News & Events

This weekend Andrea Krebs, Executive Director and Kate Marble, Case Management Program Director from Health Affiliates Maine proudly accepted the NAMI Maine Outstanding Partner Agency award on HAMs behalf.

HAM is dedicated to working toward the mission of reducing stigma, spreading awareness and creating access to supports for people in Maine effected by mental health struggles. We are happy to support NAMI and honored to work toward these shared goals for the people we serve.

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Teen’s Mood Has Mom Confused

How do you tell the difference between teenage moodiness and depression?

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on October 28th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: How do you tell the difference between teenage moodiness and depression? My son has been very tired, withdrawn, and sulky since school started. I ask him about school and he says everything is fine. He has friends and is in sports. His grades are fine. When I ask if he is feeling down, he says no and that he’s just tired. It seems like more than being tired or teenage moodiness though. How do I tell the difference?

Answer: You are doing a good job, mom, at paying attention! That is the key to finding an answer to your first question. There seems to be a lot going on here. Some of what is happening may be quite normal and age appropriate, while some may indicate some intervention is needed.  

Many parents are alarmed when their sweet-natured, family-oriented young teen turns, seemingly overnight, into a dark, moody stranger who wants nothing to do with the family. This is also the time when many things parents say are met with rolling eyes and disbelief. The good news; they usually grow out of this. This can be is part of a teen’s developmental task, which is moving toward becoming an adult and separating from parents. The teen years, with the help of hormones, can be full of testing, pulling away, moodiness and pushing boundaries, as they struggle to be different from their parents. It can be a baffling time for parents and really baffling for the teens. The emotions and uncertainty may cause them to experiment with risky behaviors, and affect their feelings about themselves, their world view, and sense of belonging. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by it all and can become moody and depressed, often isolating themselves from family activities and friends. 

Most of the difficulties with teen behavior are episodic, meaning they may have periods of moodiness but also are able to move on from that. So consider how long the moodiness has been going on. If he is able to pull himself out of it and have some periods of a lighter mood it is less serious than if it is prolonged.

The concerning part of your description of your son is about his tiredness. I recommend he have a health check-up to make sure there is nothing physically going on. Many things can cause fatigue. He may be staying up late studying, being online or playing video games. Is he tired from the sports workouts and staying up late to finish homework? If so, there will need to be some monitoring to ensure he is getting more regular sleep. Signs that there may be a problem are if he is spending an unusual amount of time sleeping or he is taking frequent naps. This could indicate depression or another health issue.

Here are some other important questions to consider. How you answer these questions may help you know what you need to do.  

  • Is he spending time with his friends? Are they old friends or new friends?  
  • Is there a special relationship starting or stopping? 
  • Is he feeling bullied or otherwise intimidated at school?  
  • Is his behavior different outside home?  
  • Is he engaged in activities that you have not previously seen him engage in? 
  • Is he pushing you away with his mood, so you won’t recognize that he may be using substances like alcohol, marijuana and other drugs?  
  • Does the school report that he attends regularly?  
  • Has anyone else noticed any change in his behavior?
  • Is he complaining of physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches? 

Your teen may not choose to talk to you about any of this. If you suspect there is more behind his tiredness, if his symptoms are prolonged, or if he is losing interest in school, friends, sports, etc., then have him screened for depression. Your PCP is the first place to start. Lastly, many teens benefit from seeing a counselor who can be help them navigate the transition into adulthood. There are many counselors who work with youth, both male and female. It is difficult when a parent knows that something is making their teen struggle. I wish the best for you, and him.  

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Christine Rogerson

Ethics, Decision Making, and Our Professional Commitment to Social Justice

Training events from late November to early December in Orono, Falmouth & Lewiston.

OronoFri, November 8, 2019 from 8:00am – 4:00pm
Black Bear Inn
4 Godfrey Drive
Orono, ME
Register
FalmouthFri, December 6, 2019 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The Woodlands Club
39 Woods Road
Falmouth, ME
Register
LewistonFri, December 13, 2019 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Franco Center
46 Cedar Street
Lewiston, ME
Register

About the Program

The world seems to be spinning faster and faster these days, and the call to social justice greater and greater. As clinicians, what is our responsibility to social justice? What is our role in pursuing social change? How do we wade through the ethical quagmires? This workshop will assist clinicians in defining social change, identifying the roles we play in upholding social justice, and explore the ethical decision making process as it relates to social change.

