Tag Archives: Parenting

My Daughter’s Coach was Arrested

My daughter’s coach was recently arrested on charges related to child pornography and alleged sexual misconduct with children. I am not going to go into detail about who he was or what he coached her in – these facts are not what it important to our story. What is important is this was a man we trusted in our lives – in our daughter’s life and he “allegedly” is a very bad person.

Let me start at the beginning – when my daughter was 6 years old, a friend introduced us to this coach, I will call him Bill. Bill had been working with their daughter for several months and was really helping her to improve in her sport. Bill began working with my daughter as well, frequently as often as once a week for nearly two years. He met privately with my daughter either at our home or a local park and either my husband or I were always there. I never had a twinge of uncertainty about him. I am a psychologist who has specialized in trauma work, often with children who had been the victim of abuse. Again, I didn’t have the smallest twinge of discomfort around this man. My daughter was never alone with him, but that was because we liked watching her train. It wasn’t because I was worried about him. I even invited him to one of her birthday parties.

Fast forward to present day. My daughter hasn’t trained with Bill for over two years, not because of bad feelings, but because we just got too busy and the sessions faded away. My husband, daughter and I were on a cruise – no cell phone reception and I hadn’t been checking my emails. We pulled into port, I turned my cell phone back on and it lit up. Dozens of text messages about Bill. A number of people had recognized Bill’s picture on the TV news story about his arrest – for child pornography and sexual relationships with children. My husband and I processed the information and had to have a series of conversations with our daughter. We had to talk about Bill being arrested, what he was arrested for and whether anything had ever happened to/with her. We had to explore how she would not be in trouble if anything had happened and how it would not be her fault. So far, she has repeatedly (strongly) denied anything happened, but we will keep checking in with her. I know kids don’t always disclose abuse. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that they were never alone, but I also know perpetrators just need a moment of distraction to strike.

I had a phone call with the investigator from the police department who had me send over a photo of my daughter to compare against the images on Bill’s hard drive. There was no match. For us, for now, this situation is over. It does give me pause to consider who I allow in my daughter’s life and the type of contact they will be given. Part of the reason I stopped doing trauma work and left Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles when my daughter was born, was the fear that I would feel compelled to raise my daughter in a bubble. I would turn around and see potential perpetrators everywhere (family members, friends, teachers, religious leaders, and, yes, coaches). Maybe the sad thing is we need to do this to some extent. Not necessarily that we need to accuse everyone in our lives of attempting to abuse our children, but being exceptionally selective of who gets access and not allowing that access to be unsupervised. It’s unfortunate to have to take such a cynical approach to the world, but right now it seems so much better than the alternative.

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The Anti-Role Model

Oftentimes, celebrities will say that they don’t consider themselves to be role models for their fans and do not want the pressure of feeling responsible for their choices. I was thinking about this in relation to my daughter Charlie. She is 10 years old and is very aware of what her favorite celebrities are up to – both positive and negative. At first we tried to steer her away from certain people – because of the way they would behave or dress or because of drug and alcohol use. But then we realized we were missing out on a learning opportunity – the Anti-Role Model.

You may ask just what is the Anti-Role Model? The way I look at it, the Anti-Role Model helps others learn how to act by demonstrating what NOT to do. We have had the opportunity to discuss drug use/abuse through the actions of both Michael Jackson and Charlie Sheen. This lead to numerous conversations about the dangers of drug use and how it causes you to act like someone you are not.

We are able to discuss the impression people might give based on how they dress and how they act. We talked about dressing and acting as though we respect ourselves and were able to use specific celebrities as examples of what NOT to do (sorry, Miley Cyrus, but my girl is really young for your wrecking ball).

We talked about the importance of being well-spoken and being able to put words together in such a way as to convey intelligence, education and character. We were able to point out those who did not give such an impression (withholding names to protect the not-so-innocent) and those who excelled (thank you, Emma Stone).

These role models and anti-role models are everywhere in our lives – not just in pop culture and celebrity. They are in our community and in our schools, in our churches and in our shopping malls – they are everywhere. They may not be trying to be a role model to our children, but they are anyway. It is up to us to help our kidlets determine how to learn from these people.

Will you still love me when you are a teenager?

Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman when Vivian (the prostitute played by Julia Roberts) is talking to Edward (the billionaire played by Richard Gere) about the punch his attorney, Stuckey (played by Jason Alexander) threw at her? She wonders how boys always know how to punch a woman and make it feel like her eye is about to explode. She asks if boys are taken aside in gym class and taught this “skill”.  Of course they aren’t and, as Edward Lewis points out, not all boys hit.

