you to keep the door open for the father if you had help navigating this.  As you continue down this road, it is sometimes possible for a child to choose if they want to see their father, even if he cancels sometimes.  And, then decide that they don't for a while. Then as a child becomes more mature, they may even take on the role of questioning the relationship, and why it works as it does.  It is and will be a part of your child's story of their life.  And how they come to know themselves. How do children know themselves to be in touch with their feelings, and recognize health and good parenting?  One way is to foster a connection with a therapist.  Another is for you to enroll your child in a Big Brother/Big Sister agency so that they have another adult role model in their life, modeling consistency, safety, warmth, and structure so that a child can more easily see the value and significance of these traits and you will know that their needs will be met by more than just you.     Your child's father will be forever linked to your child.  Allowing them the privilege of knowing who this person is, even in a limited capacity, allows your child the chance to form their own insights, opinions and be as fully formed as they can be.  It is really ultimately in the interest of health that you keep the door open as long as it's safe to do so.  Please know however that I appreciate just how hard this is especially when a child is old enough to begin to suffer and struggle emotionally.  When you notice this, you can absolutely support them, through finding a role model, a therapist, or even begin by finding a good children's book on sadness to help them find words.   You reaching out for support yourself can also help, navigate such challenging parenting waters and do so with love and as much grace as you can.   All My Best,   Elise Jacobson, LICSW Social Worker
Answered on 10/19/2021

What are some things I can do to help my 10 year old child to cope with new separation anxiety?

  A child's level of clinginess, and the possible ways it is expressed, may be influenced by different things such as major changes or events in the child's life. These changes could be related to issues or events that may be going on within the family, i.e the birth of a new sibling, returning or starting a new school,  moving, parents divorcing, or even fear related to the current COVID situation. It is normal for children to sometimes become more clingy with their parents while they're getting used to new events or to change. Your child may be experiencing separation anxiety or an adjustment disorder. Most children go through phases of clinginess, where they may even want to sleep in their parent's room, or vice versa  Separation anxiety disorder is something a child will go through when they feel nervous or fearful when they aren't near a loved one, such as their parent.  When you are with your child, reassure them that both of you are safe. During this time, if you are going somewhere without your child, let them know so that they will not become alarmed if they begin to look for you and cannot find you. Also, speak with your child and see if your child can identify how they are feeling and what might be causing them to feel this way. Then, it may be a little easier to calm them. Despite sometimes becoming frustrated, try to avoid punishing or ignoring their clingy behavior. Attempt to understand how they feel and empathize with them. Try to encourage independence within tasks that they can do. When you are with them and doing things together, praise them, to reinforce good behavior. Tell your child that you love them. Ensure that the lines of communication are open so that your child has ample opportunity to express their feelings openly with you. Additionally, you may want to encourage independence with your child at home - meaning allow them to take part in clean-up time or assign small chores to them. Above all, seek to understand your child and be available to listen. 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/19/2021

how to deal with your emotions when it comes with heartbreak in a relationship

You have been through a lot. Processing your feelings about the emotional violence and making sure this is not replicated in the future is very important. Also, making sure that nothing negative is said about the other parent in front of your child will be beneficial. It is sometimes difficult for a person to hold back on expressing these feelings, especially when we are hurt.  Parenting your child is going to be important as we don't want to parent out of guilt since the other parent is not involved. This can be challenging at times because of our own feelings. It is important to process these feelings you have regarding the marriage and the divorce and creating structure and stability for your child first. Gaining financial and emotional independence is key to be successful in a future relationship. Once the is attained by you, it should be easier, It will also be beneficial to look at different ways of how you handled the communication with your partner and teaching goal-oriented communication and ways to avoid "junk" talk with others when we do not agree with them. Focusing on our own anxiety and how to use thought stopping when we think about the emotional trauma, changing negative thoughts to positive thoughts, and also different ways to reduce anxiety through relaxation strategies. Self-esteem building will also be key to obtain your confidence level when it comes to relationships. This will all be important so your child does not pick up on your own anxiety, Developing good sleeping habits and healthy eating are vital to emotional well being and this can also be modeled for your child to learn good habits in the home especially if she was exposed to some of the emotional violence in the marriage. Take things one day at a time and do not be in a rush to make things happen. Good things will happen to you at the right time, when you are 100% ready and when it is the right time in your life. This will be best both for you and your child. 
Answered on 10/19/2021

Is it a phase? Will I ever stop feeling this way?

