Family

Holiday Time 2015

by Jennifer DeSarro

It’s that time of year again, the holidays!  Is that a Yippee I hear or Ugh?  What is it about this time of year that causes such strong and diverse reactions in us?

Beginning earlier and earlier nowadays, the stores begin to decorate for the holidays, TV commercials begin advertising visually and audibly, and frequently we hear, “Only 53 shopping days remain until Christmas”, or some version of that.

As a psychotherapist, sometimes this is the busiest time of the year.  I hear the usual complaints of not enough time; it’s the end of another year, parties, kids coming home from college, family vacations and trips, exams, class parties and school shows, and the TRAFFIC.  Then again, I hear the sadness, anxiety, fear and anger.

I began thinking about the range of emotions and reactions and feelings to this time of the year many years ago, long before I became a Marriage and Family Therapist.   I remember wondering why many people became so overly excited, while others became morose.   Do you fall into either of these categories?

One year, 1993, I actually made it a point to ask every person I knew, (well enough to ask), what was it for them that made the holidays special, indeed, were they special?  What were their childhood memories of this time of year like; were they warm and fuzzy, or were they painful, or were they no different than any others?

I believe that most people have unrealistic expectations for what they hope to “receive” during this time of the year.  Similar to a Norman Rockwell painting, of the loving, congenial family sitting around the festive holiday dinner table, or the thrill on Christmas morning of opening presents that were “just exactly what I hoped for”, most people have quite a different reality of their holiday experience, including, the wish from northerners that there would be snow for Christmas. 

PRE-COLLEGE SELF DEFENSE

 ”One in five women in college sexually assaulted”
Washington Post

“Brown University students say they were given date-rape drug”
Boston Globe

“Another Campus Sexual Assualt Horror Story.  Now We Need the Data.”
New York Times

Onus of changing campus rape culture lies with men
Miami Herald 

by Karen Meister

As parents, we have spent many years preparing both our sons and daughters for college.  And yet, we send them off assuming  that they will be cared for by an administration at the college campus level.  And you know what they say about those who “assume”.  

Date rape drugs, sexual assault, and men overpowering freshman girls.  As a mother of three wonderful young men, who were taught to protect women and care for them, women and parents must stop the blame game.  As I have always believed, you cannot change the behavior of others.  But you can change how you react to others’ behavior.

Along with good grades, community service participation, great SAT scores and development of independence, a caring father of two girls asked me for a program to teach his daughters how to protect themselves.  Not finding it in the market, we have created one that is a must for every girl preparing to enter college in the next few years.

We are proud to launch a summer Self-Defense Program for current high school girls.  It is a 1 -2 week overnight self defense course.  It is not inexpensive, but it is packed with amazing tools and techniques for protecting your body, your credit and your identity.  The program is being offered this first summer to girls who are currently in high school.  

The Train

by Karen Meister

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone. As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of your life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they vacated their seats. This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life. Reap success and give lots of love. More importantly, thank God for the journey. Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and thank you for being part of my life.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  

Adults Go To Camp Too

by Karen Meister

The best parent is the one that is a good role model.  Do as I do!!  Right?

Well, it’s my turn.  I’M GOING TO TENNIS CAMP!!!!

Can’t Wait!!  One of the programs with which I work is right up my alley.  And I MUST GO VISIT to make sure it is good, safe, offers everything they say, clean and more.

For anyone that knows me, even remotely, you know tennis AND camp are two of my greatest passions!  So in usual Karen style, I have to gather my pals to come play with me at camp.  And we are all so excited.

Camp is really terrific for kids and adults providing:

  • Physical Activity – Fresh air, blue skies, and away from a computer
  • Self-Definition - Trying new things, learning to achieve and getting positive reinforcement for those efforts
  • Structure and Clear Limits - A schedule of activities to attend that you can enjoy
  • Creative Self-Expression - Variety of offerings to experiment and explore without fear
  • Positive Social Interactions - Old and new friends who share common interests learning to live as a community
  • Competence and Achievement – Opportunity to enhance skills and feel good about the accomplishment
  • Meaningful Participation - Life long bonds that are made in such a short period of time

Do the right thing for yourself and your kids.  There is a program for everyone that will excite the mind and body.  If you are interested in adult camp opportunities, we can talk next week.  LOL!

