Single in High School | Family Addiction | What is Stuttering? | & Great Family Activities ❤️

Being the only single one in your high school friend group, helping family members with addiction issues, exploring what stuttering really is, and activities that can bring the family closer.


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“Don’t be afraid to look at a situation head on. Sometimes we make a decision based on the good of the people for whom we are responsible and sometimes we can make decisions based solely upon our personal happiness.”

SPRING 2019


Q:

"Is procrastination a psychological disorder? My wife piles up boxes and things to be done and once they go in the office floor it is all over. Same thing in the laundry room. She is always putting off things today that she says can be done tomorrow but that never comes. Is there anything you can do to help them get things done?"


Signed frustrated husband.


A:

Procrastination s a mental habit with many different causes. It can be avoidance as in not wanting to do something because it’s it’s onerous or boring or just plain hard. Or perhaps something a bit more complex like a late form of Oppositional Defiant Disorder where she would react negatively to being told what to do. “If I do the laundry, you win!” I’ve also read about excitement addicts who love the rush of writing a term paper the night before it’s due. And finally, perfectionists will often procrastinate, as they are afraid that they will not be able to measure up.


If your wife were writing me, this would be an easier task. Your real question should be, “How do I get my wife to want to not procrastinate?" Without her willingness and desire I’m afraid the task of changing her behavior is nearly impossible. Have you had a real discussion with her, not an argument, but a heart to heart? Ask her if it would be helpful if you did some of these tasks with her instead of her doing them by herself. I had a friend who used to say. “It takes 2 to overcome inertia.” Not procrastinating is a life skill that your wife has never developed or learned or chosen to ignore. But apart from helping her in a non-judgmental fashion, hoping that will break through the inertia, there is little you can do to force a solution to the problem. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another avenue to explore. As a therapy, it is well suited to just this situation. It focuses on behavior in the here and now and very much elicits the client’s involvement.



Q:

"I think there must be something seriously wrong with me. I started high school this year and both my closest friends have found boyfriends. I don’t know what it is but no one seems to be interested in me. I must have a sign on me that says “Don’t bother!” What’s up with that?"


Signed sad.


A:

I know that “finding a boyfriend” in high school is very important because it feels like this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of your life. Well, that’s not true and you know it’s not because you’re a smart person. The answer is, don’t look for a boyfriend, look for friends who are boys. Do that and it will sharpen your vision and allow you to see beyond appearance and superficiality. Do you like science? Then hang out with the science crowd, girls as well as boys. Or, do you like sports? Same thing holds true. Figure out who you are and what you like first, and then pursue that and the rest will follow. And that will hold true for the rest of your life. The purpose of life, I think, is to be a little better every day. A little smarter, a little more conscious, these are goals worth pursuing. Ask yourself about those interests you have that you need to develop. Do you want to learn to dance, or sing or write poetry? Take classes, learn to play the guitar, ask yourself, “What did I learn today?” And keep a journal, which is a nice way to keep tabs on yourself. Things like how you’re feeling and what you noticed today. Yes, that’s right, hone your powers of observation and description. Learn new words, try new tastes and read lots of books. Soon a boy will appear who is attracted to your multifaceted personality and your charm and wit and intellect.



Q:

"My mother is driving me crazy. I am a good driver, few mishaps or tickets for that matter. Every time my mother is in the car with me she gets panicky and starts to fuss. I swear she is going to cause an accident with all of her fits of fear. She even puts her foot down like she is braking in the passenger seat. God knows her driving is a menace to society but I want a more peaceful driving experience with her. Is there anything I can do?"

Signed crazed daughter.


A:

Have you carefully asked your mother why she is so hyper-vigilant when you are driving the car and she is in the passenger’s seat? Don’t make assumptions, ask questions. This is an important life rule. Perhaps the next time you’re having a coffee together, you could ask her if anything happened in her past that is causing this behavior. Or, maybe she doesn’t trust you to know what you’re doing. Please don’t take that personally as this is your mother’s unwillingness to acknowledge that you have grown up and are no longer a child who is unable to drive. This is about her and not about you. Even if you never figure out why she acts the way she does, you’ll be able to have some compassion for her instead of annoyance. It will change the framework of the situation.

If she tells you that “she can’t help it”, offer some diversions such as a magazine or newspaper or something on your iPad that will amuse her, like a cooking show or the news. You will need her cooperation to accomplish this but you will have made a positive suggestion. There’s little we can do to change or control another’s behavior but we can control our reaction to it. The day will come when you can honestly offer her sympathy and comfort for her inappropriate and hurtful actions. You will have taken control of the situation and no longer be victimized.


SUMMER 2019


Q:

"We have an aunt who is really cheap! She is always complaining about what things cost and always tries to get a better price and leaves just the minimal tips. She has lots of money but seems to have a complex about it. It is embarrassing to the rest of the family sometimes. Can we do anything about this to help her lighten up?"


