Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk

My daughter refuses to speak to me

Posted by Patricia_Marie
Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 22 September 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have one daughter aged 16. Her father left us when she was a baby, and we were on our own until I met my present partner 2 years ago. She used to be the most adorable daughter, and it was wonderful to see how well my partner and her got on. In fact, everything was perfect until just recently, when we told her we were expecting a baby of our own.

Since then she refuses to speak to us, slams doors and is rude to us. We have tried to reassure her that having this baby won't make any difference in her life or between us, but any mention of the baby and she either becomes angry or bursts into tears. I have tried to be patient, but she has turned into a nightmare child and spoiling what should be one of the happiest times of our lives. Please advise.

Patricia Marie says...

I can understand how worried and upset you are feeling. As you say, this should be a 'happy' time for you. At the moment you are seeing your daughter's behaviour as unreasonable and unfair. Nevertheless, labelling her doesn't help. Understanding her feelings can. Step into your daughter's shoes and start to see things from her point of view. After all, having a baby may be exciting and wonderful for you and your partner, but your daughter perceives this news as a threat to her place in the family. Of course she's unhappy. For 16 years she has been the number one in your life. She's scared she's no longer important, and is understandably feeling rejected, hurt and unsettled too.

Recognise the confusion and pain your daughter is feeling. What she needs is plenty of love and understanding. Don't pressure her to be more accepting of the news, or make her feel guilty about not having a happy response. Instead, give her time and space to get used to the idea. Perhaps she would like to help decorate the nursery. Ask her opinion on name choices. Involving your daughter in plans around the forthcoming birth will make her feel very much included, and will also help her to come to terms with your pregnancy.
Be honest and tell her things will be different, but the love you have for her will never change. As your daughter gets used to the idea of having a sister or brother she may become far less angry and anxious. Gently explain to her that although the baby will initially demand your attention, you will also ensure the two of you get to enjoy special time together. When she trusts the fact she's still loved and wanted, she will soon grow to accept and adore her new sibling, and in time you can all get to enjoy the special times that lie ahead.

For further help, advice and guidance, I highly recommend Family Lives (formerly Parent Line Plus) There help line is open 24 hours. 0808 800 2222 familylives.org.uk/
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My 21 year old son has just announced that he is gay

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 15 September 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

My 21 year old son has just announced to my husband and I that he is gay. I am totally shocked, devastated and completely unable to cope with this revelation. I still love him, but am disgusted by his behaviour.

He wants us to meet his boyfriend, but I have said absolutely not. I believe he thinks it's fashionable to be gay, but I am horrified. He has had a few girlfriends in the past, but nothing serious. Now I'm thinking this was all a disguise to shield us from the truth. My husband is putting on a brave face, but is distraught. We had presumed in the not too distant future our son would marry, and we would one day be grandparents, but I feel I have now lost my son.

My world has been shattered and I don't know what to do. Please help.

Patricia Marie says...

For any parent, finding out their child is gay can come as a shock, and facing up to this news can be difficult and painful, but in your case, if you are unable to alter your way of thinking, then you could indeed risk losing your son. He has finally taken the enormous step to trust and 'come out' to you both, only to be rebuffed. Have you considered how he is feeling? Being gay is not a choice. What your son needs from you now is simple acceptance, not to be made to feel guilty. Perhaps the first step in acknowledging this would be to welcome his boyfriend into your home. Many parents who have been in your situation find that, once they come to terms with their child's sexuality, the relationship between them deepens, and please stop worrying what others think; true friends will be supportive of you, and most importantly should accept your son for who he is.

Try to gain a sense of perspective – at present all you have lost is your own idea of how life should be. Your son hasn't changed. He's still the same person he was yesterday. Who's to say your son won't have a family and provide you with grandchildren in the future? Don't let him down at the time he needs you most, but instead show him the unconditional love every child deserves. The important factor in any relationship is not the gender to whom people are attracted - more that they love, respect, and treat one another with kindness.

Contact Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG), who are brilliant at supporting parents when their children come out - and after. They would understand the very complex, raw, and totally understandable emotions that are enveloping your family at present. I also recommend: Always My Child by Kevin Jennings; this great read provides the insights and practical strategies parents need to support their children and cope themselves, having established their child is gay.

Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: fflag.org.uk/0845 652 0311  
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My friend doesn't support me

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 08 September 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

I've had this friend for years - since we were at college together. And I always thought we'd be there for each other through thick and thin. Three years ago, she went through a terribly messy divorce and I supported her. Then, last year I found out my husband had been cheating on me, and after trying to work through it naturally, I went to my friend for sympathy. But she turned on me, telling me I was dragging her down and asking too much of her. We're still friends, but the closeness has completely gone. Was I wrong to have expected more from her?

Patricia Marie says...