Then we will talk about the kids!!  Cyber-hugs and have a great weekend!!  I know I will for sure.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  

3 Signs You Might Be Deyhydrated

by Michele Scheck

With summer weather still upon us, being conscious of our water intake is so very important.  A good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight (in lbs) in ounces of water a day.  For example a 130 pound women should consume at least 65 ounces of water a day.  This rule does not necessarily apply to our children who are running around outside in the hot sun.  Their needs will be in excess of half of their body weight in ounces.  For them, teach them to look at the color of their urine.  Dark yellow means they need more water.  If your kids are anything like mine, they will think checking the color of their urine is a little bit gross. However, when they notice the more water they drink the lighter the color becomes, they will think it is cool.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE no Gatorade or Powerade. Water is still the best sports drink on the market.  Thanks to our friends at Liveinthenow for this great article.  –MBS


With up to 75 percent of your body made up of water, it’s no wonder that when the proper balance is thrown off, you’ll feel the effects.It’s normal to lose water daily through routine bodily functions–such as sweating, urination and breathing–but certain factors accelerate the process, including warm temperatures, physical activity, fever, or gastrointestinal distress. When your water loss exceeds your intake, dehydration sets in.

Dehydration ranges from a mild problem to a life-threatening condition, and can be more dangerous for babies, small children and elderly persons.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a few telltale signs of mild to moderate dehydration.

Teenagers, Freshmen and Finances

by Jennifer DeSarro

First of all, what do you know about money, specifically yours?  As a psychotherapist, I’m amazed by how little most people know about their own finances.  Yes, most people know about sales that stores have, it’s better to pay off your credit cards monthly rather than carry a balance, etc.  But, ask people about a budget, what percentage they save, spend, or put away for long term, and their eyes glaze over, or, worse, they say, “My wife/husband takes care of all that”. 

Recently I read an article from LearnVest, June, 2012, about managing money and budgeting, which was a quick and easy read, to the point, and just perfect for today’s teenagers who are short on patience since everything they do occurs sooo FAST!  They use a 50/20/30 rule of percentages to teach people how to manage their money which basically says 50% of your take home pay is used for what are termed Essential Expenses, 20% of your take home pay is used for Long Term Savings, and the last 30% of take home pay is for Lifestyle Choices.  And, wait, not so fast; begin amassing a 6 month emergency fund using 1% of the 30% Lifestyle Choices money.

It was the last part that some of my 30 something patients and couples in counseling thought was so helpful, and I’m sharing it with you, hoping it will help your new college freshman long before they reach the ripe old age of 30!  So, exactly what constitutes an emergency?  As one of my young male patients asked, “Finding out only 2 months before my friend’s bachelor party will be in Las Vegas and how can I say No?

The Sandwich Generation – Father’s Day

by Jennifer DeSarro

Sunday was Father’s Day, and gratefully, my almost 94y/o father is remarkably improved.  I am and was thankful and grateful I could spend Father’s Day 2014, with him, because at the beginning of this year, I was sure he wouldn’t be here and he himself thought so too; he asked my older sibling to “get his affairs in order”. 

I am a member of The Sandwich Generation, as everyone who reads my blogs knows.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything about that part of my life because I was so busy with that job!  Since I am both a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), I coordinated the entire process, which was immense.  I have mentioned before I don’t know how the typical family manages all of this.   Professionally, I dramatically scaled back for approximately 4-5 months, while I tackled the enormous task of coordinating the care of my father.  Geriatric Care Managers who are usually either RN’s or LCSW’s are employed to address the issues that family members are tasked with figuring out.

Currently, as a psychotherapist, I am providing family counseling and case management for a family who is struggling to care for their elderly father and is now new members of The Sandwich Generation.  It reminded me of the gargantuan task of caring for and navigating the process of caring for your older parent, while trying to work, take care of your young children, take care of yourself, and be attentive to your marriage or relationships; the day-to-day stresses of The Sandwich Generation.  In an early session, the 38 year old married son, who has 2 children and is a Paramedic, was crying in my office because of feeling overwhelmed, frightened, and helpless.

