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No Shame, Just Experience. Abuse.

She didn’t recognize the behavior as abusive.

The yelling, screaming, swearing, put downs or even the pushing and shoving. Not even when things were broken or the holes punched in walls.

None of it was recognized as as abusive, as a means of asserting control, dominance.

Not recognizing it spoke to what was experienced growing up. Hers was a life of having been immersed in such behavior. It was how her parents operated. It made for believing it was in a sense normal and that that somehow or other she either deserved it or created the conditions that brought it on.

It was all so confusing to hear that this, the behavior she had been subject to was abuse and that psychologically it distorted her view of relationships, right and wrong therein and her place within it.

With nothing to leave to, this went on for some time. It took planning and much support to develop herself to a point where she felt she could leave, now appreciating this wasn’t right or safe. It was particularly challenging to figure out how to do so with a couple of near teens in tow. She didn’t know how their relationships would align.

Things got worse. Despite police and child welfare involvement it was actually time in a woman’s shelter that made the difference. It was the distance and safety. That was new. It provided perspective as well as more access to resources.

Today she is an advocate. She helps others whose past seems all too familiar. She helps them find themselves and save themselves.

The kids are working. They seem to be leading a life of respect and responsibility.

All in all, it was a long haul. It created a generational shift.

When asked what made the difference, she said it was someone telling her she had been abused.

At the time, in the moment, in the space, she had never realized it.

Labeling abuse as abuse made the difference.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Child Behavior? Dig Deeper….

We call it the presenting problem.

It’s the reason someone call for counseling. In this case it was a child’s lack of confidence.

The presenting problem however, never tells us about the cause, just the parent’s view of the problem.

From there we figure things out. For that, questions. We need context.

Although the parent wants us to meet with the child, those questions are best answered first by the parents.

We need to know much about the child:

Age

Gender

Development

Mental health

Illnesses

Current physical health

Family

Family history

Parents’ history

Drug and/or alcohol use

Parenting styles

Learning disabilities

Socioeconomic context

School Academic performance and history

Past traumatic experiences

Current social and family situation.

That lack of confidence may be something related to the child’s biology, something that caused them to feel that way, or something related to how they now feel about themself. Context is everything.

A parent may have one view of what has given rise to the presenting problem, the counselor, something else. Context matters.

That context is not something typically provided in a quick phone call.

Obtaining that context is the first appointment, with the parents.

Lack of confidence is a symptom. Learning about the context helps determine the cause.

Once the cause is figured out then action that may involve the child takes place. Indeed, the child needn’t be the direct target of intervention if something external to the child is contributing to the lack of confidence. We may wonder, do we change the child to live with a challenging situation or can we change the situation?

In some cases, a child’s lack of confidence can be related to a learning disability. Other cases it may be a child who doesn’t want to leave the side of a parent who may experience violence from the partner. In other cases it can result from being told demeaning things about themself. It can also result from bullying. Indeed there are many reasons for a child’s lack of confidence.

The presenting problem rarely tells us the cause. Context matters.

For that the counselor thinks broadly. While the answer may reduce to one thing, rarely is that the case. There is the concept of multi-causality. Several things may contribute to create the presenting problem.

Counseling is a skill. It takes considerable training and experience.

Curiosity helps.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Same Family, Different View

Coming from the same family does not mean we have the same experience of that family.

As children we enter our parents lives at different points in their life. Our parents experience us and parent us in the context of their growing up experiences, the demands of the time when we arrive and the experience they may or may not have gained depending on our birth order.

Then of course there is our temperament and particular unique differences causing us to be cared for differently, one child from another.

So even from the same family, our experience of that same family can be remarkably different. Add to that gender biases, illnesses, hardships of the day and our experience of our family, compared to that of our siblings can be so radically different. Remember this when a sibling expresses a different perspective on growing up in the family.

It can be radically different, for better or for worse…. or just different.

It is not something to be argued. It is something to be understood.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Oh, the Things We Do Not See..

For the first 12 years of my life, I grew up at Bathurst and Wilson, in Toronto.

That is pretty much in the middle of the Jewish part of the city.

Back in the day, Toronto was divided by ethnicity. There was the Jewish part of the city, the Italian part, Greek, Black, Asian and so on.

Growing up in a Jewish family in the Jewish community, my experience was that the whole world was Jewish. Even our public school was mostly Jewish.

Believe it or not, from Kindergarten to grade 6, there was only one non-Jewish kid in all my classes. That is how Jewish this community was. The same would be true or near true of all the other ethnic communities. It wasn’t until we moved to Thornhill in 1967 that I was in a community that at the time was predominantly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. However, I took the belief that the whole world was Jewish with me and saw Thornhill as an anomaly.

