Category Archives: Parenting

What to do when your daughter says she’s fat

We frequently think of teenagers as being the ones struggling with image issues, calling themselves “fat,” and starving themselves. But, body image issues can start much earlier. 

Recently the mother of one of my daughter’s six-year-old classmates told me her daughter had stopped eating ice cream because she thinks she is the “fattest in the class.” Last year, my daughter had the same issue. She wouldn’t eat because she also believed she was the “fattest in the class” and kept repeating how she thought she was “fat.”

I approached the situation by reminding her that only a doctor can diagnose weight issues. We talked about the meaning of “diagnose” and I asked her to stop diagnosing herself. I also talked to her about science and data, showing her her growth chart. I showed her where she was at and what is considered overweight. The data showed that she was not overweight, confirming that she had no reason to think otherwise. In the end, I told her to stop comparing herself with other kids because we all come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. I encouraged her to let the growth chart speak for itself. Since that conversation, my daughter no longer calls herself “fat” and has resumed eating normally. 

Whether you have a young child or a teen, it is important to deliver a similar message when talking to them about weight. You need to halt these thoughts before they lead to a lifelong self-image issue. As parents, we have the ability to correct these unhealthy thoughts. Rather than brushing them off and insisting that our children eat even when they are refusing for these reasons, present them with the data. Teach them how to think about things logically as a child and you will be setting them up to be a happier adult. 

Teens and Sex: Teens are choosing to have more anal sex now

As a way of avoiding pregnancy, more and more teens are choosing to have anal sex now than ever before. It is more common than you may think — or care to know. I understand it can be difficult to think about, but it’s important for us parents to empower ourselves with updated knowledge about our teen’s world.

In the book Vagina by Naomi Wolf, Wolf writes about how gynecologists report an increase in girls coming to their offices with fissure tears in their anuses from having anal sex. The tears—which are dangerous and susceptible to infection — are happening because no one is teaching people how to have this type of intercourse properly, safely, or pleasurably. 

Despite whether we agree with the act of anal sex or not, it is happening. If you don’t already know the details of it, I believe it is important to learn. The article “Anal Foreplay – The Forgotten Prelude to Anal Sex,” by Jaiya Ma, is the perfect place to start.  Ma, a sexologist, shares knowledge and tips about how to take part in this behavior in a safe and pleasurable manner. She encourages people to take their time and utilize resources to make the experience a positive one for everyone involved. 

As a parent, it’s important for us to understand our teen’s world. Let’s begin with these: 

1.) Read this article, familiarize yourself with it and work through any discomfort surrounding this issue or embrace the opposite. If it lights you up, own it. Allow both to occur. Find out what those emotions are and come to terms with them before approaching the topic with your teen. 

2.) Talk to your teen. Let them know that may encounter (or desire) the suggestion (or make the suggestion) to have anal sex somewhere along the way. Reinforce that she/he has the choice to do whatever they are comfortable with — reinforce the crucial importance of consent. Explain the things about it that can be dangerous and unhealthy, and let them know that there are healthy ways to engage in the act if she/he/they chooses to. If you have a daughter, remind her that it is her responsibility to inform her partner because it is her body, and her health, safety, and pleasure are of paramount importance. 

3.) Give my teen the article to read. Or, if they can bear it, go over the article with them. 

There is no doubt any conversation surrounding sex with your child is difficult, but it is so very important to have these talks and to make sure they have the facts. As a parent, you can obviously address this issue however you want. But I encourage you to discuss it. 

As a counselor, this is part of what I do. I address the uncomfortable areas of parenting and sexuality and try to make it a natural topic of discussion — after all, sexuality is a natural part of life. Our role as parents plays an important part in how our children claim their true sexual expression in life. 

Source:

https://missjaiya.com/anal-foreplay/?fbclid=IwAR0stMMA7R8_u0Om0pFhyq-ED1RPMIE0oxQ638yVcdL9ABW6lJ3JugJMJ_g

Helping your teen navigate holidays post-divorce

Holidays post-divorce are hard for the whole family, especially teenagers who have been used to celebrating as a family-unit their whole lives. Clients frequently come to me this time of the year wondering how they are supposed to help their teens navigate the holidays now that they are no longer with their spouse. 

It is understandably a daunting task and one no parent should take lightly. The holidays are an important time. Post-divorce holidays can be a wonderful time to start new traditions and establish a new normal. 

I encourage parents to get their teens involved. Ask the tough questions — how do you want to spend the holiday? Maybe they will want to go see a movie, have a special meal, or drive around looking at holiday decorations. What is most important to him/her/they? Maybe it is family cooking/baking, or the church pageant? Whatever it is— work with your teen to create a new normal that they will also enjoy and find special. Maybe they want to ditch the fancy meal and instead order takeout in their pajamas. The possibilities are endless. 

The most difficult part of the holidays now is they are a further reminder that things are no longer the same and they never will be. That is hard for anyone to face and can be an extremely emotional time. Working with your teen to create new memories, new events, new traditions will show them that even though things are not the same they can still be special. Your teen needs to see that life will go on and that they will be ok. 