Hi Unhappy mama Thank you for reaching out to Betterhelp. I am so sorry to read about how difficult of a phase you are in currently as a stay-at-home mom. I call this a phase because it is. It is also something you can use as a mantra during the tough time, "This is just a phase.". I am assuming your children are young enough to need full-time care. From reading your question it sounds like you are burnt out and possibly depressed. It sounds like you are in need of some serious self-care. If you are not able to obtain child care, possibly you could talk to your husband and explain how you are feeling. Even just a few hours away from your home and the children each week can be helpful. We call it changing the scenery. It is good for your mind. If you cannot leave the house without the children for me time you could try putting them to bed early and spending some time alone and resting. Maybe even have your own relaxation session like putting on a facial mask they sell on Amazon or at CVS and or soaking your feet in warm water. Being sure you are getting enough sleep is also important for your mood and functioning, which is hard as a mom but sometimes we have to let certain things go and just go to bed so we have a good night's sleep. As far as your career, hopefully when your children are back in school full time you can pick up where you left off.  If you are craving social time, maybe consider joining a mom's group in your area where you are able to take your children along with you. Even just getting out of the house for fresh air walks daily or walks to a local playground could be helpful for yourself and your children. Not sure if it is feasible financially but hiring a mother's helper, babysitter, or cleaning service to take some burden off you could also be helpful for you.  A therapist on Betterhelp, such as myself, could help you further with navigating this stressful phase in your life.  Hope this is helpful.
(LMHC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

How exactly could counseling help when I feel like talking only makes me feel the lack of solutions?

Your initial question and the additional detail you provide touch on two different but overlapping topics. Let's start with the initial question: How exactly could counseling help when I feel like talking only makes me feel the lack of solutions? As you later indicated, this talking leads to feelings of frustration. Many clients describe this frustration as "feeling stuck" and it's my guess that your feeling a lack of solutions is a similar sort of "stuckness" or lack of clarity as to what to try. In general, therapy exists to help the clients begin to generate new solutions to existing problems.   Different approaches yield different insights as to how to begin uncovering, seeing, or otherwise generating and discovering these solutions. My personal experience is that often, the seed of the solution is in the problem itself. That probably sounds cryptic and I'll do my best to offer a little clarity below.   This brings us to the things you're dealing with, what we therapists sometimes call the "presenting issues." You indicate that you have trauma stemming from your childhood and a family dynamic that was and remains incomplete or absent. Your decision to care for your ailing mother is commendable and speaks to a core quality of compassion within you. With the exploration of this compassion comes a first potential seed of a solution - effective and sustainable compassion begins with self-compassion.   You may or may not already have regular self-compassion practices in place, so without knowing for sure, let me emphasize these are essential for emotional well-being. One area that seems to be in need of self-compassion is your resentment of how you were raised. Another is your own struggles with caring for your own children, and with it comes, I'm guessing, a desire to raise them in ways that provide them with the things and care you didn't get growing up.   It has been said countless times that "resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Self-compassion is one of the antidotes to this poison, or at very least encourages us to put the bottle down. Your need for assistance with caring for your own children could clearly benefit from outside help, and perhaps you're feeling both conflicted and dissatisfied with seeking the help of the mother who wasn't able to provide you the same help when you were a child. Generating solutions to this may require you to seek out different resources and will ask you to have the courage to ask for help in new places.  It's also often been said that "our greatest instinct isn't survival, it's familiarity." I mention this only because it's quite probable that the solutions you're looking for with this issue may require you to look in places you haven't and that doing so may involve some personal discomfort. If you've read this far, I offer you one additional line of inquiry for generating new solutions, in the form of a question: If you still had all of these issues, but they were somehow not a problem for you (or at least noticeably less of a problem), what kind of person would you be? I commend your courage in coming here and exploring the potential of the therapy. It won't always be comfortable, but the rewards of new solutions, new ways of thinking, and new possibilities are, in my experience and opinion, worth the effort. Well wishes,   Jaime Nichols, LCSW
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Do you have any advise on how to handle/avoid having nightmares?

