Monthly Archives: June 2013
Because Life Holds Infinite Possibilities

Discovering Your Teenage Daughter is Pregnant: 10 Tips for Parents

“You’re what?”

It’s not every day your teenage daughter tells you she’s pregnant. That same teenage daughter you thought was only interested in Cheerleading and getting good results in school. That same teenage girl who only a few short few weeks ago told you she’s not interested in having a boyfriend.

“You’re what!”

Hearing such life changing news can be overwhelming to hear. In this situation, if you’re not excited about this news, it’s very easy for the unhealthy emotion of anger to burst forth. In this situation you can go from calm to angry and shocked in a fraction of a second.

When that happens rational thinking isn’t easy and you might find yourself reacting rather than responding. Your instant reaction might be to proclaim how “stupid and irresponsible” she is, how “this is a massive mistake” and she’s “ruined her life”; let alone how you “never thought you’d do this to me!” But these words would be best unsaid at this moment. This is really not the time for blame and exclamations of your disappointment.

Remember, she’s probably scared to death to tell you she’s pregnant. She’s probably scared to death that you’ll react badly; and she’s probably told herself a million times how stupid and irresponsible she is. Then to hear you say the same things at this moment could be devastating and lead to a fractious relationship going forward.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t let your daughter know how disappointed, annoyed and scared for her you are. That’s what you think, and that’s your right. Yet that conversation might be best saved for when you are both calm and had time to process this new information.

So what would be helpful to you both in this situation? Here are a few thoughts.

  1. The old adage of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is appropriate here. When you hear such shocking news, try not to react. Keep your mouth closed. Don’t say a word. Count to ten. Take a deep breath, and only then, when the initial wave of anger has mostly passed, talk.
  2. When you do talk, stay calm as possible. Even if your gut is churning and you want to scream, this situation isn’t about you, it’s about your daughter.
  3. Focus on trying to understanding how she’s feeling right now. Let her know that you are there for her, even if inside you you’re still angry. They’ll be plenty of time to deal with your emotions later.
  4. Show you are there for her, by asking her to walk you through what happened and how she feels about it. This will give her the opportunity to cry, vent, and allow her fears to come out. It also gives you valuable information so that you don’t start jumping to conclusions.
  5. Find out if the father knows and if his parents know. You may feel very angry towards him at this moment, but try not to vilify him. Making him the enemy could only cause a rift that becomes impossible to reconcile.
  6. Help her understand that she’s very young and making quick decisions might not be the best thing right now. Young minds don’t have experience of knowing what life can be like as an adult. You have the chance to give her some honest advice, but try not to be condescending with the information.
  7. Don’t try to force your views on what she should do with her pregnancy. Take some time to consider all the options available to her and seek professional guidance if you can.
  8. If she decides to keep the baby planning ahead is critical. The hardest part will come after the birth. If your daughter is still with the father, then what? What will the last name of the baby be? Where will they live? Can you open your home to them? Will she go back to school? Who will look after the child if she does? How will they cope financially? Managing so many decisions can become overwhelming and it can rip relationships apart; especially two young people trying to suddenly become responsible adults.
  9. Going from carefree teen, to expectant mother can be stressful. At times your daughter might seem immature and want to do silly teenage things. Try not to use that as an excuse to vent your frustration on her suitability to be a mother.
  10. Both of your hopes and dreams may now be gone. Both of your futures will be different now, but it doesn’t mean life will be worse. Life and people can often be surprising. You might actually find being a grandparent a great experience – even if it is sooner than you hoped.

It can be hard to accept your daughter is pregnant, let alone be happy about it. You might find yourself crying your heart out over this, and looking for reasons why you failed to stop it from happening. This is not helpful to you and that unhealthy thinking and will often lead to depression.

What you have now is a real situation to deal with and being heartbroken, angry, or bitter for the whole nine months isn’t going to make it a good experience for either of you.

The reality is nobody knows the outcome of this moment. You’re both standing at a crossroads in your lives and nobody can predict what the best thing to say or do is, but your daughter will need your support. However, it’s also important that you get the support you need to help you navigate this tricky time.