Signed frustrated family member.


A:

Money is a dirty little secret in our culture. Good manners dictate that we not discuss money or how much something cost or our salaries or how much we owe or have in savings. And here your aunt makes it the focal point of her existence and conversation. Frugality can be a life choice. It need not be viewed as neurotic behavior although it may be annoying to others. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the spendthrift who spends money too easily and beyond their means. They also make us uncomfortable because of their recklessness.


There may be many reasons why your aunt is frugal. It could come from fear of poverty as happened in 1929 and 2008 when markets crashed. Perhaps she feels the money isn’t hers and that she doesn’t deserve it or that she’s charged with guarding the money for the next generation. This also gives her life a purpose or a reason around which to operate.


There’s a difference between cheapness and frugality. Cheapness is driven by the bottom line, buying shoddy goods because it costs the least. Frugality is based on value such as a great car from last year’s line, which is hugely on sale. It may be pointless to speculate on your aunt’s righteous frugality but how does it affect you? You mentioned that it embarrassed you. We believe our relationship to money should be easier and more gracious, perhaps even generous. It should not cause discomfort in others, as your aunt’s behavior seems to do. Perhaps if you thought about it differently, your aunt’s behavior would be more understandable and less annoying.



Q:

"My 3-year-old son is eating paper. I have to pull it out of his hand and make him stop. I don’t know what to think of this. Is there something wrong with him?"


Signed Mom.


A:

Eating paper or other inedible items such as dirt or wood or library paste is called Pica. Most children will put things in their mouths out of curiosity but soon realize that it doesn’t taste good. When the behavior persists, it could be attention-getting or a reflection of a nutritional need. Your doctor will probably address that possibility with some basic blood tests. A good response to this behavior is to distract your child with something else like a carrot stick or a food that is both appropriate and appealing. Crackers might do the trick. Paying too much negative attention could reinforce the behavior. If the behavior persists, be sure to mention it to your pediatrician as they may wish to do further testing, as it could be something more serious.



Q:

"I read something the other day that “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection.” How can we best help our family members with addiction issues?"

Signed concerned family member.


A:

This conversation was started by a Ted Talk entitled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong,” by Johann Hari. He said that the opposite of addiction is connection. Alcoholics Anonymous says that the final stage of addiction is isolation. Whether addiction is caused by the lack of connection or simply results in isolation, this discussion gives us a new way to respond to the addicts in our lives. Instead of punishing them by withholding our love and affection, we need to include them in our lives and love them in spite of their problems. We criminalize their behavior and treat them like pariahs. We despise and reject them. This reinforces their feelings of isolation and lack of connection. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna about this, seeming to reduce a complex and difficult problem to a simple lack of love. An addict’s behavior is a deterrent to our wish to connect. But our attempt to connect rather than to punish is a new way to interact with the addicts in our midst. One source of connection that’s been around since 1935 is Alcoholics Anonymous. Meetings are always available and support is just a phone call away. AA is based on the concept of connection and its importance in reestablishing one’s place in the world.


FALL 2019



Q:

"My husband is leaving me. I am concerned about the children and don’t want them to have abandonment issues. They are girls ages 10 and 12 and I know this is going to be very hard on them. Their father is planning on moving out of state. Is there anything I can do to help them cope with an absent father?"


Signed future divorcee.


A:

I’m sorry your family is going through a divorce. This is difficult under the best of circumstances. In addition to helping your children navigate the changes a divorce causes, you have the added problem of a long distance relationship with their father. Let’s talk about the divorce first.

It’s important that you treat your spouse in a respectful way in front of the children. Do not be angry or accusatory toward him. Simply state your wishes calmly. Speak with him about the necessity of providing a safe and secure environment for the children devoid of any acrimony. Explain to the children that the relationship between the two of you has not been good for a while. (They probably already know that.) That you’ve tried to make it better but you’ve decided that it’s not possible. Be sure they know that you both love them very much and that the divorce is not their fault.


Your children need to be protected from conversations and comments about legal proceedings and financial arrangements. Say only nice or neutral things about your spouse or say nothing at all. I recently saw a previous patient that I’d helped through a divorce a long time ago. He thanked me for insisting that he not tell his children about their mother’s failings. He said that his children who are now adults have thanked him for his restraint.


Don’t use your children as informants or weapons in the divorce battle. They shouldn’t have to choose sides. Listen to them. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and fears. You have the added task of helping them maintain a long distance relationship with their father. In order for them to deal with possible feelings of abandonment, it’s important to maintain connection. We are lucky that they are children in a digital age and will be able to Skype or phone every day. Encourage them to talk about everyday things like what happened at school or baseball practice or buying a new dress. He needs to pay attention to them daily as he would if he was still living with you. By talking to your children, you may be able to correct misunderstandings and allay fears while they are still manageable. My friend’s daughter was going to spend the summer with her Dad and was worried that her Mom was going to sell her bed! This was obviously a symbol of her fear that her Mom was going to stop loving her.