Boomerang Kids and Learning to Manage Money

by Jennifer DeSarro

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, finances are a frequent topic in counseling sessions.  I am usually surprised at how many young adults, middle aged and older adults have very little concept of how much money they earn, how much they’ve saved, what their credit scores are, how much debt they carry, and the effects those things have on their lives and relationships. 

If you follow my South Florida Family Counseling Blog and/or LifeMeisters, you know that last week I wrote about how Millenials lack the concept of money management.  That’s partly because their parents have bailed them out of any financial mishaps they’ve created.  I know that because as a psychotherapist, I’ve heard many, many of my patients tell me that if they were ever strapped for cash, they’d go to their parents, and I’ve heard many, many parents report proudly that they have and would comply.

This dynamic is further complicated since according to a New York Times, (Opinion, 6/8/14), 56% of 18-24y/o are living at home with their parents and of those that are college graduates, “landing a good job at rising pay is even more difficult as each new group of graduates joins a backlog of unemployed and underemployed college and high school graduates, dating back to the class of 2008”.

Actually, getting a college education is an expensive investment, and parents and students are looking for a return on their investment.  In counseling sessions I hear parents proclaim that once their kid(s) graduate from college, they can begin to enjoy the fruits of their own labors, take a vacation, even downsize the family home.  And then they find they can’t because their college educated kids move back home – what the Wall Street Journal termed Boomerang Children.

Another kind of Mother’s Day

by Jennifer DeSarro

This year, as Mother’s Day rolled around, I struggled with whether to write about the “traditional, feel good” Mother’s Day stuff, or “stir the pot”.   As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve heard all the jokes about mothers and the associated effects on our lives.                                                                                                                                            

“Why are mothers so good at pushing our buttons?”  “Because they installed them”.

So, I caved; my daughter (who makes me a mother) was graduating from college and I chose to post the message I’d written to my daughter as she begins the next phase of her life.  I rarely self-disclose publicly since my job as a psychotherapist is primarily to focus on the person sitting across from me in the office.

2014 marks the centennial anniversary of the creation of Mother’s Day as an official holiday.  Anna Jarvis lobbied President Woodrow Wilson for this commemoration 100 years ago. 

With Mother’s Day safely in the past (for this year), I’ve decided to now bring up some thought and feeling provoking conversation, to stir the pot, to get down and dirty, if you will.  In my office I’ve learned that some women have marvelous relationships with their mothers while many others don’t.   Because, in all seriousness, not all of us have Hallmark inspired lives, memories or relationships with our mothers.  Some of us lost mothers too soon, motherless children, perhaps now parenting motherlessly, while others are engaged in a daily struggle with their mothers.  As Mother’s Day rolls around every year, these women battle conflicting feelings of past hurts as well as ongoing unmet needs and wants.  Many of these women have found life to be difficult if not painful because of their pasts, real or imagined, exaggerated or denied, especially as they attempt to create loving relationships with their own children or significant others.

In Honor of Mother’s Day and My Daughter’s University Graduation

by Jennifer DeSarro

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to share what I wrote to my daughter inside her graduation card.  As a Family Therapist, I don’t usually share personal information, aka, self disclosing; when individuals, couples or family members seek counseling, it is really all about them in that time in my office.  My experiences are usually irrelevant and unimportant.  However, when I became a parent, I was well on my way to becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist, and like 96% of the country, had also been raised in a dysfunctional family and so knew many of the “mistakes” I would not repeat.

My dearest Daughter –

I was one of the proud mothers sitting in that arena that Saturday morning, May 3rd, 2014, crying as I heard the beginnings of Pomp and Circumstance, watching for you to march in.  As you texted me which entrance you were walking through, I responded, “Look up”, and I watched for the Cinderella blue Hamza you’d glittered to the mortar board of your cap.  All during the ceremony, you texted me; “hi Mom”, “don’t cry momma”, “I’m starving” and a sweet picture of yourself with a wry smile; it made me feel like you were bringing me with you as you begin this journey. 

