Category Archives: Family

Motherhood and Alcoholism: When is it a problem?

Alcohol has widely become “part” of motherhood as odd as that may seem. Our culture is normalizing this practice and minimizing its potential impact on moms and their families. There are social media groups and websites like “mommy needs vodka,” and “moms who need wine.”

As a mom myself it has become commonplace to hear “when is it too early to start drinking?” or “wine time.” There are many moms that turn to alcohol at the end of the day, or even the middle if it’s a “special occasion” (like Tommy using the potty for the first time). We use alcohol to celebrate the small victories, to numb our stressors, and to dispel boredom. Moms feel like they deserve that glass of wine at the end of the day, they should be allowed to do something for themselves, and while all of that is true — when does the drinking become a problem? 

This past weekend was Mother’s Day and while it is a time to honor moms and all that they do, it is also a time to recognize the need to care for our moms. Moms need to be well. They need to be healthy and happy to take care of their families and themselves. 

While there are many factors that can impact whether a person is a problem drinker — everything from past traumas to genetics to things become habitual, despite their health repercussions. As a society that is putting alcohol in the face of moms everywhere, maybe we should start to reassess. Do moms really “need” alcohol? No, they don’t. Do they deserve to treat themselves? Yes, of course, they do. But, everything needs to be done in moderation. 

Drinking becomes a problem when it is a core thought. If you are constantly watching the clock waiting for that magical time when it is socially accessible to pour that first glass of wine and then next thing you know the whole bottle is gone. We tend to laugh about it. “Oops, I finished the whole bottle.. oh well.” But, we need to be careful. We need to look for other ways to care for ourselves. 

Rather than making alcohol your nightly ritual, try meditation, yoga, a special TV show, talk with your spouse, a weekly night out with friends, something other than the bottle. Drinking feels like a special dessert, a treat. It feels harmless and normal. But it can easily get out of control. That glass can turn into a bottle, which can turn into a bottle a night and next thing you know you are feeling crappy all the time, you are having trouble caring for your kids, you are overrun with guilt, you are hiding it from your spouse, it can easily escalate. 

Being a mom is hard work, don’t get me wrong, and while alcohol can make it feel a little better for a moment it can easily lead to more problems. My advice to you is to reign it in, seek help from a licensed professional, and work to develop healthier coping mechanisms. You don’t need to feel guilty, or alone, in this battle. We are here. We can go forward together for a healthier you. 

How do you cope with motherhood?

What to do when your stepkids ‘hate’ you?

It is hard being a stepparent. You may feel like an outsider entering a family where there are children that are not blood-related and have another mom or dad living in a different house. You may butt heads. You may feel like they “hate” you. 

There are many reasons why a stepchild might be angry and uncomfortable with you being around. First, they may blame you for their parents’ separation. They might think “if my dad/mom never met you, my parents would still be together.” You, as the adult, likely know otherwise. But, that is a hard concept for a child whose home has suddenly become broken. 

They might have been holding out hope for their parents to get back together, and now that you are in the picture their hopes have been shattered. They likely see you as not their “parent,” since you have come into the picture after they already have two parents. They might fear you will try to control them or put rules into place that are different from what they are used to. 

Gaining Acceptance

Obviously, this is a tricky situation to navigate. You love their dad/mom and you want to have a blended, happy family together but you feel like you will never get in good with your stepchildren. What can you do? How do you earn their acceptance? 

First, understand these things take time. Your stepchildren are going through their own internal struggles and they need time to adjust to the idea of you being around. You need to work to develop a new normal. Don’t try to take the place of your stepchild’s mom or dad, understand your role is not the same. Instead, work to start new traditions with your stepchild. Maybe you can be the one to take them someplace special occasionally. Open up to them, be honest about your life and let them know they can trust you. 

Ease into their lives. Don’t try to jump in too quickly. Start small. Talk to your spouse so that you are on the same page with rules and discipline so that you aren’t trying to overrule him/her/they. 

Talk to them. Show them that you can be a friend, a shoulder to lean on, a team player; not a replacement but rather another person on their side. 

If you feel like you are in an impossible situation or need guidance on where to start, consider seeking family counseling with a licensed professional. They can help all of you to move forward in a healthy way that works for everyone. 

