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Ask Dr. Mike – July 2011

June 27, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Ask Dr. Mike, Columns, Uncategorized No Comments

Dr. Mike,

My neighbor’s child and my child play together practically all the time. Recently my neighbor’s daughter had her 9th birthday party and didn’t invite my child, who is a grade younger. My daughter found out later at school that many of their mutual friends in the neighborhood were invited, which was hurtful to both my daughter and me. It’s been a couple of weeks now since the party, but my daughter and I are still upset by what happened. Any advice for a concerned mother bear?

D in Loudoun County

D,

A mother bear must always watch out for her cub, however, there is a fine line between being protective and being overprotective. While I understand your initial upset and your concern for your daughter, I think you are making things worse for her by maintaining a position of being wronged. There really is no way to determine why your daughter wasn’t invited to the party without asking your neighbor that question directly. Of course, if you were to ask, you would run the risk of making your neighbor (and perhaps her daughter) feel uncomfortable, or in turn, become upset with you. I think you should keep in mind that your daughter is going to get hurt in life, and she is also going to be disappointed by the actions of others. In thinking about your situation this way, you can begin to help your daughter better accept what happened and move on. You, as the parent, need to model a positive, accepting and forgiving attitude so that your daughter can do the same.

Dr. Mike,

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 1), and I will be starting treatment shortly. I don’t have any symptoms, and my doctor told me I was lucky to catch it early. My 11 year old son will be going to an away camp for two weeks and is leaving right before I start treatment. I wasn’t planning on telling my son about my cancer diagnosis or treatment regime until after he returned from camp. He’s so happy to be heading off to camp, and I didn’t want him to worry about me or be upset while he’s gone. My husband feels our son should know now and that he will only be more upset later when he learns that we lied to him and sent him off. Any advice you have would be helpful.

J in Loudoun County

J,

First of all, I’m glad you and your doctor caught your cancer early, as the prognosis for stage 1 breast cancer is very positive with treatment. As far as your son goes, I see your husband’s point, but I don’t agree with him that delaying the news is quite the same thing as lying. I don’t see what good would come of telling your son of your cancer before he departs for camp since there’s really nothing he can do whether he knows or not. In fact, telling him the bad news before he goes could potentially make things harder for all involved. In my opinion, you need to focus your energy on getting better, and you can do a lot toward that goal in two weeks of treatment. As you note, your son is a happy boy who’s looking forward to having fun at camp. I’d let him have that experience, and you and your husband can support him with your news upon his return. If your son becomes upset with you as your husband is predicting, you should let him know how treatable stage 1 cancer is and that you didn’t want to worry him about something that you and your husband and doctor had under control. You could even add that you certainly would’ve told him sooner if it were more serious. Sometimes as parents exercising tact and timing with bad news and our children is better than full disclosure all at once.

Dr. Mike,

We are only a few days into Summer vacation and all our two boys want to do is watch TV and play video games. It was much easier balancing screen time when they were in school because they were active and busy during the day. My husband and I both work, and we can’t really monitor them the way we’d like. As teenagers, they feel that we should just leave them alone and that we are just “nagging” them. Any advice would be appreciated.

G and R in Loudoun County

G and R,

Television and video games are not all bad, but like most things in life, the excessive amount is really the issue. It seems like the lack of a game plan for how your boys will spend their time over the Summer is really the issue. They may be watching TV and gaming as much as they are out of boredom. I think the first thing you should do is sit down with your boys to discuss realistic educational, social and physical goals. Expecting them to read, spend time with friends outside of the home or play a sport shouldn’t be too much to ask of them over the Summer break. Hey, maybe they could even do some chores or get some Summer jobs! To break the habit of too much screen time you should also lead by example and think about how you may have contributed to their bad habit in the first place. How many TV sets do you have in the house? Is TV on during meals? Is TV or gaming part of the background noise of your family life? Do you demonstrate by your own viewing that television should be watched in moderation? Perhaps you might want to make some changes here. In the end, if all else fails, there are now programs available for parents who wish to manage their child or teen’s screen activity. A good site to visit to learn more about these programs is: GetParentalControls.org.

Dr. Mike,

My neighbor recently added front fencing to connect to my fence and the fence of his neighbor on the opposite side of his home. My neighbor now has a fully fenced in yard by capitalizing on the fences of his two side neighbors, as well as the neighbor who’s home backs-up to his. Needless to say, my husband and I spent a lot of money for our fence, and we are very upset by what has happened. We haven’t spoken to anyone about this, but we feel strongly that what has happened is unfair. My husband thinks we should rally our neighbors for a confrontation. What do you think?

K in Loudoun County

K,

There’s an old saying that one’s perception is one’s reality. So, while you may feel taken advantage of by your neighbor, your neighbor likely feels that he was wise in his actions. Sure, you could confront your neighbor directly. I suppose you could ask your neighbor to pay you something for benefiting from the use of your fence, but it just seems that you missed your window and should have asked him about it at the time of installing your fence. Keep in mind that anything you do here will likely have a lasting impact on everyone involved since you’re neighbors and may be for many years to come. The best advice I could give you would be to let it go and to move on. In the end, I think your relationship with your neighbor is more important than being right, and I just don’t see how your neighbor did anything wrong.

Dr. Michael Oberschneider “Dr. Mike” is the Founder and Director of Ashburn Psychological Services (APS), a private mental health clinic comprised of 12 MD and PhD level mental health clinicians. He and his team are here to serve our Loudoun children, teens and adults. To learn more about Dr. Mike and the APS team, visit: www.ashburnpsych.com or 703-723-2999.

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