Nothing about you in the beginning was easy, as you know.  But, I was determined.  The first time I ever really laid eyes on you, I was overwhelmed by you; your face was exactly as I’d imagined it would be.  I promised myself that I was going to be the very best mother so you would become everything you wanted to be and everything you could be.

Conscious Uncoupling – Co-Parenting

by Jennifer DeSarro

As a Marriage and Family Counselor, I often help separating or divorced couples Co-Parent, which ties into Conscious Uncoupling. I also offer couples who are unsuccessful in marriage or couples therapy help to Uncouple in order to avoid as much collateral damage to their child(ren) as possible.   When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their intention to “Consciously Uncouple”, Goop, March, 2014, as a Family Therapist, I was curious about how the public would respond. In a Wall Street Journal article of April 4, 2014, Ben Zimmer wrote about the origin of the term conscious uncoupling as having begun in 1976 -

 ”when sociologist Diane Vaughn formulated “Uncoupling Theory”.   A decade later she published, “Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships”.   Her inspiration came from a divorced mechanic who used “uncoupling” to explain how “when a relationship ends, it’s like when a locomotive uncouples from a car…One can let go, the other can let go, or they can let go at the same time”.

So, how do couples Consciously Uncouple?  How do couples Co-Parent?  And what’s the big deal about it anyway? 

The research in Family Therapy is definite; in short, it’s a very, very big deal for your child(ren), and can have long lasting negative consequences.  And as parents, we all want our children to be OK, not just now, in the future too, right?  So, here are a couple of suggestions for you to try to lessen the pain your child(ren) may be suffering.

  1. Try to think about the way you will relate to Co-Parenting as a Business Relationship, with the product or service of your business being your children.

Prom Season 2014: How the Rules have Changed

by Jennifer DeSarro

It’s prom season!!!!  I can hear parents moaning and groaning as they’re reading this.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I was invited to speak to a group of parents (mostly mothers) at a local high school about what to do to keep our kids safe after prom, when we fully realize that many of our kids are already drinking and probably using or have used drugs?  They were referring to the dreaded: After Party, the party or parties after prom is over because they just don’t want it to ever end. 

The After Party happens like this: several kids split the costs of reserving a room or block of rooms at specific hotels where they’ve learned from previous participants that management is lenient.  These hotels have large rooms or suites with kitchens or kitchenettes, and students wander from room to room socializing, drinking, dancing, etc.  Usually, someone was responsible for snacks, although not a lot of food, someone else thought to download music, and the partying continues until morning when the kids either wake up and go to breakfast or stagger out of the hotel and come home to “sleep it off”.

And what wasn’t asked, but should also be a part of the question is sexual activity. In both family and private counseling sessions, I’ve heard many high school boys and girls declare that they plan to lose their virginity on prom night because they don’t want to go away to college as virgins, and, besides, it’s “prom”.

It used to be the culmination of the senior year, a first of its kind formal or semi-formal event for 17 & 18 year old adolescents, a time to “practice” social skills, adult manners, formal attire, etc.

How’s it going w your TWEEN?

by Jennifer DeSarro

Recently I was invited to speak at a local middle school PTA meeting about the top 3 things your middle school child wished yo,u as their parents, knew but would never tell.  We talked about that, and then along the way, the main topic was how your children are supposed to be developing at this critical stage in their life.  I’m not using the term critical to suggest it’s any more critical a time period than any of the other time periods; simply, they’re all critical.

According to one of the renowned Developmental Psychologists, Erik Erickson, children pass through a variety of Developmental Stages which he called Psychosocial Stages.   As a Family Therapist, we loosely apply this framework in counseling mothers, fathers and children in order to help them accomplish their goals.  Parents cannot be expected to know this information, unless they’re also psychotherapists, and since I just spoke about this the other evening and summer is just around the corner, I decided it would effectively address both important subjects, all at once.

Simply, Erikson said from the age 6-11y/o, children need to work through and successfully integrate the developmental task of Industry vs Inferiority.  This time period is characterized by the onset of school, spending more time out of the home and away from parents and learning to adjust to less close supervision, self-regulate, and learn academic skills.  Their worlds become enormous almost overnight!  For these particular middle school parents, the vast majority of their children have made that transition and either have accomplished this task or are on their way toward it.