Exposure to violence and abuse also has implications for the healers including safety concerns and compassion fatigue. We will consider personal and systemic support for professional resiliency.

Objectives for the day:

  1. Define Social Justice and identify the role we as helping professional play
  2. Explore Codes of Ethics and identify steps to ethical decision making
  3. Determine strategies to elicit our professional responsibility to social justice

Agenda for the day

8:30 Opening Introductions & Ice breaker
9:00 What is Social Justice?
10:15 Break
10:30 Ethics
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Ethical Decision Making
2:15 Break
2:30 Ethics & Our Commitment to Social Justice
3:45 So now what?
4:00 Conclusion

About the Presenter

Christine Rogerson, LCSW

A graduate of the University of Maine at Orono with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, Christine Rogerson earned her Master of Social Work from the University of New England. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD. in social work at Simmons University and is a Field Practicum Coordinator for the University of New England’s Master of Social Work program. Christine’s work in education at the University of New England is robust, having served as an academic advisor, a visiting clinical assistant professor, and an adjunct faculty member. Particularly knowledgeable when it comes to social justice, Christine recently taught a course at Simmons on racism and oppression.

Christine’s clinical work is also extensive. She has spent a decade as a clinician working with families and children through school-based counseling, behavioral health agencies, and in the hospital setting.

Committed to her community and to giving back, her service includes a seat on the Board of Directors of Sweetser as a Corporator, as a representative to the York Diversity Council, and as a LEND Grant inter-professional team member representing social work in a pediatric neurology clinic.

OronoFri, November 8, 2019 from 8:00am – 4:00pm
Black Bear Inn
4 Godfrey Drive
Orono, ME
Register
FalmouthFri, December 6, 2019 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The Woodlands Club
39 Woods Road
Falmouth, ME
Register
LewistonFri, December 13, 2019 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Franco Center
46 Cedar Street
Lewiston, ME
Register

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Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!
Child playing

Mom Seeks Alternatives to ADHD Meds

My son is 7 years-old and his teacher recently suggested that he may have ADHD. He is very active and sometimes distracted. I'm very hesitant to ask his doctor about it though because I do not feel like we need to put him on medication, at least not at such a young age.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on September 26th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  My son is 7 years-old and his teacher recently suggested that he may have ADHD. He is very active and sometimes distracted. I’m very hesitant to ask his doctor about it though because I do not feel like we need to put him on medication, at least not at such a young age. I’d like to explore some ways to help him with focus and calm his body over the summer to see if it helps before the start of school. Please share any suggestions you may have.

Answer:  Although this response isn’t fitting with your timeframe, I hope it can still be helpful throughout the year.  Many parents feel like you, and are concerned about their children taking medication at such a young age.  Some question whether medication would change their child’s personality when perhaps they could eventually grow out of their unfocused nature. They worry about side effects.  There are things you can do at home, and some other options to consider. Let’s start by understanding this condition and what contributes to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). 

What is ADHD?   In order to be diagnosed with ADHD a child must have at least six ADHD symptoms of either: inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity; one or the other, or both. These symptoms must be present for at least 6 months or longer, be present before the age of twelve and cause significant difficulties or impairment in two or more settings, such as home, school/work or social settings.  Adults can also have symptoms and be diagnosed with ADHD.

Some symptoms of inattention include: 

  • having difficulty maintaining attention, 
  • having difficulties listening or following instructions, 
  • making careless mistakes, 
  • avoiding tasks that require a sustained focus, 
  • being forgetful, 
  • getting distracted easily and 
  • losing things easily. 

The symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity include:

  • having difficulty engaging in quiet activities 
  • restlessness (needing to move around, fidgety, etc.) 
  • excessively talking or blurting out answers  
  • interrupting others 
  • having difficulty with waiting their turn

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889

Is it really ADHD?   Many disorders can mimic ADHD, including just about every anxiety disorder and some physical conditions. A thorough medical work-up and talking with your PCP about exploring other health issues that can affect your child’s ability to concentrate will be essential for your child.  Sometimes children will become temporarily hyperactive or distracted in the setting of a family stressor like death of a loved one, divorce, or traumatic event.

