Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day

By David Joel Miller.

To all the mothers out there who have given their unconditional love regardless of what your children look like or do here is wishing you a happy mother’s day.

If you didn’t have a mother like that, then work on giving yourself that love on this day devoted to the way a caring mother can make us all happy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Advertisements

Should your daughter’s therapist be talking to you?

By David Joel Miller.

When should your child’s therapist include you in the conversation?

Sometimes the therapist should be talking to the parent and sometimes not.  Which is which and what factors are in play?

The child’s age.

Successful children

Children.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If your child is 4 then yes, most of the time the therapist should actively engage you in the conversation and in participating in the process of therapy. You need to be a part of what is going on. You are with the child 24 /7 and you will need to do things to maintain any progress that is made in therapy. Mostly, if the child is young, the parent needs to be involved. Most of the work will focus on helping the parent to manage this child’s symptoms in the home environment.

When your child is older will the therapist talk to you?

What if your child is 44? Sorry folks, I know that you parents think of this person as your child, you care about them and want to help them. But once they pass 18 they get privacy and confidentiality. Unless they are severely disabled and you are their only caregiver it is unlikely you will be included in the conversation at all. Even then most of the conversation will stay confidential between the client and therapist. Your child will need to tell you what you want to know or you will not get the information.

Between four and 18 years of age the “including parents” part gets iffier. The older the child the less that parent will be included in the therapy.

The more the parent pushes to know every detail of what the child is saying in therapy the more this intrusion can interfere with making progress. As the parent pushes more to control the therapy we therapists also get progressively more suspicious.

I love it when the parent cares about their child and wants them to get well. But the parent who insists on being present at every session and wants to know everything that the child says and the therapist does – what is up with that?

Is the parent the solution to the child’s problem or the cause?

Most therapists have stories of parents who seemed over interested in what their child said in therapy. One reason this happens is that the parent is the cause of the problem.

Parents who are abusing their children are afraid the child might talk about that abuse. Some parents have their own secrets they want to hide, drug use, alcoholism, criminal activity, all manner of things.

Even if the parent is not the proximate cause of the problem, the family’s situation may be what is making this child depressed. Most parents want the conversation focused on the child and they do not want any discussion of the domestic violence or other problem behaviors that take place at home. Some parents do not want the therapist finding out that one parent has been missing for a few years in prison or that there have been a whole string of step parents.

When parents are present, or when the child thinks the parent will hear what they say, they don’t talk about the embarrassing things.

Most kids do not talk about the pressures to have sex or the urges when parents are present. They know what their parents have told them about drugs, alcohol, and sex. They also know what the parents are doing in these areas and that what parents say and do are often at odds. So lots of embarrassing things get left out of conversations when the parent is present in the therapy room.

The fear that the parent will disapprove or the risk of embarrassment should the parent know what is going on might keep the child from talking about things that really need to be discussed.

Even that fear of failing algebra may not get talked about with mom in the room. The kid knows mom will just rag on them to study more rather than hear that this fear of failing algebra is giving them test anxiety and making it harder to finish the test.

Therapists help families through role changes.

During those late teen years, the parent’s role moves from protecting the child to teaching them how to make choices and learn from their mistakes. Parents, if your teen’s problems are severe enough to need the services of a professional then you probably will not be involved in the discussion until the teen has worked the problem out.

One thing a therapist should do is help the teen work up the courage to tell their parents what is wrong. Sometimes we even facilitate the teen telling the parents embarrassing things.

Many a child is surprised to find that when they do work up their courage and tell the parent this secret, the parent is more understanding and supportive than the teen expected.

Lots of problems could be worked out if a family could just talk about the issues in a supportive; “we are all in this together” atmosphere. But for family’s who can’t do this or have lost the ability to talk with each other, there are professionals that can help.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

6 Ways to be a bad father

By David Joel Miller.

Being a bad father may be easier than being a good one.

Bad Father

Bad Father

Tomorrow is Father’s day.  In this run up to that occasion I thought we should take a look at the topic of good fathering and bad fathering. How to be a good father, that is a tough thing to define and even tougher to do. But being a bad father, there seem to be some easy, common, ways to do that.

I am not one who thinks that parents, mothers or fathers, are superfluous to raising children. I have great respect for single parents, male or female, but I continue to think that children benefit from having good role models for both roles. Children do need to have a father or father figure in their lives.

I am not one to blame all the ills of our world on men, being myself of the male persuasion. I think men have gotten a bad rap when it comes to child rearing. It seems fashionable to attribute all the problems children face these days to being the man’s fault and any man who spends too much time around children is suspect these days.

We men are having a difficult time filling this father role. What it takes to be a “good father” has changed and what we did learn about these skills from our fathers does not work in this changed modern world.