I am wondering if someone has taken my ten-year-old aside and has been giving her tips on how to be a teenager. I don’t mean the eye rolling and deep sighs – she has that down already. I’m talking more about psychological warfare. Let me explain. The other day my daughter and husband were hanging out and she looked at him and said, “I love you Dad.” He smiled and said, “I love you, too, peanut. Will you still love me when you are a teenager?” Her response? “Of course I will. It just won’t always feel like I do.” Seriously. Who took her aside and gave her this little piece of insight?

I now have visions of older girls at the dance studio laying out the game plan. I have can imagine a huge chalkboard with lessons detailing how to keep your parents on their toes and how to never allow them to be fully comfortable while parenting a teenager. There are Xs and Os detailing each person’s position and offensive and defensive plays.

Lord, we are in trouble.

One of “Those” Conversations – No Not THAT One.

Have you ever had one of those conversations that you prepared for and worried about and practiced… only to have it end up being absolutely no big deal? You almost feel let down that there is no big emotional explosion because your spent so much time preparing for it. Somehow it is almost like you have been cheated. We had one of those yesterday with our daughter, Charlie, who is 10 years old.

Charlie has been playing along with us for years on the whole Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy thing, and though we suspected she “knew” the truth, she never acknowledged it to us. Jason (my husband) and I decided it was time to have “the talk”. We wanted to let her into the grown up club because we suspected she was onto us and, if not, we didn’t want her to get teased for still believing. C’mon – 10 is kind of old for Santa.

So… we created this amazing game plan and practically scripted the whole interaction. We planned to take her out for a walk after Easter dinner and discuss it all. We thought the fresh air might calm her down. We walked a long for a bit and then I asked THE QUESTION – something along the lines of, “Where are you at with this whole Easter bunny thing?”. Smooth, I know. Charlie then got a smirk on her face and said, “I know it is you and Daddy.” We were a little stunned. She then continued, “Same for Santa.” We then asked with a little quiver in our voices, “What about the Tooth Fairy”. Her response with a shrug, “You.”

Well, crap. She then broke it to us that she has known for several years and had been playing along for two reasons: 1. It seemed really important to us and 2. She was afraid the fun and gifts might stop. We assured her that we were OK and that we still loved the holidays and nothing would change our celebration.

I have to admit, I felt a little let down, but also a little relieved that all the sneaking around was over. This was confirmed by her last comment on the subject – “You know, you don’t have to put the Tooth Fairy money under my pillow anymore. You can just hand it to me in exchange for the tooth.” Great. Like a crack deal.

Internet Shaming

I am not all about shaming fellow parents based on their parenting decisions as a rule – we have all been there and have all made some not-so-great choices here and there, but I do have to question when a parent chooses to post those decisions on the internet. Have you heard about the dad from Missouri who posted the note sent home regarding his 8-year-old second grader’s lunch? (You can read the article – and letter – here, if you are curious: https://gma.yahoo.com/dad-posts-meddling-note-sent-home-teacher-over-215755494–abc-news-parenting.html). Supposedly a cafeteria worker reported to the little girl’s substitute teacher that the little girl had four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers, and a pickle in her lunch. The teacher did not believe this was a healthy enough lunch and wrote a note home requesting the child bring a healthier lunch to school the next day. Now, I see a lot of overreaching here on the school’s part here:

  1. She is a substitute teacher. While she is still a concerned adult in the child’s life, the teacher should have been the one to contact the parent when the teacher returned to the classroom. This sub did not know about any existing agreement that might have been in place or how best to interact with the family.
  2. When contact was made, it should not have been accusatory – the implied message in this note was that these parents suck at providing an appropriate lunch for their child.
  3. Finally, it was assumed that what the cafeteria worker reported was 100% factual. I’m sure she was busy working and may not have been able to watch this kid the entire time.

The father (a physician) noted the child also had four pieces of ham and a piece of string cheese – no sandwich because the family does not eat much bread. OK, here is where I go after the parents a bit. We have all made questionable parenting choices – my daughter’s own lunch (and dinner and breakfast) has been far from nutritiously sound on occasion, but I don’t post about it on the internet as if I am doing the right thing. I am often embarrassed when these situations occur and I would hate for anyone to know about it. (Who hasn’t had the occasional “frozen yogurt for dinner” kind of night?). The father also comments that his daughter is a very independent second grader and packs her own lunch – well, maybe this is a sign she could use a little more guidance. I think it is great for kids to take on responsibility, but, perhaps, she could be selecting from a more limited pool of available options – i.e., which type of fruit to take or what type of lunch meat.