As a parent, who is also going through a lot right now, take the time to listen. Hear out your teen. Consider what is most important to them and do your best to show them they matter. Your new normal will take some time to get used to but it has the potential to be just as incredible (if not more) than before. 

Are we forgetting about mothers?

I don’t pose that question lightly. It is a topic worthy of our thought, our discussion. It is a reality that demands to be paid attention to. 

We rush to the hospital to give birth to our precious babies who quickly become the center of our worlds. They are carefully looked over and checked up on with appointment after appointment. All the weight checks, the shots, the checking to make sure their hearts sound well, their joints are developing correctly, it goes on and on..and for good reason. These are our babies and they are small and tiny, and oh so new to this world. We should be paying attention to their health and their development but what about moms? 

Moms are sent home from the hospital after just going through a major life transformation with some guidelines, maybe a painkiller or two, and in many cases a few stitches. They aren’t followed up with. They are supposed to figure it out. It is their God-given ability to be a mother, so they should just know how to do it, right? Society expects that mom will seamlessly adjust. She will adjust to this new normal with little help. Yea, it won’t be easy but she will get through. The only follow-up she has to look forward to is six-to-eight weeks postpartum when in many cases her incisions are looked over and she is sent on her way. 

There is no depression screening, no required well check, no one helping mom adjust. Mothers need to be ok too. After all, happy mothers raise happy children. It is hard to care for anyone if you don’t first care for yourself. Let’s check in with our mothers. Ask if they are ok. Make sure they are ok. Let’s listen to our mothers, hear their cries for help and honor their need for support even when they themselves might not realize how much they need it. It takes a village to raise a child, that is for sure. We can’t expect a mother just because she has a uterus to suddenly be thrown into a whole new world like nothing ever happened. It is a shock to the system. She deserves support and she needs it. 

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?

When your child is sexually assaulted

I am a survivor of sexual assault and a certified assault counselor who has worked with thousands of survivors. The single most important thing you can do if you find out your child has experienced sexual assault is to protect—and believe— them. Not believing them is the first form of harm in their recovery. 

Child must come first

This undoubtedly is an extremely terrible thing for your child to experience and as much as you want to get revenge on the person who caused them harm—you must put that attention on your child and what they are experiencing. It is less about justice—while still important and shouldn’t be ignored—and more about your child’s recovery. Make sure your child is surrounded by adults who are emotionally there for them. There will be many people who don’t believe them. They need adults around them that can reassure them that they are believed and say to them: “whatever the outcome is, I am always with you.” Get your child help from a certified counselor. Listen to them. Talk to them. Don’t get caught up your own anger. Get yourself help. Find a licensed counselor that you can turn to for support so you can better help your child.

Your actions as an adult are extremely important to your child’s recovery. Negative or inappropriate responses by family members to a survivor of sexual assault can have profound effects on the child’s ability to recover. Things such as pressure to press charges when he/she/they are embarrassed and want to keep it quite, pressure to remain silent to others or deny that it happened when they feel ready to share, disbelief or distrust in the action itself, etc. can lead to shattering of family relationships and more incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to research by Dr. Sarah E. Ullman published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly.

There are many resources out there for victims and their families— use them. Make sure you take the time to care for yourself so you can be there for your child. Don’t pressure them to “get over it,” and don’t give them a time limit — every victim is different and recovers at their own rate in their own time. Keep hope. Remember your child can recover with the right support. 

References:

https://aifs.gov.au/publications/ripple-effects-sexual-assault/secondary-victims-sexual-assault

How to prepare before talking to your kids about sexual assault

It is important as a parent that you open the doors of communication about sexual assault and what exactly that means with your children. Starting the conversation early with them will help prepare them in case they are ever faced with an uncomfortable situation they aren’t sure of, and it will also help them to feel safe speaking to you about it.

In my past 10 years as a sexual assault counselor, I have coached many parents on having this extremely sensitive conversation. It is hard for both parties and there are a few things every parent should follow:

1.)Plan a time to sit down and talk as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your child hits puberty. They need to know what is right and what is wrong and what they can do to feel safe. 

2.)Get your mental game in order. Before you even think about having this conversation think about the words: sexual assault. Say them. How does that make you feel? You want to make sure you are calm and collected when speaking with your child so you don’t make them more uncomfortable. 

3.)Define sexual assault. Make sure you know exactly what sexual assault, rape, catcall, stalking, etc. means so you can explain it properly to your child. You might not want to think about it but it is important that you do. You are the leader of the family and you need to get comfortable before you approach your children. 

4.)Know your resources and develop a protocol. Think about what you will do if your child discloses that he/she/they has been assaulted. Contact child protective services, visit a hospital or doctor for a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, more commonly known as a “rape kit,” to preserve evidence. In many counties the survivor has the option to press charges and they don’t have to until they are ready. Do your research. 

5.) Know the rights of an assault survivor. Many states have survivors advocates. You can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Take some time to do an internet search, write out your resources and your plan so you are more prepared for the worst. 