Based on the things men tell me and the things I have learned from my own experiences, here are some easy ways to be a bad father.

1. Donate sperm to a woman who you would never want to have to spend time with afterward.

You can break up with your girlfriend, divorce your wife, but your babies’ mamas are forever.  Once you create a child you are their father permanently and this means you and they are stuck with that mother forever.

Do not expect or depend on her for the birth control. Yes, you have urges. So does she, but once you create that child you are their father. Use birth control.

Her saying she can’t get pregnant more likely means she hasn’t yet. When drinking, do you remember to take your vitamin pill? Do you think she could forget, accidentally or on purpose, to take that other pill?

2. Expect to phone or mail it in.

A phone call on birthdays and Christmas is not being a father. It is being a stranger. Even weekly calls are not the same thing as being a part of that child’s life.

Checks in the mail do not say, love. They say guilt.

3. Making lots of money is not being a father.

Lots of us men fell for this one. We thought that working real hard, making money so our kids, maybe even our families, had what they wanted was what being a father was all about.

I repeatedly hear from fathers who worked long hours, two even three jobs and now their children resent them for never being there. You can’t buy their love. And do you really want your children thinking that your and their love is for sale?

Kids want all the latest designer brand names. They all think they need to have an X-phone and an I-station like their peers. But years from now most will not remember that you bought them all that stuff. What they will remember are the things you did with them.

4. Don’t Listen to what they say.

This is one of the hardest things to do in any relationship, especially with your kids. You hear something and you know, or think you know, the things that they have not learned yet. You feel the need to tell them.

Most of the time what they really need is to be able to talk with you and know that you will love them anyway.

One exception to the do not think buying them stuff is being a good father is if in listening to them they tell you how much they want or have always wanted something. One thing kids tell me is their parents got them all kinds of things they did not want, but that they never got that one thing, often an inexpensive thing that they really did want.

5. Be their friend, not their parent.

Being a good parent means listening to what they say and accepting them no matter what it does not mean becoming their best friend and condoning what they do.

You need to convey some sense of right and wrong. We adults do not get this correctly a lot. Sometimes we do wrong things, but sharing your drugs with your child does not make it up to them.

6. Wait till they get old enough to do things together.

As children get older they pull away from their parents. Mother often gets to spend more time with the child so the pull away can be less dramatic.

Dads find they work hard to get financially secure and then about the time they want to take their child golfing or hiking in the Sierras that child has friends or even a romantic interest. At that point, they do not want to spend the weekend with their father they want to be with their friends. Ultimately you have to fit into their life or lose the connection.

This loss of connection is especially hard for the non-custody father. He is still expected to send the check but his child and their mother no longer want to see him.

There are 6 ways to be a bad father. There are probably a lot more ways but this is something to think about as we approach the one day a year families appear to like their father.

As for being a good father, well keep trying someday we men may find a way to get that one right.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day

By David Joel Miller.

To all the mothers out there who have given their unconditional love regardless of what your children look like or do here is wishing you a happy mother’s day.

If you didn’t have a mother like that, then work on giving yourself that love on this day devoted to the way a caring mother can make us all happy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do therapists tell parents what kids say?

Embarrassing parents - swan duckling

By David Joel Miller.

How much confidentiality should children get?

This can be a very touchy issue. Nothing more infuriates a parent than the sense of loss of control over their child’s care. Parents routinely want to know all about what their child is talking about in therapy. Children often ask “Do you have to tell my parents,” before they will disclose something. There are no simple answers.

Two primary questions here.

1. How much should the parents be told?

2. How much are they legally entitled to know?

There are good reasons why parents need to know what is going on with their child. There are also some equally good reasons why they should not be told. Let me try to explain both.

Consider this a general answer and deliberately vague, lots of factors play into this situation and these vary widely from location to location. So the legal practice in one state may not apply in another. From the therapist point of view, there are something’s the parents need to know and other things that will interfere with the process if the therapist tells them.

The exact legal requirements are another issue which varies with the jurisdiction.

Parent, therapist, and the child may also discuss ahead of time just what things will be told to the parent and what should be kept confidential.

Some parents want to know everything the child says. They want the counselor to pry those secrets out of their child. They ask us things like “Is he doing drugs?” “Is she having sex?” The great illusion of some parents is that if they knew all their children’s secrets they could better control the child’s behavior and “Keep them from making mistakes or doing something wrong.”

Let me give you a real-life example of a parent’s effort to control their child’s behavior and how it backfired. This particular example is based on a news story, not my clinical practice so parents, if I have seen your child, relax this is not your kid. I have imagined a few things that were likely to happen after the news account left off.