Coming on the heels of this developmental stage, is the one defined by the ages of 12-18y/o, and entitled Identity vs Role Confusion, in which adolescents begin to create themselves, as they’d like to be.

How do YOU deal with CHANGE?

by Jennifer Desarro

As a psychotherapist, I’m often sought out for counseling from people who are confronted by a situation in life that was unexpected and they’re having problems coping with it or adapting to the change.   Whether it’s a career change, lifestyle change, an addition or a loss to the family structure, there are those people who have a hard time coping with the changes.  In public, we hear people refer to these people or that behavior as “Anal” or “Controlling”.  When I hear that, I often wonder what they really think that means.

We all know that the one constant we can count on in life is that EVERYTHING CHANGES.  Time passes and we age; our children are born and they mature; over time, the paint on our houses fades from our strong sun and the environmental elements and we need to repaint; we plant a small potted tree in our front yard and it needs to be pruned and shaped as it provides shade where there used to be none; NOTHING STAYS THE SAME.  Yet, as people, we have a very difficult time accepting that fact.  I’ve found in counseling that the people who struggle against it the hardest are those who resist change.

The other day on Facebook, someone mentioned that they’d come across a message they indicated was used by US Navy Seals to cope with their rigorous training:

“Change happens when you least expect it and it lasts indefinitely.  Preparation won’t suffice but adaptability will.  A personal willingness to accept change and to adapt to it is what allows you to flourish in the unknown.  Preparation is just the byproduct of a willingness to try”.

“Sticks & stones may break my bones…”

by Jennifer Desarro

As a psychotherapist, I am keenly aware, perhaps “sensitive” to Mental Health issues.  I am referring to the continuing saga of Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, other professional football players, the Miami Dolphins and now the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell.   This is a complex, multilayered situation, and, from a professional therapist’s perspective deserves attention.

The game of football is almost inherently, intrinsically, a game of aggression for a large percentage of the players.  Yes, there are a few players, especially those who seem to receive the glory, the attention (and perhaps the largest salaries?) whose approach is more strategic, mental, intellectual, and about coordination, timing, agility; however, all those men on the offensive and defensive lines, are physically LARGE men, because, it is about aggression.  This is exemplified by all the tattoos, meant to intimidate; the more aggressive they are, the more successful they are and the greater financial remuneration.  And that aggression is physical, verbal, mental and emotional.  In psychotherapy we call that the Mind-Body Connection and it can be extrapolated out to competitive sports in general and the NFL’s recent mandate specifically.

Lest you think I am anti-sports, let me say, I am a sports fan, I grew up playing sports with and against boys, learning to compete as I could in tennis and ping pong.  But, I always knew that they were bigger and stronger than I because of our gender differences.  I also knew that if there was an audience while we were playing and that boy got teased or goaded, he would usually become very aggressive playing against me, sometimes making mistakes, and almost always changing the complexion of the game.

Boundaries vs Entitlements: Where do “I” end and “You” begin?

by Jennifer Desarro

In Family Therapy, one of the most often heard cries of parents of teenagers is, “My teenager is driving me crazy,” or “I don’t know what to do with them,” or “How come there’s no manual for how to deal with your teenager?”  By now, I’m sure everyone has heard or read about the 18y/o New Jersey teenager, Rachel Canning, who sued her parents for what she determined to be her “entitlements”.  Her parents, on the other hand, fought back saying they expected her to abide by their rules in their home.  Rachel moved out to live with a friend whose parent has bankrolled her legal counsel in order for her to sue her parents for child support as well as future college tuition and expenses.

As a Family Therapist, I am well acquainted with this scenario, of how and where to draw the line with teenagers.  In fact, when families of teenagers seek counseling this is one of the main issues; Boundaries.  And in the Developmental Process, this is an expected part of Adolescence, which Erik Erikson termed Identity vs Confusion.  It’s when a teenager begins to form their own personal identity and this involves experimentation with different clothing styles, music styles, friends and acquaintances, and social behaviors.  Sometimes, these “experiments” can be frightening and worrisome to parents (and their teenagers too!); many of them are necessary in order for teenagers to “Individuate”, to become adult human beings.  Many a parent in my office has “held their breath” while allowing their teenage son or daughter their own growth experience.  If parents clamp down and prevent any divergence from what they consider “acceptable”, teenagers will either wildly rebel or submissively comply which then prevents or interferes with their own identification developmental process.