Depression and the Elderly: 5 Ways You Can Help

Depression affects people of all ages; it really doesn’t care if you’re a 17 year old teenager or a fifty-something CEO.  Depression is a non-discriminating son-of-a-bitch and will take you down like a starving grizzly bear given half a chance.

There is one age group that often gets overlooked when it comes to depression and that’s the elderly.

The symptoms of depression are sometimes missed or confused with the effects of other illnesses or medication they may be using. Also the typical symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, lack of appetite and loss of interest in previously loved activities, are often put down to the aging process and not depression. Studies on the number of elderly people experiencing depression varies, but it’s estimated 6.5 million of over 65’s (in the USA) are depressed, with only about 10% of those people actually receiving any help.

The elderly are especially vulnerable to other complications from depression. They are at higher risk of physical illnesses like cardiac disease which can lead to death from heart attack and it also makes it harder for them to recover from illness, which again puts an elderly person more at risk. Suicide in the elderly is also a huge problem, especially for white men over 80; they are twice more likely to kill themselves than anyone else from a general population.

For me, one of the main reasons depression isn’t always recognized in older people is because they tend to brush-off, minimize, or deflect how they are feeling with comments such as, “I’m OK, I’m just not sleeping too well. I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep”, or “I’m not lonely, my dear. Don’t worry about me. How are the children?”, or “I’m fine, really. I’m just not very hungry at the moment. I think I’ve had a bug, but I’m OK now.”

These comments make it easy for friends, family, or doctors to miss what is really going on, and I know this from personal experience as my mother was a pro at this deception. She would have an appointment with her doctor, go in, put on her best face and leave as if nothing was wrong. When I’d ask her if she told her doctor about this issue or that symptom, she’d say, “Oh, no, I didn’t want to make a fuss.” Her thinking was that she had to look well for the doctor, and that was her learned behavior – never let anyone know you’re not doing well.

It’s hard to understand why somebody wouldn’t want to tell a doctor they’re suffering, but I remind myself that people in their 70’s and 80’s were born in 1930’s and 1940’s; a time when people didn’t really talk about feelings, and I think this is due to the devastation caused to families by the Great Depression and two World Wars. A time when it was easier to “just get on with it”, rather than dwell on the emotional trauma of that time.

From my experience, I know getting help for an elderly relative is difficult, but if you are concerned about someone and think their current behavior and mood is compromising their life, here are 5 things that might help you to help them get help.

  1. Even though you’re concerned for them, it’s best not to let your anxiety manifest by getting angry at them or demanding that they go seek help. Trying to force a person into seeing a doctor or therapist can have the opposite effect. You’re better off taking things slowly. Try engaging in calm conversation, find out what they might be worried about or what might have changed in their life recently. Gather information which you can then use to highlight and clarify why it might be a good idea for them to get help.
  2. When trying to talk to them about how they are feeling try to avoid using words that might mean they become defensive. Words like ‘depression’, ‘struggling’ or ‘can’t cope’, can strike fear into their hearts and barriers will most likely be raised and they’ll refuse to talk about it. You’re better off using words like ‘sad’, ‘blue’, and ‘rough time’. These words take the edge off what might be a scary subject.
  3. Elderly people will often not want to make a fuss, so feelings of guilt and shame can be prevalent. Try to reassure them that you are not judging them for how they feel, and that you care about them. Help them understand that it’s their choice to get help and that you will do what you can to support them.
  4. Supporting a depressed relative doesn’t mean that you take over and do everything for them. As much as you might want to help, doing too much can reinforce their thinking that they are now ‘useless and a burden’. It is important to try and find a balance between helping them and having them help themselves. Together it can be useful to break down tasks into smaller activities. By doing smaller tasks, they are less likely to get tired and avoid doing what they need to. Doing less each day can mean doing more over the week.
  5. Seeing a psychiatrist can be scary for anyone, let alone an elderly person who tries to avoid doctors. See if you can get their permission to be a part of the appointment process. This can be useful because often the scariness of the situation, and their limited cognitive functioning due to depression, can mean an elderly relative doesn’t say what has been going on for them, and they could lack the ability to retain the information the psychiatrist is telling them.