That’s right, in my mind the whole world was still Jewish, except for Thornhill. It took many more years to realize the ethnic and cultural mosaic of the world, how it seemed to be hierarchically organized in a few different ways, and my place within it as a Jewish man.

Apart from crazy, there is a term to explain my thinking as a younger person. The term is “logical fallacy.” This is a kind of cognitive bias.

It’s about how a belief can be thought of as true, given lived experience, but in reality, isn’t. I am not unique. Everyone’s upbringing creates some kind of logical fallacy. The only issue is if we recognize them or not.

This is also referred to as unconscious bias, the things we believe that aren’t accurate or even true. It is on the basis of limited prior experience, which only means what we learned from our family and community, that we all have these blinders without recognizing them because they were part of a shared normal.

Listening to the stories and lived experience of others with an open mind is part of how we remove the blinders.

That is also how we come to be a more inclusive, equitable and compassionate society.

I have come to realize so many more things about myself since those early days. Things about how I used to believe all families operated like mine or what jokes were appropriate or not, or beliefs about other cultures.

So much of what I have learned had been colored by the perspective of growing up in a Jewish family, in a predominantly Jewish community. This is not to say it was bad, just colored and that due to that, some of my views didn’t reflect those of others and indeed, weren’t accurate.

We all have them. Logical fallacies. Unconscious bias. Perhaps the biggest logical fallacy of all, is a person believing they have none.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

When a Child Sacrifices for Another During the Pandemic

Families are complex. Like snowflakes, no two are alike.

Living isolated during the pandemic there are some families who owing to the vulnerability of one member, all must be vigilant with their distancing. The necessary restrictions on children to keep another safe can be a hardship.

These kids may not return to school and may not be provided opportunity for any direct social contact with friends. As the pandemic wears on, this can wear on mood.

For some, they understand and some may not. For some it can create animosity and while others may accept the situation, sadness may remain. Anger may develop.

These situations can tie parents in knots. The choice of keeping one physically safe at the possible expense of another’s mental health is a dilemma.

Sit.

Sit with the child of concern. In sitting with that child, let them experience your calm, your love, your connection.

Do not seek to call out their feelings, you both know what they are. Just sit.

Let the child feel safe and hopeful in your close company, in your knowing appreciation of their sacrifice.

Then, a hug.

Then, engage back to the activity of the moment.

Sacrifice needs a gentle acknowledge and appreciation. It can come in the subtlety of a knowing moment.

Subtlety at times can convey a sentiment more profoundly than a big acknowledge or gesture.


Follow me on Facebook!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Demanding Parent and Never Measuring Up

If anything, she was too good a daughter, always responsive to her mom’s demands, receiving little in return apart from criticism. She was burnt out running.

The request was to help cope.

Truth is, some issues you can’t cope with. They forever drain.

The real issues was boundaries. Setting them. Keeping them. Managing the pushback. Oh the guilt. That too was a big hurdle. The belief she was abandoning her mother who made it clear a debt was forever owed for her raising her to adulthood weighed heavily and was forever reminded.

The thought of not running on demand sent shivers down her spine. Meanwhile it was sabotaging her marriage at the same time.

Something would change all right. The question was what and whether by accident or design.

Truth is, this and versions similar to this story are common. It can affect adult children of any gender.

For her it took another year with almost the loss of the marriage. With that she finally came to terms with the fact her mother’s interest was always greater than her own. She also came to appreciate that she could put services in place rather than being the direct service provider. She accepted that it remained her mother’s choice as to whether or not she would accept the service. Her decision. Her consequence.

As for the incessant calls, the demands and the guilt and badmouthing, she realized that hanging up wasn’t rude. It was survival.

The hang up followed one reasonably expressed warning. After a week, no warning. Interestingly, the more she followed through with all the boundary and limit setting the more reasonable her mother became. It doesn’t always work out this way, but in this situation it did.

With the changes she was able to be more present and invested in the marriage. Although not discussed previously, this change was picked up by her kids whose behavior improved along the way.

Never was it suggested she abandon her mother. Never was it suggested she couldn’t provide care for her.

It was all about how to meet the needs without sacrificing her own well-being, relationship and mental health and how to set a boundary to limit the emotional and psychological manipulation and abuse.

Some get there sooner. Some later.

All feel better off when they arrive.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

With Kids Returning to School – This may help…

Kids at School?

Yesterday I asked how kids who returned to school this week, were doing.