When we are children, we often lack the coping skills and/or brain development needed to handle traumatic situations.  Instead, we may have nightmares such as the ones you are having at this moment. Usually, your dreams are the Brain's way of working out something too painful or confusing to deal with in your awake hours.  The brain can only take in so much stimulation during the awake hours, therefore you dream. Let it be said though, this happens for positive things as well.  So in reference to your dream...Lizards represent a fear or anxiety you have about a situation, such as the trauma you experienced with your father in your younger years.  In reference to dreaming about your dad, your brain is likely reliving some of the past issues with him. Because you could not understand how he was treating you at the time, your brain is trying to work it out now.   I have had clients have their dreams change their bad experiences into ones in which they are a victor.      If you are not prepared to have some therapeutic sessions, I would start with basic sleep hygiene techniques.  Calm, it is a really good (Free) app that has breathing exercises and stories to help you relax to the point you sleep.  I use it myself when I cannot sleep.  Also make sure you are in a comfortable environment with no electronic light (cell phone, computer, etc...) at least 20a minutes prior to falling asleep.  Try not to eat at least 2 hours before you go to sleep so that your body can fully relax.  A hot shower will help relax you as well. Having a nice environment can help you to have a better night's sleep.  Make sure there is little light in your room, and that your room is at a comfortable temperature.  If your body is too cold or too hot, it has a hard time shutting down.   If these dreams continue to plague you, I would encourage you to consider speaking with a professional such as myself or another counselor, either online or in person.  Counseling can help help you in many ways.  Good Luck, and I hope I have answered your question.
(M., Ed., LPC)
Answered on 10/19/2021

Can the session be divided to talk with husband for the first half hour and then as a couple the 2nd

Hi Mona, Thank you so much for sharing what you are going through. Yes there is the ability to do split sessions and sessions together. You mentioned with meeting with him first seperate. Can you give me an idea of why you are thinking it would be important to do this?   While I await your answer, a little about myself. My name is Jennifer Forbes and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Illinois. You can take a look at my profile to learn a little bit more about background. Online counseling is fairly new, so please feel free to ask any questions that you may have. My counseling style is pretty laid back. I have been described as a good listener, supportive, collaborative and a problem solver.  I like to understand what is not working and how you got here. The better we are able to identify the obstacles, the more targeted we can be with strategies to overcome it.   I am here to help you sort through the things that are difficult right now and offer you a safe place to be open and honest without fear of judgment. You have taken the first and most important step by reaching out for help and I am really glad that you did. I’d like to help you work on the struggles you are facing and offer a safe place for you to explore your thoughts and feelings.   I wanted to take a moment to let you know a bit about my general availability and frequency of responding. I encourage you to write as often and as much as you like – this room is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week. I typically respond to all messages within 24 hours. The only exception is the weekend, when I am usually off. If there is a message that you would like to respond to sooner, please mark as urgent and I will get back to you as soon as I can.    For one on one sessions, you can schedule the following sessions: live video, phone and/or chat sessions – if you click on the schedule tab on the left-hand side of the page, you can see what time I have available. These sessions will last between 30 -45 minutes. You can book as often as you think you will need throughout the week as well as whatever form of communication you feel works best for you. I carry a small caseload, so I can be more focused and more available to you.   During our work together, if you feel that you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harming themselves or someone else, please call 911. Should you feel in need of urgent help or that you are in crisis at any time during our work together, please call 1-800-273-TALK for 24 hour crisis support. This platform does not provide any type of emergency services, so I want to be sure you know who to contact if you are in a crisis of that nature.   Please know that you are not alone. There is Hope! Things can and will get better. I am really looking forward to working with you and I will be looking out for your booked session.    It sounds like this has been a journey for sometime for the family and I am sorry to hear that all of this has gone on. I would definitely be open to meeting with you all. Please let me know.    Sincerely Grateful, JForbes      
Answered on 10/19/2021