How to combat parental anxiety

Of course, you are going to worry if you are a parent. You are, after all, wearing your heart outside your body. Your kids are your world and it terrifies you that something could happen to them. But, what if you are one of those parents who is constantly terrified to the point where it is hard to function in daily life?

Are you faced with overwhelming anxiety about your kids playing outside because they might get hurt, they might get abducted, or hit by a car? These are all valid worries but when they are all consuming they can get in the way of letting your kid be a kid. They can make it hard for you to sleep and function as a parent. And, that anxiety can rub off on your kids. So — what do you do? How can you combat parental anxiety?

Tips to ease parental worry

1.) Do your research. Yes, many times as parents we are told to stay away from the internet because it always points the worse, and yes that can be true. But, the internet can also be a resource. Of the 800,000 missing children, only 115 of them were taken by strangers (Psychology Today). What really are the risks? How likely is it that your child is going to be abducted from the front yard? How bad would it be if he/she/they broke their arm climbing a tree? Is it really the end of the world if they miss a night of sleep? Confront your fears as realistically as possible. 

2.) Teach your kids. If you talk to your kids and teach them the things they should be careful of then you have less to worry about. Teach them to not talk to strangers. Teach them to wait at the corner and look both ways before crossing the road. Teach them to stay on the sidewalk. Teach them to stay close to you, to be aware of their surroundings, to not give up personal information unless they know they have found someone safe (like a police officer or a doctor). Talk to them about their worries, their concerns. 

3.)Practice mindfulness and meditation when you are anxious. Take a moment with your child to listen to the sounds around you, count as you breathe in and out, and take in the small moments. Appreciate all the energy and the innocence and the beauty your kids bring to your life. 

4.) Take care to make things as safe as possible. If you have a pool, make sure it has a fence and make sure your kids know the pool rules. Make sure your kids know your phone number, secret words (in case someone else has to pick them up from school), address, etc. 

5.) Create a list. What are the pros and cons of parenting your child over-protectively? What do you want for them? What do you want to avoid? When you take some time to really think about it, it will help to put things into perspective. 

6.) Get help. If you can’t seem to work through your fears and anxieties, seek help from a licensed mental health professional. They can help teach healthy coping techniques and provide suggestions on how to move through anxiety rather than having it cause a roadblock. 

It is ok to worry. It is ok to be overprotective. But you don’t want it to interfere with yours or your child’s day-to-day life. It is impossible, sadly enough, to put your kids into a bubble and keep them safe all the time. They have to learn some of these things on their own and you can help to be their guide. 

Ask Mabel: Co-parents disagree on electronic use

Concerned Client: My husband and I have a blended family. I have three kids and he has two. My children are with us most of the time, while his share time between our home and their mom’s. Lately, my husband has been trying to manage the amount of screen time my kids get when they get home from school. He doesn’t believe they should have any. Instead, he would rather see them do their homework or play outside. He thinks any tablet time is setting them up for bad habits as adults. His kids usually go to their mom’s house after school and they have as much screen time as they like, and he can’t do anything about it. 

I am frustrated because I have always let my kids have an hour when they get home to relax and unwind with their tablets. They play games, watch shows, whatever their heart desires. I think it is important that they are allowed this freedom. I feel like my husband is micromanaging my kids because he doesn’t have a say in how his kids spend their time after school. I don’t like it. I don’t think he has a right to step in on this issue. I have always been on board with co-parenting to a point but I feel like my husband is lecturing me on something that I don’t think is a big deal because he can’t say these things to his ex-wife. 

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Mabel: It is hard for kids in these situations. Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what the adult issues are, his kids might feel like second-class citizens because they see your kids getting screen time and they are not allowed. It is important that you and your spouse try to find a middle ground. Put aside your adult issues and find a way to unify the situation so that all the children have the same rules. 

If there is inequality in the household, his kids may not respond to your parenting. They will have the conscious or unconscious impression that you always side with your kids, and your kids are treated better than they are. Screen time might not seem like a big deal, but I am sure to the kids it is a huge issue. 

Adult Passions Stem From Childhood

Your experiences and major life events as a child can have a big impact on who you are as an adult. They have the ability to transform and shape you into the person you become. 