There are better ways to address the teacher/school/principal/school district than to post a letter on the internet. It seems to me the school, though misguided, well meaning. Is this a new thing we are doing as a society now? Are we posting other people’s mistakes for the world to see rather than dealing with the problem directly? Oh crap, did I just do that? What do you think? Who was out of line?

Challenge for Challenge Sake

When I was much younger, a teenager really, I would seek out relationships with men who were unavailable. I don’t mean they were taken already (I was not a total bitch), but these were guys who didn’t want relationships or were just really bad risks. Now that I am much, much (quiet, you) older, I realize I was seeking out these relationships for two reasons:

  1. I was not emotionally ready to be in a “real” relationship and dating crappy people reduced the likelihood of anything serious ever happening. The guy known as a player, the one who is drunk all of the time and the guy who is a borderline criminal are unlikely to settle down anytime soon.
  2. I was excited about the challenge. If I could “break” them and make them change then they must really be into me. The sad thing is I broke a couple, but then I didn’t want them anymore. This is the danger of being after the challenge – once the challenge is gone, so is the spark.

Fortunately, I reached a point when these reasons were not the way I chose my relationships. When I was ready, I chose for much better characteristics – fun and friendship, attraction and chemistry, loyalty and passion. What I am realizing, though, is the tendency to focus on things only because they are a challenge – not just relationships. We do things just to prove we can. In and of itself, not tragic, but it is important to know why you are doing things. I ran the LA marathon in 2004 just to prove to myself that I could. There was no other reason. It was a challenge, I faced it and I never need to do it again (it was hard). If I had approached that marathon expecting some other outcome, I would have been terribly disappointed.

Know why you are acting. If it is a challenge, for challenge sake, know it and accept it. If you want there to be a higher purpose behind it – identify that goal and determine if it is a realistic one or not. If it is – great, if not – it is time to reassess and change your game plan.

Unanswered Prayers

I’ve talked about my daughter before – her name is Charlie and she is almost 10 years old. She is awesome and I love her, but she has recently taken a turn for the dramatic (could it be teen hormones already?). Anyway… I was tucking her into bed the other day and she looked at me and asked, “Why doesn’t anything ever go my way?” (Like I said, a flare for the dramatic). We had a long talk about what it was that was bothering her and resolved her current crisis as best we could at 9 PM. I even added a little reality check about using words like “never” and “always”.

Everything seemed good, but it got me to thinking – we (all of us) have a tendency to assume not getting our way is always a bad thing. We assume if something else had happened, everything would have been better. Let me give you an easy example- a client was recently in a car accident. It wasn’t anything too traumatic, but there was car damage which is always a hassle. My client was in my office complaining how she keeps getting screwed by life and if she had only left 5 minutes later (or earlier) the accident could have been avoided. I think it is perfectly natural to feel this way, but it is important to remember things could have been actually worse. Maybe a different, more serious car accident would have occurred. It is impossible to know. We can waste so much time focused on what “might” have happened.

There is even a song about it. Do you know Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers”? Here is a peek, if you aren’t sure (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-13-greatest-country-songs-for-thanksgiving-20141125/garth-brooks-unanswered-prayers-1990-20141125). It’s all about a man who goes back to his home town and sees his high school girlfriend with whom he had so desperately wanted a future. The relationship had not worked out and both had moved on. When the singer looks around, he realizes how not getting what he wanted actually helped him to get what he really needed after all (wife, kids, happiness). The ways that not getting what we want actually serves us is not always so transparent or direct, but it is important to try not to spend too much time on what might have been at the detriment of what actually is.

My stepdad died about 12 years ago after a painful bout with pancreatic cancer. I was living on the West Coast while he and my mom were in Michigan. I got a call one day I should come home because the doctors determined he did not have much time left. I booked a flight for the next day, but he passed before I got there. For a fairly long while I was torn up about not having had an opportunity to say goodbye. I had this dramatic vision of a Hollywood deathbed goodbye where we shared our feelings (all good) and he peacefully went to “sleep”. I felt cheated of this. Over time, I became aware that his deathbed was likely nothing like this. He was not conscious and communicating. I was spared seeing him so ill. My last memory of him is not him sickly and weak, but up and about and teasing me. I was not cheated, but was spared. I did not get what I wanted, but it was for the best.

So, here is my takeaway – if you get frustrated about something that happened (or didn’t happen), remember it may have been in your best interest. Even if you can’t see how it is good for you, try not to dwell too much on what could have been (or should have been) and, instead, focus on what is. Try to make your “is” as good as you can.