Parenting Teenagers…

by Jennifer Desarro

A single father of a 13y/o boy just called my psychotherapy office last week asking me for HELP!  This man originally sought marital counseling with his ex-wife (the mother of this 13y/o boy) many years ago, before and during the time his wife was pregnant.

The judge awarded the father primary and residential custody of their little boy who was probably 3 or 4 years old at the time of their separation and divorce.   “David” (a made up name) has an older half-brother (mother has an older child from a previous marriage) who has been in residential treatment for behavioral issues, and while incredibly bright and intelligent, has a history of poor academic performance as well as in school and legal difficulties.

The father reports that his son is performing at a mediocre level in school with the majority of his grades being C’s, and he is capable of doing much better and scoring 5’s on his FCAT testing.  He says,

“It’s the attitude; I don’t know where he gets that attitude, not from me, and not from around here.  He says mean and hurtful things to my fiancée who has been incredibly good to him.  I tried to tell him in a reasonable fashion that I really love this woman and want to marry her; his response was so hurtful to me that I grounded him because I believe he deliberately tried to hurt me.   I took his cell phone away as well as his computer when he got home from school so he wasn’t able to “socialize” with his friends after school and since he had no access to his computer he had to do all his homework at the dining room table the “old fashioned way”.

Caring for Our Aging Parents Continued

by Jennifer Desarro

More about my Dad.  So it appears that in all this time, he so didn’t want to be a burden to his children, that he was willing to withstand just about anything, including being exploited, abused, disrespected, neglected, etc.  I begged, pleaded, yelled, screamed, cried and cursed, to no avail.  He wouldn’t speak to the disrespect she showed to him even when I confronted him with it.  I was incredulous watching what he was willing to tolerate, knowing this man my entire life and never once seeing him maltreated in this way.  People questioned whether he’d lost or was losing his cognitive abilities.  He wasn’t for certain.

That word, burden, has anyone heard their parent(s) use that term?  Is there anyone out there that fears they may become a burden to their own kids?  What does burden mean?

Remember the song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, sung by The Hollies?  I tried to speak to my Dad about the meaning of the song but he mostly shook his head.

The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines burdenas:

something that is carried as in a load, or a duty or responsibility, or something oppressive or worrisome, or    to make someone hold or carry something heavy, or  accept or deal with something difficult, or  to load or oppress someone

As most people know, my father is 93y/o, a first generation American.  My grandparents came from the “old country”, Russia.  We kept my father current and up-to-date in the new generation for quite some time and because he was born with good genes, he always looked 10-15 years younger than he was.  He knew the latest lingo, was aware of and interested in what our generation was doing.

Love Your Children – Self Esteem Boost

by Jennifer DeSarro

As an RN and Marriage and Family Therapist, I deal with the issue of Self-Esteem and lack thereof regularly.  It permeates and affects every single aspect of our lives, from whom we choose as a spouse/partner, what type of job we hold, our socioeconomic status in life, our family lives – the list is truly endless.  Since the 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us, I’ve been casually listening to some of the interviews of the athletes and the commentaries by the pundits which made me start to think about Self-Esteem and what it took for these athletes, now Olympians, to reach this level of success.

The one thing I saw in the faces of the US athletes was the look of sheer joy during the opening ceremonies.  The sacrifices they’ve made, the lack of childhoods many of them experienced, how many birthday parties, sleep overs, Little League baseball games, high school dances, did they miss?  How many skinned knees, sore leg muscles, cold and wind burned cheeks did they suffer?  What was their high school life like anyway?  Did they win any superlatives or were they privately tutored, their educational process taking second place to their quest to be an Olympian?  Did they get to participate in a graduation ceremony and experience the realization of ending one chapter in their lives and moving onto another along with friends and acquaintances some of whom they’d known for years?