If you experienced poverty in any form as a child you may have the drive to help others in the same position as an adult. Maybe you were just a witness to some tough situations and you felt moved to make a difference in the lives of others who face similar circumstances. 

If you have experienced some type of injustice or tragedy it may influence you to work to advocate for others or to be a leader in a movement for reform. These experiences left a mark on your soul, a wound, a scar that has influenced your future actions. 

Impacting who we become

Injustice, tragedy, poverty, all of these things and more help us to take a stance on issues. There are many things that happen in our lives that lead us to who we become as adults. Whether they be traumatic, life-altering, eye-opening events, or consistent behaviors we experience as children they all contribute to who we are and why we behave in certain ways. They can be negative turned positive and lead you to help others. Or they can continue to fuel negatively in our lives and lead to unhealthy actions. You have the ability to turn negative into positive, you just might need a little help figuring out how to move forward.

Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional can help you to identify these events and how they have molded you into the person you are today.  A counselor can help to teach you healthy coping mechanisms and encourage you to use your negative energy for positive results. You are stronger than you think you are and you have the ability to end the cycle and create change. 

How to tell if divorce is the right decision: Part One

This is part one of a three-part series on how to determine if divorce is the right decision for you as a couple. This series will dive deeper into the options couples who are thinking of divorce have and the factors they should consider. 

Making the decision to get divorced can be one of the most difficult decisions a couple can make. There are a lot of factors that play a role and there are many details to consider. Nobody wants their marriage to end in divorce but it is, unfortunately, a common reality these days. If you and your spouse are considering divorce — how do you know if it’s the right path for you? 

Discernment Counseling

When seeing a couple who is considering divorce it is important for us, as counselors, to help not just one partner but both to explore three options. The process is called discernment counseling. Developed by Dr. Bill Doherty, discernment counseling focuses solely on helping couples to decide what they want to do with their relationship. It is unlike traditional marriage counseling, which is designed to save a marriage (but doesn’t work unless both partners are fully on board). Generally, discernment counseling is brief with the goal of getting couples unstuck so they can move forward in whichever direction they have determined to be best for them. 

Making the decision

The first option for a couple to consider is to do nothing. Doing nothing is exactly how it sounds. It means everything stays put. Couples that choose to do nothing will not seek any additional counseling. They simply will keep things as is in hopes that whatever bumps their marriage is facing is just a “phase” that may eventually pass. A couple who chooses to do nothing may not be ready to make the decision of whether or not to get divorced. Maybe they have kids and they are just not ready to put them through that process, or maybe they are holding out hope that things will get better. Whatever their reasoning chances are they may return to discernment counseling at a later date, or decide down the road to seek marriage counseling. 

What to do when your family doesn’t believe in mental health

I hear the argument against counseling and mental health all the time. People say “my family doesn’t believe in mental health and say I don’t need to see a therapist.” They think it is “unnecessary,” or a “waste of time,” “useless,” etc. But, think about it this way — who do you talk to about car problems? A mechanic. Who do you call when you have a sore throat or a cough that won’t go away? A doctor. Who do you see when you have pain in your tooth? A dentist. 

Those who don’t believe in mental health don’t know anything about mental health. You talk to your mechanic about your car, your doctor about your physical health, and your therapist about your mental health. Talk to your family about what they are competent in—maybe it is their opinions about cooking, sewing, sports, parenting, marriage, etc. But if you are struggling with emotional concerns, depression, anxiety, marital issues, parenting strategies, etc. talk to someone who is trained in these topics and can help to give you healthy tips to move forward positively in life. 

Wonders for the Willing

Therapy is one of those things that can do wonders for the willing. If you are open to the first step of coming into an office setting to try to improve your life, to work towards living your best days, then you could benefit greatly. Your friends and family might think they are helping by telling you that you don’t “need therapy” but there is nothing wrong with seeking help when you are struggling. In fact, that is a healthy step in the right direction—kind of like eating more vegetables, going to bed earlier, and exercising. 

Leave the mental health expertise to the mental health professionals and take care of you. 

Dad, I miss you more than ever.

I miss my father more than ever. He died when I was just 10 years old. 