Parenting is key and your style of parenting may need to be modified to help your child.  Chaotic and hectic households (many of us have them) can contribute to how a child’s brain develops. Just as you would make changes for any child who has special needs, changes in your approach, schedule, your home, and your parenting skills may make a significant difference.  The best way to address behaviors in a child (ADHD or otherwise) is to provide an environment that is scheduled and consistent.  Seeking counseling can help you learn parenting skills that help you manage a distracted child, while being a loving parent who is consistent and firm.    

Limiting screen time: I realize that this seems impossible in our current culture.  However, it is so important in developing children.  A child with attention and hyperactivity issues can wear on a parent.  As a result, they may choose to allow screen time to distract them for some relief.  However, this is not a solution; it actually contributes to the problem.  Limit screens to no more than 20 minutes twice a day (at the most) with the parent controlling all access to screens including TV. 

A new study out of the University of Alberta has found that by the age of 5, children who spent two hours or more looking at a screen each day were 7.7 times more likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when compared to children who spent 30 minutes or less. https://www.ualberta.ca/medicine/news/2019/april/too-much-screen-time-associated-with-behavioural-problems-in-preschoolers

That means take the screens out of the bedroom, the car, and the kitchen.  Parents/caregivers should take charge of dispensing the screens and locking them up when not in use. Do this consistently and get all caregivers on board.  There are benefits for everyone when screens are limited. Here is a helpful link:  https://abcnews.go.com/Health/screen-time-linked-higher-risk-adhd-preschool-aged/story?id=62429157

Time Outside:  Make time for high energy play: outside.  I remember when my mother would have enough of me and my brothers pestering her, and we would get sent outside to play.  I would always fight it, claiming it was “too cold”, “too hot”, “there was nothing to do”, and “no one to play with”.  In the end, she would have to call and call for us to come in for supper.  Physical outside play and exercise is recommended for all children (actually for adults, too) and can be very helpful for the symptoms of ADHD. If you want your children to do something that helps their wellbeing, then take a strong parenting role and make it happen.  You can let them sit outside pouting until they grow tired of doing that.  This will communicate that you are in charge, and crying and complaining doesn’t change that fact.  You can adopt this ‘in charge’ stance in other areas.  When children know that a parent is in control, they feel safe.

Check out this link:  https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880

Regular Bedtime with the recommended number of hours of sleep for your child’s age is also critical.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.  Consistent bedtime can help in many ways with children’s behavior and health.  Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick to it.  This is another time when the parent must be in charge, and not let the child dictate the bedtime.  Whatever time you set, your child will adjust to it, if you are consistent.  

Read more:  https://www.parents.com/health/healthy-happy-kids/young-children-behave-better-when-they-have-a-consistent-bedtime/

ADHD is serious.  One caution is that you not wait too long after you have tried other alternatives. People who grow up with untreated ADHD often have low self-esteem.  They think of themselves as “stupid”. Throughout their lives they get messages from teachers, schoolmates, and family, when they are unable to settle, focus, or complete a task, that they are deficient and defective.  There are lifelong impacts to low self-esteem which can be serious.

 If your child continues to struggle with concentration, hyperactivity or both, his or her learning and overall functioning in the world is at risk, and may be enhanced on medication.  Please consider that medications aren’t evil, they are a tool and similar to a child with nearsightedness who can read if they really concentrate and squint their eyes, we don’t withhold glasses from them because we think they will grow out of it or do better if they just try harder, we give them glasses and are quite proud that they now enjoy reading instead of avoid it.

Here are some alternative ways ADHD symptoms are treated.  

  • Counseling to learn skills to focus their minds and modify behaviors.  This can be essential for parents.  Counseling also helps with self-esteem problems.
  • Acupuncture, Yoga and Tai Chi: Rooted in Eastern medicine, current studies show that this can be helpful.
  • Chiropractic: Call and ask about treating ADHD.
  • Nutritional counseling: There is some evidence that a low carb/sugar, high fat diet is helpful.

I wish you well as you explore what is best for your child.  

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Divorced Dad Has Disinterested Kids

 I am a divorced dad and don't see my teenage children as much as I would like due to my work requiring significant travel. We've grown apart a lot in recent months and now even when we do see each other, I feel like I don't even know what to say or ask.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on August 15th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I am a divorced dad and don’t see my teenage children as much as I would like due to my work requiring significant travel. We’ve grown apart a lot in recent months and now even when we do see each other, I feel like I don’t even know what to say or ask. My kids seem disinterested in maintaining a relationship with me. They often do not answer my texts or phone calls. I think sometimes they make excuses for not seeing me too. I’m looking for unique ways to help strengthen my relationship with my kids and connect again. Thanks.