So… Your Friend is Transgendered – Now What?

I have gotten a number of emails, phone calls, tweets and general comments over the past couple of days about the tragic suicide of a transgendered young woman, Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Alcorn). Much of the focus of discussion has been on this young woman’s suicide note (you can link to it here if you haven’t read it or want a refresher http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note), her transgender status and/or her Christian parents’ refusal to accept/acknowledge that transgender status. I’ve been listening to criticism of her parents and debates over whether or not transgender is real. I don’t really care if you think transgender is legitimate or not (though I can tell you as a mental health professional it is), but what I can tell you is this young woman was in immense pain.

We need to do a better job of taking care of each other – especially our children who may not have adequate coping skills to manage life’s challenges. I am not going to jump on the bandwagon and rip her parents apart. If what has been has said about them is true, I do not agree with their parenting choices and wish things had been managed differently, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the need to keep an eye on one another.

What can you do if someone in your life is dealing with transgender identity (even if the person isn’t talking about suicide)?

  1. Talk to someone. I am not saying “out” them, but if you need to process through your own thoughts and feelings – talk it out. You can maintain their confidentiality while working things through. You may not know what to do to help. Ask for help! Talk to a teacher, a parent, a school counselor, a priest, I don’t really care who, but talk to someone until you get guidance. All too often, we avoid things that make us uncomfortable – you can’t do that here. This is too important.
  2. Be there. Talk with your friend or family member about what all of this means for them. Even, as in Leelah Alcorn’s situation, you are not “supportive” of transgendered identity, there are still “safe” topics of feeling lonely, sad, and isolated. This is still the same person they were before you learned they are transgendered. If he is a good friend, she will be, too.
  3. Refer to support groups (not just for your loved one, but for you, too). Knowledge is power!
    1. http://community.pflag.org/transgender
    2. http://www.glaad.org/transgender
    3. http://www.transgender.support/
    4. http://susans.org/
    5. http://www.iamtransgendered.com/SupportGroups.aspx

These are but a few of the online, national organizations available to provide information and support, both to the individual and to their loved ones. There are also countless programs available within your own community. When I worked at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), I became acquainted with their amazing program (http://www.chla.org/site/c.ipINKTOAJsG/b.7501767/k.5FBA/Transgender_Services__Adolescent_Medicine__Case_Management__Health_Education.htm#.VKSWvCvF_EY). Check out what might be available in your town.

  1. No matter what you might think or feel about transgendered individuals, do not make fun of, attack verbally or physically, or shame them. Doing any of these behind their backs still sucks – it’s just more cowardly. Remember life is hard enough for each of us without some jerk making worse. Don’t be that jerk.

Did I miss something important? What else might you recommend? As always, I am open to suggestions.

Choose to be Happy for the Holidays

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season – whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanza or Festivus or nothing at all. I hope whatever this season means to you and yours is wonderful. What I encourage you to do is to find something positive to focus on and put your energies there. Look, we all have things we could complain about – crowds in the stores, the materialistic nature of the holiday, greedy children, bickering family members, and financial strain – to mention just a few. You, my dears, have a choice – you can choose to focus on all of the crap or you can give your attention to the things that make you feel good (i.e., time with family, fun with the kids, awesome food, and festive atmosphere).

How you manage a situation determines how you will feel about it. You choose. Choose to smile at the other shoppers at the mall. Choose to remain calm despite parking lot gridlock. Choose to find pleasure in selecting gifts for friends and loved ones. You get to choose how you feel. Imagine the power you have – you get to determine how you will feel. Focus on crap and you will feel like crap. Focus on the happy and you will feel happy. Easy decision, right?

The Twelve Years of Christmas (An Ode to My Daughter, Charlie)

The Twelve Years of Christmas


On her one year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
A pail full of stinky diapers

On her two year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her three year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her four year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her five year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her six year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her seven year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her eight year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Eight best friends
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her nine year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Nine rounds of Just Dance
Eight best friends
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her ten year old Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Ten preteen meltdowns
Nine rounds of Just Dance
Eight best friends
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven celebrity crushes
Ten preteen meltdowns
Nine rounds of Just Dance
Eight best friends
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers

On her twelfth year of Christmas
my daughter gave to me:
Twelve epic eye rolls
Eleven celebrity crushes
Ten preteen meltdowns
Nine rounds of Just Dance
Eight best friends
Seven loose teeth
Six sticky fingers
Five hours playing with Barbie
Four days of nonstop chatter
Three “no” to everythings
Two temper tantrums
And a pail full of stinky diapers