He died around the holiday season making this time of the year difficult for my family and me. 

After he passed, I took his cigar box from my mom and I have had it ever since. Its always had a spot in my home. It’s a piece of him that I hold dear. Whenever I want to connect with him, I find myself talking to the box. I put special things in the box, written wishes, and goals for the next year. It’s like talking to him. 

Most times when I am talking to the box, I am also crying. I cry because I miss him. I am grieving him because I loved him. It has been difficult but I recognize that those tears come from my sadness that he is no longer with us. 

Grief is a testament to love. Love is such a beautiful, complex yet simple, thing. I hate that I feel sad and miss my dad but I am so very glad I got to love him. I would not have it any other way. I would much rather have a  love that turns into grief than to never have loved at all. 

Other people, I have talked to have similar, yet different, ways of connecting with their loved ones who are no longer around. For some it is continuing on with a tradition, wearing a special outfit, looking at the stars, reading a card, attending a religious ceremony, wearing a piece of jewelry — whatever it is, however you choose to connect is personal and unique to your situation. 

How do you choose to connect with your loved ones when they are no longer around? 

Why are more women being diagnosed with ADHD?

Over the years I have seen an increase in women coming to me with symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Many of them are concerned they may have ADHD and are looking for a solution. It got me thinking. Why are we seeing such an increase? What has changed to cause more women to experience symptoms of ADHD? 

Our reality as women has changed. We are busier than ever before while still facing the pressures of traditional gender roles. We are still expected to take care of our homes and meals. Many women now have taken on professional careers outside of the home environment adding to the mounting pressure. We are worried more than ever—about everything. Not to mention we are constantly in a state of comparing ourselves to others with the rise of social media and smart devices. Those women who choose to stay home struggle with feeling stir crazy and unfulfilled. We are easily distracted. 

All of the stress modern-day women are struggling with is causing them to lose sleep. They are staying up to later hours trying to get everything done. They are feeling the pressure to be the Pinterest mom or the perfect housewife/cook but also the career woman. Research shows that lack of sleep could be exactly what is contributing to symptoms of ADHD. 

The disruption of day and night rhythms, staying up later, eating at different times, variations in body temperature and physical movement, all of it can contribute to inattentiveness and challenging behavior, according to research done at the Vrije Universitiet Medical Centre in Amsterdam. This research also showed that people with ADHD had a rise in the hormone melatonin an hour-and-a-half later in the day than those who did not, contributing to that lack of sleep. All of this pointing to the reality that ADHD might actually be a sleep disorder. 

Similar studies have also found that those with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than those without, making it harder to focus. Other symptoms such as restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement are also common in those suffering from ADHD, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 

The bottom line is we are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. We aren’t sleeping as much and therefore we are finding it difficult to focus. If you are someone who is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, it may be helpful to seek out a licensed professional who is trained in helping adults.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/09/22/could-adhd-be-a-type-of-sleep-disorder-that-would-fundamentally-change-how-we-treat-it/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.40c10b6da7af

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/adhd-and-sleep

Why we shouldn’t unconditionally love

We don’t have to, in fact, we should not, always unconditionally love another. Unconditional love makes sense for things that people have no control over like their skin color, abilities, disabilities, or if they are laid-off from a job. But, when people have a choice and they choose to be unkind we have the right to create boundaries. 

We don’t have to put up with other people taking advantage of us, being mean or rude to us, or hurting us in any way. Saying that we should “always love unconditionally” is saying that we should not consider our own personal wellbeing, our feelings, and emotions about a situation. Instead, it is helpful to look at people and their actions as a choice vs. no choice. 

Loving others for the things they have no choice over is healthy while loving others for the unkind things they choose to do to us is not healthy. We need to stand up for ourselves, protect ourselves from wrongdoing by establishing boundaries with those that are toxic to our wellbeing. Loving unconditionally sets a tone that says people can walk all over us with no consequences.

Unconditional love is great for our children who are young and don’t have the capacity to always understand their actions and how they could be hurtful. But, for a spouse who makes the choice to hurt his/her partner physically or emotionally, we have the right to cut ties and to choose to not love unconditionally. 

What do you think about love? Should it be unconditional?