Problems with Searching for an Extraordinary Life

Like many kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were able to provide all the modern luxuries a kid could want. I never had to want for anything. I was always fed, clothed, and loved. I never lived without a home, color TV, car and good education.

Not that everything was great, but overall I never struggled.

Growing up in this easy(ish) world, my parents always told me that, “I could do anything with my life” “I could be whatever I wanted” “do what makes you happy”. On the whole they meant well, and on the whole they believed what they told me, until what I wanted to do was diametrically opposite to what they thought was best for me…but that’s for another day.

I believed that I was special and that the world should treat me as such. If I want to do something that interested me, the path should open up before me and I should be able to walk into any job I wanted. Oh how I can laugh at myself now!

Sadly, this type of irrational thinking seems to be even more prevalent in today’s generation; and I have to say, it concerns me greatly. I also think this is one of the major reasons why more and more young people are becoming depressed.

Even though I had many choices growing up, I think there are even more opportunities for younger people today; and I think with this mountain of choice facing them, many will be led to believe they have a free pass to an extraordinary life – but more doesn’t necessarily mean better.

For example, have you ever sat in a restaurant were you get handed a menu that’s about 10 pages long? I hate that. I sit there looking at all these choices and don’t know what I want because the Cowboy Burger looks good, but if I have that, I can’t have the Mahi-Mahi Tacos or the Spaghetti and Spicy Meatballs, which both looks great. On and on the problem goes until I’m forced into making a decision, but even then I’m ever so slightly disappointed because I’m sure one of the other choices would have been even more amazing (first word problems, right!).

It’s been shown that having too much choice can be demotivating for people, and people are generally more satisfied with their decision when they have less choice rather than more (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000).

So why are we still buying into the idea that more choice is better? Having a thousand TV channels gives us what we want. The internet gives us near infinite choice, and that’s better for us. Universities offer hundreds of course, which is great, isn’t it? Yet, this doesn’t seem to be the case. How many TV channels do you really watch? How many websites do you actually use? How many courses can you take?

This, I think, is the problem facing many people today. If the message you send out is you can do anything, choose to do anything, be anything, and you will live an extraordinary life; then there are going to be many frustrated, lost and ultimately depressed people, because too much choice is a double edged sword.

I will always applaud somebody who wants to excel at something, but for most of us, excelling at something takes time and work; so if somebody thinks they are special and must have an extraordinary life, well, when things get tough they’re often not prepared to wait it out and work through the problems.

Their thinking might be based on irrational thoughts such as, “I shouldn’t have to suffer this frustration” “I’m better than this, I shouldn’t have to struggle” “I should be the manager/director/VP by now, this isn’t fair. I’ll do something else.”

Giving up and jumping from one job or relationship to another, can become easy and habitual. If somebody isn’t used to being frustrated by life and it not going the way they demand, and they’re not used to putting in the time and effort before reaping rewards, they may never find the ‘thing’ that will lead to their extraordinary life.

On the flip-side, people are becoming paralyzed by not knowing which choice to make – a-la-menu problem. If your idea of living an extraordinary life means having lots of money and all that goes with that, what career do you choose: a lawyer, doctor, financial guru?

All seem like good choices. But wait, when you consider how much time and effort goes into the early stages of that career maybe it’s easier to become a scientist, an internet billionaire or famous actor…no wait…maybe a top chef, TV anchor, or Professor. Too many choices lead to indecision and as life moves on, you’re still standing at the crossroads.

For my money, if you want to live an extraordinary life, first you need to realize all life is extraordinary and to embrace that. But if you want more, then your journey could take a lot more time and effort. There will be ups and downs, good times and bad, in all areas of life. Just because you want something bad, doesn’t mean you will get it, even if you work hard and are a good person. Manage your expectations and be realistic of your abilities.

Try to evaluate what is really meaningful to you and focus on just a few things. Less choice will mean less confusion, and less chance of you spreading yourself too thin and becoming demotivated. Learn to find happiness in the small things in life, and the big things will be a bonus.

Finally, understand that if something is worth having, it’s worth putting in the time and work, be it your career, friendships or love.

 

Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2000). When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology79(6), 995-1006.