You weren't wrong to expect more from your friend at all, but you may have to accept that she wasn't necessarily rejecting you when she let you down. Sometimes people can't be how we would like them to be, or act in the way we'd prefer them to. For you, it hurts because it feels personal, almost as if your friend decided you didn't deserve her help. But in reality, her behaviour is about her, not you. It sounds like your unhappiness, in a situation so like her own, dramatically brought back her grief and pain.

When we want to offload, we have to take some responsibility. Just because we want to get angry and upset, it doesn't mean that our friends are able to deal with us being this way, especially if they have issues that they are trying to deal with, which we may be ignoring because we are too focused with what's bothering us. While friends can, and should, be there for us when we need their support, often a professional can give us the care we really need to move on. Perhaps if your friend had gone for counselling as well as asking for your help, she might have been able to put her sadness aside and been there for you - and now not feel so guilty about failing you, which I suspect is what the distance is about.

I believe you may benefit from some counselling yourself to help you move forward with this situation. Hopefully, once you start to feel better you'll be able to forgive her and that closeness will return.

The British association of Counselling and Psychotherapy have a directory where you can find a qualified therapist in your area. www.bacp.co.uk 01455 883300
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I'm worried my friend will get hurt

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 01 September 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

A friend of mine has recently set up a joint account and is planning on buying a house with a man she met on the internet just three months ago. He seems nice enough, but my husband and I have noticed he has some serious money issues and lies a lot, for example when he told her he has never been engaged before when in fact he has. He has become friendly with my husband and tells him things that are different to what he tells my friend. She is completely in love with him and is planning their entire future, oblivious to his financial situation. I don't know what I should do. I can't tell her anything my husband has told me about him as I don't want to spoil their friendship or be in the middle. Also, I'm worried it's none of my business. However, I'm struggling to sit back and do nothing when I'm worried this man might hurt her, am I overreacting and should I just ignore it? Please help. Thank you.

Patricia Marie says...

You are concerned that you don't wish to jeopardise your husband's friendship with this man, yet they have only known each other for a few months, and in this time he has lied about both personal and financial matters, so perhaps discord between them is preferable, to protect your friend from making a huge mistake with him.

However, please remember, your friend is in love with this man, and may be in denial if told something she doesn't want to believe. Rather than being seen as caring and loyal for disclosing this information, you might be construed as a troublemaker, which could cause you great anguish, despite your good intentions.

Although I do understand your wish to enlighten, you may risk your friendship in the process. Nevertheless, you could have a candid discussion with your friend and explain how worried you are that she is verging on a huge commitment with a man she barely knows. Suggest she checks his authenticity, and particularly the personal facts he has communicated to her. If she shows resentment at your suggestion, be prepared to let her find out the truth for herself. Some of the best lessons ever learnt are those we learn from our mistakes and failures. After all, the error of the past can be the success and wisdom of the future.

It is possible that this man may have no ulterior motive, other than perhaps retaining information for fear of being misjudged by your friend. If it should prove that he has been manipulating the truth, is not to be trusted, and the relationship does crumble, continue to be there for her, and she will see that you are very much someone whom she can depend on.
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Results time

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 17 August 2017
The last week or so has been a frantic time for students up and down the country, with both the GCSE and A level results coming in. If the results are disappointing, it can cause emotional fallout for the student themselves and their parents, and cause problems between them...

Even if you are unhappy with your child's grades, try not to show this, as it could have a negative impact on their wellbeing. It is very important to remain calm and look to the future, so put aside your own wishes for them, look beyond the marks, and, at a time when they could be feeling disheartened and not good enough, remind them of their attributes, giving them reassurance that your love and approval are unconditional. Don't push them into making the wrong choice just to please you, as this may cause resentment in the future, and try not to compare their results with those of others, as even the most successful people in the world have had failures in their life. Make sure they have some time out to do their research and get as much advice as they can, before making any decisions and bear in mind that helplines are only a phone call away, so do encourage them to call sooner rather than later.

If you are a student, remind yourself that your parents ultimately just want you to be happy. It can be hard to see a way forward when you feel you haven't achieved, but learn from this setback, take responsibility for your results, and consider that if you work hard and commit yourself, your options are limitless. If you haven't been accepted at your chosen university, speak to your tutors, who have the skills and resources to help you explore your choices. Remember, there are always opportunities to improve yourself, whether in or out of education. Experience and other life skills are just as important as qualifications, so perhaps take a gap year, which will allow you time to think of alternatives that you may not up until now have considered.

Sharing life's challenges is a great time for parents and children to bond together, and, with mutual understanding and the right attitude, it can surely only lead to success...

There are helplines available for both students and their parents: The Universities and College Administration Service Exam Result Helpline on 0808 100 8000 offers careers advice and practical support, and Family Lives can provide much needed emotional help on 0808 800 2222 or go on to their website: www.familylives.org.uk
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