I received more than 150 comments. (Thank you.)Themes emerge from the comments that may be helpful to all parents.

First and overall, for most kids this was a welcomed relief that provided for improved mood and behavior at home and school. There was a subset of kids who seemed to have pre-existing issues with anxiety. Interestingly, for some they still returned to school well. Their experience was positive. For others their pre-existing issues re-emerged. Some of those kids seemed to do better at home with online learning.

For kids whose special needs require a highly specialized approach or classroom, there was a mixed response. Some of these kids returned to similar and familiar settings and people. Some did not. Where they did, it seems the return was overall positive. Where they didn’t some kids had issues of adjustment.

Upon return home after school and even some mornings, some kids were reported having meltdowns. These seemed somewhat independent of a positive or negative experience at school.

Probably the single most common issue noted was fatigue. Many kids from all groups were tired upon return home.

It is important for parents to appreciate that fatigue doesn’t always show up as tiredness in kids. For some, fatigue shows as restlessness, moodiness and even aggressive behavior.

Fatigue can even be the reason for some meltdowns.

If I were to provide guidance, given all the comments, it would be to recognize that kids returning to school, likely all kids, return home exhausted. They are into a new and demanding routine with plenty of expectations. Even if distanced, they are still more active, even if only for getting to school, than they have been for months.

Give them a nutritious snack upon return home and let them have a rest. An early bedtime may actually be welcomed by some kids.That simple guidance may make the difference in mood and behavior.

I can only wish all kids well with their return to school. If issues in returning to school persist, consider counseling for the parents to better determine issues and hopefully solutions.

I wish you all well. Hope this helps.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Culture Influencing Relationships….

I’ve chatted with a few folks recently who find themselves in conflict with others and/or distanced from their partner.

It’s interesting because all these particular folks hailed from cultures/countries where people are known to talk loudly, boldly. It is their cultural norm.

Then interestingly, the folks with whom they have conflict are of either English descent or often White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. No one is abusive here.

The real issue is not appreciating the impact of cultural differences.

Those of us who are of Eastern European descent (me), or of Middle East descent can be experienced by others as loud, overwhelming and even abusive by those not accustomed to our demeanor. I have long since learned to modulate my intensity and volume (for the most part). Others have not necessarily realized how they are experienced from this perspective. Bringing this to their awareness has proven helpful.

As we modulate our intensity and tone, others are more comfortable. It can be important to know who we are culturally, who we are seeking to relate with, and how they may experience our demeanor.

Because of how we are wired as humans, I see it is typically easier for the one who may be more intense to dial it back than for the one who may be overwhelmed to be stronger.

Just to add, this is independent of gender.


Follow me on Facebook!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Pandemic Awakenings

In five years, will it all have been a blip in time?

Will pre-pandemic norms return and if they do, will we catch back up to living life less questioned?

We have been awakened to so much this past year. I question if I want to go back to the naivety of things I took for granted..

With that, I think I want to remember learning more about life’s inequities based on race, color, income, and sexual identification and orientation.

I think I want to remember learning more of how compassion while serving others also serves our interests; interests of self worth, peace, purpose and meaning.

I think I will want to remember the value of others whose contributions to society I took for granted.

I think I will want to remember the trickery of some individuals, of politicians and governments who took opportunity for personal gain and the interests of things over people to myself make more astute choices at the ballot box.

I think I will want to remember and model those whose sacrifices, whose walking towards the danger served others.

I think I will want to remember and value those who led our children, seeking to facilitate their intellectual development while nurturing their mental health and well being.

So at some point things will likely return to the ways of the past.

However, there is so much I have learned, things I want to remember, things whose remembrance cause us to be better.

There have and continue to be so many lessons, now awakened. So many lessons learned through the challenge of today’s adversity.

Those lessons serve.

It is life that is our greatest teacher. We learn most when awakened.


Follow me on Facebook!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

This Word May Make a Difference

Sometimes people do things that cause them shame. There are truly regretful behaviors.

Then you learn about the hardships and traumas faced as well as the tremendous acts of kindness they have provided.

You realize these are not bad people but folks whose lives have been so burdensome. Rather than blame, I want them to have rachmunis for each other.

Rachmunis is a Jewish word.

It means having empathy, compassion and charity for another.

It is about recognizing the good, despite a wrong. It’s about realizing that if not for certain circumstances, a person would not have done as they did. It creates a sense of allowing forgiveness.

I shared that word with a young couple tonight. I think they got it and if practiced with each other, I think they can overcome some mutual hurts.

It’s a good word.

Rachmunis.


Follow me on Facebook!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.