As an LCSW specializing in Family Counseling, I’m often sought out by parents because their child(ren) they fear are suffering from “low self-esteem” and the parents want to know “what can be done about it” or what they, the parent(s) can do about it.

Commitment

by Jennifer DeSarro

In my practice, I often come across patients who want “to be fixed”.  They’ll even say, “C’mon doc, don’t you have a magic wand you can wave”?  And, just for those people, I have a beautiful, sparkly wand that I take out and wave for them.  And those same people are the ones who cancel appointments frequently, show up late for their appointments, or have excuses for why they didn’t complete “homework” assignments (which I offer as a means to shortening the length of time they spend in counseling).

The way change occurs, which is another way of describing therapy or counseling, is across a continuum.  Typically, when someone seeks counseling, they’re looking for help in dealing with some part of their life that’s uncomfortable and their usual methods of dealing with discomfort haven’t helped.  Mostly we people are creatures of habit and we don’t change unless it’s too uncomfortable not to, and even then, it’s difficult to change. 

And that is the essence of this discussion.

Change is difficult, it’s a process, and it happens over a period of time and space, not all at once.  And in order to make the change happen, it takes commitment.  Commitment to the process, to the time needed, to the energy required, and the work that’s involved, even when it’s boring, difficult, inconvenient, unpleasant, or painful. 

I’ve found that people, in general, expect the change to happen much more quickly and easily, almost instantaneously, or at least in short order.   When it doesn’t, they become disenchanted, disappointed, disgusted, frustrated, and revert back to the old behavior, which, of course, is the easier thing to do!

Caring for my aging Father

by Jennifer DeSarro

I have been taking care of my 93y/o father for the last few months.  Let me clarify; I’ve been watching my father deteriorate since he passed out in October of last year, and began a progressive downward spiral of one physical complication after another.  In 60 days, he was hospitalized three times.  He had a live-in care giver; a CNA from a hospital who we met several years ago, and who eventually left the employment of the hospital and came to live with him to take care of him.

As a Registered Nurse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I know how to provide for this.  That’s what I was trained and educated to do.  However, when it happens to your own, your father, it takes on a different flavor.  And, I wonder how the regular “Joe” out there does this.

My father fancied her as his “girlfriend” somehow, albeit that she made it abundantly clear that she was not interested in him in that way.  I think he somehow thought if he could hang onto her, he wasn’t getting older.  Then we began to realize she was drinking liquor from his cabinet.  There were a series of events which occurred, leading to her threatening to leave him if I was to be involved in his caregiving, or if I came to visit him while she was there.  She demanded more money, and began isolating him, speaking rudely or not answering him at all. 

I begged him to let me find a replacement for her but he adamantly and forcefully refused.

Finally, when he was hospitalized for pneumonia during the week between Christmas and New Years and she never even came to visit him in the hospital, let alone provide for his care while he was hospitalized, I think he’d had enough.

Raising Boys or Girls

by Jennifer DeSarro

Recently I debated with a friend of mine which is easier to raise, a girl child or a boy.  She’s a single mom & has been so since her son was very young, less than 5y/o.  I am a single mom & have been raising my daughter, pretty much on my own, since she was 10y/o.  Even when her father was around, he wasn’t and isn’t very interested in parenting.  My friend had a long, protracted and precedent setting divorce in order to be awarded sole custody of her son because she was so disturbed by her son’s father’s irresponsibility and tendencies toward violence.

Our children are a few years different in age; my daughter is almost 22y/o (next month) & will be graduating from an out-of-town university in May, right on time.  My friend’s son is turning 19y/o today & will be a new freshman at a local university.

When my daughter was preparing to go off to college, I spent only one day being worried, scared and sad and crying.  Other than that, I couldn’t wait for her to leave.  I’m not exaggerating or being facetious, she was ready to go, I was ready for her to go, and I wanted to have some time for “me”; it had been a long, long time since I’d been first.  I equated her leaving for college to me redesigning my new life and I shared that with her.  I told her that I believed a large part of going to college was laying the groundwork for her future as an adult and contributing member of society, socially, financially, professionally, emotionally.  I explained that this time was critical to her becoming the kind of woman she wanted to be as opposed to the kind other people wanted her to be; including figuring out what she was going to do for the rest of her life in terms of supporting herself.  