This is an extremely difficult topic to approach with your child, but also extremely important. They need the correct information and the best place for them to get that is you. They need to know they have someone on their side who will fight for them if something happens. They need to know they have a safe place to turn. 

Why don’t kids talk to us about sexual assault

Sexual assault is a very real thing, and unfortunately, sometimes our children fall victim to it. So why if they were hurt, would they not come forward and talk to us—especially since we are their parent. We love them and want to protect them, and it can be hard to understand why they would keep something like this a secret. 

Similar to the reasons why our teens don’t open up to us, there are some obstacles to sharing this super sensitive and scary information. Not only is it uncomfortable to talk about but our kids fear they will get in trouble if they give all the details. Maybe it happened at a party they weren’t supposed to be at, or out with friends they weren’t supposed to be out with. They may have gotten drunk or did drugs and they fear consequences. They don’t want to be blamed for being a victim and they surely don’t want to get in trouble for being or doing things they know are wrong. 

They also want to protect us. Our kids, believe it or not, love us similarly to the way we love them. They don’t want to hurt us and they don’t want to see us get upset. They want to protect us from distress. They know how upset their parents will be when they hear their child has been treated this way. Us parents don’t know how to deal with this kind of thing. We start to feel like we are to blame, we might have intense feelings of wanting to “kill” the perpetrator, we want to be reactive to the situation. There is no protocol to deal with this kind of horrible experience. Parents want to protect their children forever and always, and our kids don’t want us to feel like we aren’t doing that. 

The best thing we can do is start the conversation with our children. Open the doors to communication so they feel that no matter what they can come to us. Be sensitive with them. Be calm. Let them know that if they are ever sexually assaulted they need to tell someone. 

Check back tomorrow for our post on preparing to talk to your children about sexual assault, and opening those lines of communication.

Five Reasons Teens Don’t Tell Us Anything

If you are a parent of a teen, chances are you have felt out-of-the-loop at some point or another. You feel like your teen doesn’t talk to you anymore. They don’t tell you anything. They don’t include you on what is happening at school, in relationships, or with friends. They don’t share their worries or their stresses. They lock themselves in their rooms or hide behind their phones and shut you out. 

But, why? Why is it that teens don’t talk to their parents? 

1.) They don’t want to get in trouble — This one comes up a lot in therapy. We teach them courage. We help them look at what is better: hiding the problem and making things worse, or coming clean, taking responsibility and facing things head on. 

2.) They don’t have the communication skills— They simply don’t know how to talk about a subject, they don’t know how to approach it when speaking with a parent. In therapy we teach teens communication skills. We teach them how to be effective communicators and to think things through before starting the discussion. 

3.) They want to protect us — They don’t want us to feel uncomfortable or to worry about them. They don’t want to feel like they are adding more to your plate. In therapy, we teach teens that it is up to the adult to protect the child, not the other way around. 

4.) They fear judgment — They worry what are mom/dad going to think of me. They worry about disappointing their parents. In therapy, we teach that it is ok to be authentic and we help them to navigate judgment in a healthy way. 

5.) They want to be independent— They are teenagers. Of course, they want to feel like they are on their own. They think it’s cool to not tell their parents things. They want to figure it out on their own. In therapy, we teach healthy independence and when it is ok to ask for help. 

We want our teens to feel comfortable sharing things with us. The best thing you can do as a parent to help facilitate conversation is to be calm and approachable. Don’t jump to conclusions. Take your child to do special things, like go out for coffee or go for a walk in the park or to get ice cream. Those things will give them a place where they will feel more comfortable opening up to you. You can always seek out the help of a licensed counselor to help your child learn healthy coping and communication skills. 

‘I don’t want my kid to feel uncomfortable’ is more damaging

When doing therapy with teens, I often hear from parents that they don’t want their “kid to feel uncomfortable.” They do want their teen to learn how to relax, to be less anxious, to cope with their feelings. But, they don’t want uncomfortable topics to come up. They shy away because they think they are protecting their child.

Parents often ask why I would approach uncomfortable topics in therapy. The truth is we don’t want to discourage these topics from being talked about. When we avoid these things, we are sending the message to our kids that they can’t come to us to express themselves. It makes them want to protect us, adults, since we are the ones uncomfortable talking about these things. 

Our teens need to know that they have a place to come and talk and share their experiences, their fears, their worries. They don’t need to learn the courage to talk about these subjects. They need to have the courage to tackle them. 

Uncomfortable things happen to everyone. We all think things, worry about things and are faced with things that are confusing, stressful, and awkward to share. Our teens especially are faced with these situations because they are in an awkward growth period of their lives. With a lot going on in friendships, relationships, and themselves. They need to feel safe to approach these topics so they can come up with healthy solutions to tackle them. By discouraging the discussion of things because they are “uncomfortable” we are forcing our children to go elsewhere for solutions or to keep it all trapped inside. 

How do you approach things that are “uncomfortable” with your teen?