Dad was worried about his daughter staying out late and was suspicious she was having sex with one of the boys from her school. Dad wants to put a stop to this behavior. He gets an adult this girl trust to talk with her. Have that sex talk. She reveals that yes after going to a local hangout she and this boy did go off and have sex. The girl is 17 the boy is 18. So this sex, in my state, would have been illegal as statutory rape but not reportable by the counselor as child sexual abuse.

Dad is told. He becomes enraged. Dad pressures the police and the local D. A. to arrest this older boyfriend for statutory rape. Dad also files a lawsuit against the hangout where the two of them met for endangering the morals of children. Let’s not worry about the merits of a suit like this just now. The boy is in jail, the hangout is fighting to stay in business and now checks all the kid’s ID’s and no longer allows anyone under 18 to enter. Everyone in this small town knows who had the sex that caused the problems for all of the other teens.

The result?

This Girl, now furious with her father, sneaks out her window, goes to another spot and hooks up with a couple of older guys. She is going to get even with dad. She is now having sex with lots of older guys, not just the one cute potential boyfriend who is away in jail.

A better approach would have been to talk with the girl about love, relationships and the dangers of unprotected sex.

Parents make the mistake of thinking that they need to control children’s behavior to keep them safe. So very often that “protected” child turns 18 and now all bets are off.

Parents, at some point in your child’s life, probably in the teen years, your role should move from protecting your child to teaching them how to make good choices. That learning to make choices part scares most parents. What if they make a mistake?

Parents fear this because frequently those parents have made all those mistakes themselves.

We all need to live our lives, learn to make choices, for better or worse and sometimes in the process we fall down and get hurt.  A good parent can loosen their grip enough to let the child make some decisions and learn from them before they reach the point of having to face those huge, life-altering, decisions all alone.

Lots of teens ask me to not tell their parents things because they know they have messed up. Often the parents are very understanding and can help the teen solve the problem. Embarrassment and the keeping of secrets are not helpful to the teen.

Some reasons parents should not be told what their child says.

If there is a danger the parent will over react, or harm the child then the counselor may be ethically bound to keep things from the parent.

More than one parent was concerned about what the child was saying because the parent was engaged in illegal activity, used drugs or had some other secret they wanted to hide.

If you are the parent whose child is in therapy, trust the therapist to tell you what needs to be told, to report what legally has to be reported and to try to help your child through the process of learning to make their own decisions.

If you are that teen in therapy, have this conversation with your counselor. Ask them what sorts of things they will be telling to your parents and what is confidential. Unless there is a safety issue involved it is generally best to let your parents know what problems you are dealing with and the counselor can help you with the process of telling them. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from getting help. We all make mistakes in life. The smart people know they need to fix those mistakes and sometimes that means asking for help.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Warning – 6 reasons what you learned may not be true!

By David Joel Miller.

6 Reasons why some of the things we learned turn out to not be true.

That may not be true

Turns out that a whole lot of what most of us think we know is not accurate. Some of this does not matter. But if you base your life on things that turn out to be wrong, you can be in a lot of hurt. If we got it wrong we may be teaching our children things that could hurt them. It pays to reexamine some of the things we think we know and see if we got it right.

Here are 6 reasons you may have gotten it wrong.

1. Parents are fallible.

Think back to the first lessons you learned in life. Did you learn a lot about life from your parent or caregiver?

Most of us have things tucked away in our brain, emotional learning, moral learning and attitudes about life that we internalized at a very early point in our lives. Your parent may have told you wrong.

Not that they meant to lie. Back then they looked so big and strong and knowledgeable. For most kids, the adult that raised them looks like an all-powerful god. Then we get older and realize that this person does not know everything. We forget that much of our way of seeing the world was learned from that caregiver before we were able to judge if they had it right.

It continues to amaze me that humans have survived and prospered, more or less, on the earth. Consider that child production and rearing is mostly left to the youngest and least mature of our members. Think about those teen parents trying to raise children even before they have learned how to have a healthy relationship, get a job and cope with life.

Is it any wonder that lots of what we learned, we learned from other children, even if they were our parents?

2. The person we learned from may have been wrong.

We all learned lots of lessons from our peers. Did you learn a lesson about how people are, how you should be on the playground, from another child in an early grade?

That first romantic partner, did you learn about life from someone who had little knowledge also? That 14-year-old girl with a 15-year-old boyfriend, did you learn about love and sex from them? How did they know? In those early relationships, that other partner can appear so adult and knowledgeable. Later we find, as we have more life experiences, that they knew no more than we did, they and we may have been making it up as we went along. Who wants to look ignorant with their lover?

3. Brain chemicals may have interfered with storing and retrieving memories.

Drugs and alcohol are significant culprits in this area. People under the influence have distortions in the way their memories are stored and retrieved. Drug and alcohol use has continued to creep down to younger and younger people. Children in elementary school are experimenting and using drugs on a regular basis.

