● By Wendy Sipple
Families tend to experience similar issues related to the changing seasons. While my questions for this month are based on specific situations, there are themes wrapped throughout that frequently pop up for many families in the spring and summertime.
While there are often simple solutions to some problems, it isn’t uncommon to have issues rooted deeper than the simple or practical solution can address. As a therapist, I help others explore and work through these issues when the simple solutions fail, but sometimes the answer really is in the simple things.
Q: My teenage son sits in front of the TV all day, and I’m concerned that he is getting depressed. He has no interest in sports, so how do I get him outdoors?
A: Frequent isolation in front of the TV for hours can certainly lead to depression, but it may also indicate an already existing issue. The first thing I suggest is to limit your son’s TV. If he doesn’t enjoy sports, explore other outdoor activities that he may enjoy. This is a great opportunity to try, or learn something new. Outdoor activities involving his peers (i.e.: Scouts, volunteer work, etc.) are ideal because they provides the interaction that he lacks just watching TV; promotes exercise; and gives him purpose and a sense of accomplishment. If your son is still struggling after setting boundaries around TV time and providing alternative activities, I strongly encourage professional advice for your son, as there may be deeper issues than bad TV habits.
Q: My sons and husband really want us all to try kayaking together, but I’m petrified of the water. How do I get over this fear so that I can do this with my family?
A: If you want to face your fear and spend time with your family, that’s fantastic. However, unless you are ready to invest the emotional energy it requires to overcome your fear of water, it may be unnecessary if your motive is simply relational. There are plenty of activities that do not include water you can enjoy with your family. But if kayaking is an activity you feel strongly about participating in, take lessons that involve water in “safer” environments – like pools – to get comfortable around water. If you experienced some water-related trauma in your past, speaking with a professional may be necessary.
Q: I’m terrified to let my child play outside alone, and we don’t exactly have a usable backyard. Am I being unreasonable and paranoid?
A: What an adult may consider “unusable,” a child may consider “a land of adventure.” I spent many childhood hours racing boats in muddy water, and digging giant holes and underground forts. I got plenty of exercise, both for my body and my developing imagination. However, if there are unsafe conditions in your yard, I urge you to rectify that before turning young kids loose (but remember kids don’t need landscaping to play safely). Depending on the age of your child, it is important to extend age-appropriate freedoms, while instilling the wisdom to make safe decisions. If you are paralyzed by fear, most certainly your child will pick that up.
Q: I recently received a promotion that also awarded me an office with a window. I love my new private space, but am now struggling to focus on my work. I enjoy my new responsibilities, but still find myself daydreaming, making me less productive than I used to be. How can I refocus?
A: The problem may be as simple as your new environment. While an office with a window sounds great, it may not be the best thing if you can’t stay focused. I have had the same problem, so I always pick offices that do not have windows. Not only has this dramatically improved my focus, but when the seasons change, I maintain energy longer because I don’t see when it starts to get dark earlier. Your best bet may be to install blinds or simply face your desk away from the window.
Q: I want to have a neighborhood block party to get to know some of my neighbors better, but there are a couple neighbors who some of us do not get along with. I know it’s the right thing to invite everyone, but how can I make things work so it’s not awkward?
A: Unfortunately not inviting these neighbors to a block party would be obvious and wouldn’t make the relationship any better. So, I agree that you really should invite them. This is one of those situations where you have to decide to make the best of it. If you were concerned that these neighbors’ presence would be too unpleasant to make the party worthwhile, you may consider scaling the block party down to a backyard party or open house. This way you can be more selective with the guest list.
Bob Parkins is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Gold River. He can be reached at 916-337-5406 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him online at www.bobparkinslmft.com.