SEX for Adults – No Kids Allowed

by Jennifer DeSarro

In a previous post, I discussed how some of the couples I see in psychotherapy complain they’re tired and the effect that’s having on their sex lives.  Briefly, I listed some of the other complaints these individuals and couples reported and described SEX as the ADULT PLAYGROUND.   So, whether you’re still married to the father of your children or this is a subsequent relationship, this article is for you.

Let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that when you and your partner were first “courting” (dating), there was plenty of chemistry, sexual energy and interest.  Maybe you both were working and could meet frequently for lunch to keep the engines “purring”, you both went to the gym after work, and whether you lived together or not, there was adequate time during the week and on weekends to maintain the spice in your lives.  In essence, your lives and your time were your own; there were no responsibilities to anyone except yourselves.  You were young and in love and it was easy.

Now, what if, like the majority of couples, you have kids?  First one, then two, and maybe more.  It doesn’t matter how many; as soon as there’s one, everything changes, as any parent with at least one child will attest to; children change you.  And, in the first few years, if you’re like most parents who want to do the very best for their child(ren), your world centers around them, which is appropriate.  They’re helpless little beings, totally dependent upon you and your partner for their every need.  And, let’s face it, when their little faces light up at the sight of you, there’s nothing like it.

Thanks for Becoming a Mom

Dear God,

I always knew I wanted to be a mother.  Thank you for giving me the gift and experience of becoming one.  It has changed me in ways I never knew existed and continues to teach me invaluable life lessons.

It was hard for me to conceive.  Amazing to have spent my entire adult life worried about an unwanted pregnancy so religiously using birth control, only to have difficulty conceiving when I wanted to be pregnant.  It was painfully frustrating to see teenage girls pregnant; how come it was so easy for them but hard for me?  I’d waited patiently, I was old enough, I had all the resources with which to bring another human being into this world!  Why God, Why??!!

And then it happened.  It was real.  I was pregnant and carrying another human being inside of me.  OMG!!  I remember how I felt as though a miracle was happening right inside of me, like I was a walking miracle.  How special and important I was, that “Nature” had chosen me to grow a child.

I was very careful with where I ate and what I ate, preferring to prepare my own food so I knew what was in it.  I became a much more cautious driver, not that I was crazy before, but I took no risks.  And it wasn’t that I consciously did that; it was happening outside of my awareness.  When I worked out, I wouldn’t run on the treadmill or through the neighborhoods with my girlfriends, only power walking or bike riding.  While my one piece bathing suit still fit me, I swam (because I couldn’t see purchasing another pregnancy bathing suit) because unlike today, I was much more modest in displaying my “pregnancy bump”.

150 Years of Gettysburg

by Jennifer DeSarro

November 19th, 2013 will be the 150th year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  I discovered that the other day when I was researching Veteran’s Day for my South Florida Family Counseling website and Blog.

Earlier this week I blogged about what Judge Judy said about our country, that in her opinion we are infantilized and have accepted Mediocrity as The Norm.  As a Family Therapist, I deal frequently with family types of issues; kids, parenting, adults, siblings, failures, successes, divorce, single parenting, co-parenting, etc.

Recently on the news the public school board in Sioux City, South Dakota agreed that high school students shall not recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.  The Pledge of Allegiance takes 15 seconds to recite but someone timed it and actually now it only takes 10 seconds, but the high school said they cannot find 10 seconds every day for the students to recite it and therefore it will be removed from the school’s daily announcements.

For the last several weeks, we have heard non-stop about The Affordable Care Act, aka:  Obamacare; I myself received a letter at the beginning of October informing me that my health insurance plan would be cancelled at the end of this year.  The political fallout surrounding this was enormous, until finally last week, our President and Commander in Chief had to stand in front of the country, in fact the world, and admit that he didn’t know what was occurring to his signature piece of legislation. 

Is this man, the President of the United States of America, so inept, has he been so insulated and surrounded by “yes people”, who do not tell him the truth, or, as some have suggested, has he been misleading and lacking forthrightness?