Stress hormones also interfere with learning and memory. Prescription meds may or may not be needed but there is always that risk that prescribed medication will alter the experience. If you do not feel pain you are at increased risk to be injured. This applies to emotional as well as physical pain.

4. We may have been watching the wrong people for danger.

Many a child has been taught to avoid strangers and not talk to strangers. There is some truth to begin cautious around strangers. What we leave out is that the majority of abuse of children is perpetrated by close family members and friends.

Not every teacher or religious leader is a safe person. Every day we hear about children who were abused or molested, frequently by someone in a position of authority and trust.

If you learn an unrealistic view of the safety or danger of the world you future life experiences will be distorted. A child who is injured by someone they should have been able to trust will be affected for the rest of their life.

5. Even the best student does not get everything right.

For example, the top score in one class on a recent test was 80%, this is a passing score, maybe even a B in most classes. Now if that student teaches this material to a younger brother and that brother gets 80% of what he is taught he now has 64% correct

See how a small error gets rapidly compounded as the facts, almost correct, are repeated.

Consider the effect it may have had on you if someone you learned from had it mostly right but not completely. Then you learn most of what they taught you and now you are trying to pass this on.

This is a reason that we need to continue to check and recheck those things we think we know to see if they are really true.

6. The prevailing wisdom may be wrong.

Just because everyone says something is right, you see it on T. V. or in a movie, does not make that right.

Our media has made it look like the good guys go out and fight every day. Often they use guns and kill the bad guys. The result is a general tolerance of the use of violence to solve problems.

Would it surprise you to know that on some police forces the majority of officers go their whole careers, all the way to retirement, without ever having to discharge their gun in the line of duty?

People who get killed in their own home, they are often the victim of a family member or friend. It is not strangers breaking into your home that you should fear. It is your family member who knows where you keep the loaded gun.

Many of the things I learned as a child, that were thought to be absolutely the way things were, have since turned out to be wrong.

Even the flat earth society has suffered a decline in membership.

Consider these six reasons why things you learned may not be so and then continue to learn new lessons. Accurate knowledge helps make the journey along life’s road happier and more enjoyable.

If you have found other reasons that you have learned things that later turned out to not be true please leave a comment and share these with the rest of us.

Are you on the path to the happy life you deserve?

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Inner adult vs. inner child

fearfull and crying child before dental treatment

fearfull and crying child before dental treatment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By David Joel Miller.

Have your inner people made peace?

Lots of people talk about their need to do “inner child” work. Not many tell me they need to work on their inner adult. You need to get these two parts of you to live in peace. One rule of parenting is that parents need to be parents and children need to be children. Make sure your “inner family” gets its roles straight.

Don’t let your inner child take over running your adult life.

Your inner adult needs to run the adult parts of your life. We all have those childish parts of us. They have their good and their bad. Preserve that childish wonder about life. Children experience everything for the first time. Keep that open spirit. Children can be very creative. They can also be very selfish and hurt.

The inner child may need to cry and grieve over the past. They can stay stuck in the pain and the not wanting things to be the way they are for a long time. That childish part of you wants things to have been different.

The inner adult needs to recognize that now is not then. The past may have made you who you are but you don’t need to continue to live in the past. You need to find ways to stop letting those childhood experiences control your life now when it is the adult in you that needs to take the lead.

The inner child is that unknowing part of us that sees possibilities instead of rules. For a child, the soup dish might also make a good hat. The inner child knows that a box makes a great toy. The inner child can cry for hours over dropping a cookie in the sand.

The inner adult becomes a censor, they know toys are for playing and boxes are containers to put things in. The inner adult may be less creative unless they force themselves to stay open to other possibilities.

The inner adult is the one that picks up the sandy cookie and throws it away. The inner adult is the one that goes and gets another cookie or tells the self that “self you really don’t need another cookie.”

Your inner child does not know how to forgive it’s self for making mistakes. The inner child can be so afraid of criticism that it punishes itself before an adult can punish it.

Your inner adult will need to tell that inner child that it was OK to make mistakes. Your inner adult is the part that does the forgiving, the letting go and discovers that you are far more than the sum total of all the errors you have made so far.

The inner adult can have compassion and can care for the whole of you.

One way you know your inner adult is in control is when your behavior begins to become more mature and responsible.

Inner child and inner adult are only two of many possible roles you may enact each and every day. Sometimes you will be a parent or partner. Other times you will be an employee or a boss. None of these roles it the full and total you.

Get all these roles, all these potential inner selves to cooperate and work together on the same team. Just make sure when it is time to be a responsible adult you have the inner adult in control of the actions.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books