Asked and Answered:

Ten Reasons Grown Kids Give for Staying Away From Home

Wonder why they’re not coming home for the holidays? Upset because they never return your letters, calls or texts? Estranged, alienated, or suffering silently (or not)?  Are the kids you always hoped would be your friends once they were grown even if you weren’t related to each other  not only decidedly unfriendly, but still upset because of something you don’t even remember? Here are the top ten reasons family estrangement is a disturbing new trend. We may not  do any or all of them once, but it’s how often we repeat them that matters. The combination  counts, too – if it’s only one or two of these behaviors we’re likely to get a pass the first few times, but if we make a habit of them, it should ‘t be surprising if our kids  disconnect. Stopping them may be the first step in getting back in touch.  You insist on being right. We all have different stories about the past, even one we shared. .  Accept their stories as being true for them. You don’t know who they are now. Life has taught them lessons you don’t know.  They’re not the same adults they were as children: Don’t assume, you still know what they think and feel. You’ve locked them into childhood roles. She was a spendthrift, he was a ne’er do well, but now she manages a million dollar budget and he has a responsible job. Give them a chance to show you who they are now – you might be surprised.You think the divorce doesn’t still bother them. . Once again,  explain that it wasn’t their fault, admit your inability to prevent it, acknowledge their pain, express your regret. And tell them you hope they can move on, because you have.You can’t let them live their own lives. They’re adults now with a right to their lifestyle, religion, partners and choices.You ignore their boundaries. You stick your nose in things that are none of their business, like their marriages. You tell their secrets to others, including their siblings. You can’t stop nagging.You listen but you don’t hear them. You jump in before they’ve finished, tell them instead of asking the. talk over or through them, not to them. Don’t be so quick to jump in with a response.You take sides. Sibling quarrels aren’t your business any more, if they ever were. Let them work it out among themselves, no matter who you think is right.  You triangulate. If you can’t get what you want from one child, you try going through the other, or even their or your spouse.  You ask them to tell each other’s secrets. You draw someone else into an issue that’s between two of you. You take liberties you’re not entitled to.  Back off and wait to be asked…for your help, your opinion, your understanding. Imagine there’s a door between you and them; knock first, and don’t enter unless invited, even if the door’s just a metaphor.

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Personal Coaching for Anxious Parents

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What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Shrink?

With the proliferation of professional therapists moving – or even starting – their practices online on Skype, questioning what you get by engaging an online therapist, coach, psychologist or other “telementalhealth” professional and whether it’s as effective as conventional face to face counseling is worth considering. (Caveat here – I conduct most of my practice by phone and email.)

Almost all clinicians in private practice – the ones with the ergonomic chair behind the desk, the carefully framed diplomas and certificates above it, and the Kleenex box close at hand – occasionally treat patients and clients over the phone. Even psychoanalysts with very strict rules about keeping regular appointments and paying for those you might otherwise miss understand when an unanticipated event or illness make it impossible to stick to a schedule. But there’s a difference between hearing and seeing a client every session. On-line or on the phone, clues like affect and body language are missing and nuance  is difficult to create or discern. There’s not a lot of evidence-based proof that telemental health care offered by variously credentialed experts is as good as that profferred in person by someone with the same credentials – or lack of them. And there’s a mixed bag of data about how well any of the so-called talking therapies works – compared, say, to a prescription for Prozac. In either environment – on Skype or in person – what matters most in terms of outcome is the fit between the client and the provider. Is the professional you’re engaging to help you solve your problems (or at least listen attentively to them) offering advice, direction, interpretation, analysis, tools and techniques, referrals, and/or emotional support? Do you clam up on the phone or is it easier for you to be open and honest with someone you haven’t met?  Does he or she seem accessible and friendly or detached and reserved, and which do you prefer? And what qualifies him or her to offer what you’re looking for?The provider’s approach, like the fit between the two of you, is important in terms of what you want to accomplish – change, insight, self-knowledge, or personal or professional development. Only in novels about the fifties and Woody Allen movies do we hear many references to the kinds of shrinks who demand four or five days a week of 50-minute hours to recap all the trauma of early childhood and painful adolescence. It’s too expensive, too time-consuming, and too vague in the promise of self-knowledge, which is why many of its practitioners have adapted to that change, deployed their skills differently, or retired from practice.

As a social psychologist with training in psychotherapy and boundary management, I’m less interested in the past than in the here and now, and frankly, I don’t have the time to wait for a client to understand why he keeps putting roadblocks in his way when I already do – yes, like that aggravating kid in fifth grade who kept waving her hand in front of the teacher – I know, I know!. This is why I’m a coach and not a shrink. I marvel at the patience and compassion those providers display to their clients, especially when they hear the same complaints from the same clients over and over, and I know I don’t have it.Change is a different goal from self-knowledge and regulation of emotions, which is why it’s more amenable to certain kinds of therapy that focus on changing habits, thought patterns, attributions. These are cognitive interventions, most useful for those who already understand that they’re the ones responsible for making change happen in themselves, not others – although often when we change how we interact with them, they may change, too, which is what I tell the parents of grown kids who want to change them, not how they relate to them.Coaches are more likely to hold you accountable for your goals than conventional therapists may. Usually coaches, even those with credentials, can’t be paid by insurance companies, nor do most of them carry malpractice insurance. As in every case of e finding the best person for the job you need done, check with the obvious sources – other professionals, people in your network, providers’ web sites, and references. Then see if they offer a free or low-cost initial phone call. Ask good questions, like, how does the process usually work? Is there a timeline? What does it cost? What kind of follow-up, referral or other services do you offer? Have you dealt with issues like mine before? How do you think you can be most helpful to me?

In the end, it’s your call. Caveat emptor.

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