We have ways to maintain daily contact, even from a distance. As adults, we may have to lead the conversation with appropriate questions and not rely on the child to converse. Ask them about their feelings and fears and worries. There are adjustments that will have to be made as time goes on. The ability to adapt will determine the success of this new stage in life.



Q:

"Is stuttering a psychological disorder? My cousin had it as a child and she got over it and doesn’t stutter at all as an adult."


Signed curious.


A:

The causes of stuttering are murky at best. We know that stuttering will always cause anxiety and anxiety can aggravate stuttering. Small children will often stutter because their thoughts are going faster than their command of language can accommodate. There may also be a preexisting physical problem in the brain that caused the initial stuttering, which was then complicated by anxiety and social phobia. In our society we identify and single out people who don’t fit the social norm. We tease them, we laugh at and deride them, which in the case of someone who stutters, only serves to increase the anxiety with predictable results. Stutterers do not stutter while singing, which seems to indicate that different parts of the brain control each function. One of the treatments involves making speech more like singing, to use a different part of the brain.


In tradition, Moses was apparently a stutterer. The anxiety caused by being abandoned by his mother and being raised among strangers, set the stage for his affliction. Stuttering also runs in families which points to a genetic component in the brain. Speech therapy is helpful especially when the child is young. Providing a calm environment and not interrupting or finishing sentences for him is essential. Allowing them to slow down and not rush their speech can also help. Patience is imperative.



Q:

"We lost our father a few years ago. I am finding that my mother who lives alone is hoarding food. I would say the 90% of it goes bad and she continues to pack her refrigerator with massive amounts of food. I am trying to figure out a way to help her with this."

Signed concerned daughter.


A:

Food hoarding is common among the elderly. They are accustomed to buying larger and therefore cheaper quantities of food for their families and they are loathe to throwing food away unnecessarily. I imagine that having plenty of food on hand makes them feel secure in case of emergency such as not having a ride to the grocery store for a few days. There are many underlying reasons for this behavior. When they have a meal at a restaurant, because of diminished appetite they may take half of it home. They’re already appalled at the cost of the meal, so they ask for a doggie bag and the remains are put in their refrigerators and then often forgotten. Then food poisoning occurs and they end up in the ER.


WINTER 2019


Q:

"My 45-year-old daughter is having some issues with her kids. She has also had some issues with her own life and has all of a sudden gotten in to lots of self-help books. She has probably ordered six in the last month. Do self-help books really help? Is this a good thing?"


Signed concerned father.


A:

Buying six self-help books in a month seems to signal some difficulties in your daughter’s life. The books are probably not going to cause any harm, except that they may be keeping her from getting the help she needs. The books allow her to feel like she’s doing something and so she feels better for awhile. But unless she actually changes her behavior and puts a process in motion, she will quickly slip back into her old way of being. It’s a temporary fix, at best. Then she buys another book. You could suggest that she look at the panel of behavioral health providers her insurance company offers to see if there’s someone she would like to consult. She need not make an immediate commitment, in fact she should wait and see how she feels about the therapist, but real change can be made in therapy. A good therapist is not going to tell her what to do, but will help her decide on a course of action. Your daughter needs to hear herself think, which happens in the therapeutic setting.



Q:

"What makes serotonin levels drop? Is it genetic? My best friend says she has to take anti-depressants because she has such low serotonin production."

Signed good friend.


A:

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain along with dopamine and norepinephrine. They are responsible for the smooth operation of the synapses and for mood as well. Exercise, good nutrition, sunshine and plenty of sleep seem to keep the majority of people’s serotonin at a good functioning level. The role of genetics in serotonin deficiency is less well-established as we don’t understand the connection with depression completely. But hormones, poor diet and lack of sunshine contribute to serotonin deficiency, and yes, genetic factors as well. Depression can “run in families.” Your friend is probably taking an SSRI, a select serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This is a class of antidepressant that slows down the brain’s reuptake or destruction of serotonin, so there’s more available at any one time. Although it has been shown that if a person walks an hour a day, it fights depression as well as medication. But it’s hard to convince a depressed person to walk or exercise.



Q:

"We would like our family to be closer. Are there any activities that are good for families to do that can help us work better together and communicate more?"

Signed concerned parents


A:

When I was a child, my church had a saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” I would like to add to that with, “The family that plays together, stays together.” I believe that shared interests from fishing to cooking to playing card games like bridge, eating together or any of a myriad of activities gives the family a chance to talk and share themselves with each other. I forgot the making and enjoyment of music is a lovely shared experience. Ask open- ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no and then really listen to the answer. This level of communication and conversation is facilitated by playful activities like going on a hike in the mountains. My sister-in-law talks about “making memories.” To this day, she arranges an annual vacation for the entire family, a dozen people, to cook and play together.




-Romona Scholder, M.A., RNCS, Psychotherapist

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