Answer: 

What an important and difficult situation, thank you for asking about this, I am sure others can relate.  The situation sounds like you need an immediate, (take some vacation time) and go camping, fishing or anything that would give you some extended time together to rekindle a connection.  

Let’s start with communication.  Often we talk to our kids by asking yes/no questions, questions that can be answered with one word like: “How was your day?”  “Fine”  “Is Mike coming over?” “Yes.”  “Was your test difficult?”  “No.”  “Did you get your homework done?”  You know the drill.  This is not conversation, and it is especially brutal when it is on the phone.   Instead, ask the questions in such a way that they must provide more information, like:   “Tell me something about your day?” “If Mike comes over what do you think you would like to do?”  When you are engaged in what they are studying or who their friends are, your questions can be more relevant, allowing for more conversation.  Remember that conversation goes both ways.  Without burdening them with your troubles, tell them things about yourself.  How are they like you?  What was important when you were their age, or a story about something that struck you as funny.  Send them pictures from your travels.   Whatever you do, be genuine.  Teens know when you don’t really care.  Learn their favorite video games and have them also teach you to play when you are with them.  Then you can ask about what levels they have achieved, they will know you understand.  Find an app that has a game you can play back and forth, while apart.  I know a dad that always has a chess match going with his teen.  Teens also prefer texts and many don’t answer calls.  Texting a note or picture is like communicating to them that right now, I am thinking about you. 

When you are together, you will have to put in some time to plan.  Set out to make your short time together meaningful.   TV and pizza, as much a kid’s like that, do not really make for relationship building experiences.  Ask yourself; are we making memories?  Try making your own pizzas with lots of fun ingredients, or go on a hike, fishing, or roller skating.  Make some family rituals for when you and your kids are together:  like morning waffle making or bike riding.  There are a lot of ideas online.  If at all possible, take one child along on one of your travels if they are old enough to safely bide their time when you are working.  Consider adding a day to the trip to explore, and make memories.  If your teens have special events, important sport activities or a role in a play, do whatever you can, alter your schedule when possible, to be able to be there.  I have had many people say, “My father never came to one of my games”.  

It is important to have fun, make memories, it is also vitally important to be a dad who participates in the heavy lifting of parenting, when necessary.  That is why you have no time to lose, to improve those connections with your teens.  You will want them to take you seriously and to listen to you when struggles come.  One way to do this, if the situation allows, is to have a positive-parenting connection with their mother.  Parenting with two parents is no walk in the park.  Being a divorced dad, who travels for work, is doubly hard. Don’t let your work be an excuse for not being involved.   You might want to try counseling around parenting issues, which can also be done confidentially online, when you travel.  Be careful not to put your kids in the middle between you and their mother, by asking what she is doing, if she is dating, or saying things to them about her which upsets them.  Kids will naturally want to defend her, which means, you are out. 

The other night I was with family in a pizza shop. When looking around the room, I could see dads alone with kids; thinking perhaps they were divorced and it was ‘their weekend.’  One father and teenage son stood out to me, because the teenager looked over my way rather bored and forlorn.  Dad was deep in his phone as they ate, scrolling away and texting.  This went on for some time.  It occurred to me that I would not want to be sitting there either, with no company.  The message we send our children and teens, when we are constantly consumed with other things, is that they are not important.  They feel invisible to us. This is a set-up for children to develop low self-esteem, a serious and sad condition.  As parents we need to be careful of the magnetic draw of our phones and other media, when the kids are around.  The natural progression of this situation of the teen in the pizza shop is that he may pull away.  Eventually he may find more interesting company than dad.    

I hear in your question that you want better.  I’m sharing this scenario to help you to think of what other factors are in your behavior, (intentional and unintentional) which might be contributing to your children distancing themselves from you.  I wish you success, whatever you do, don’t stop trying.  Kids need us, and want us, with changing intensity throughout our lives.  As you keep trying to engage you are sending the message that you will always be open to relationship with them.

Helpful links:

http://fathers.com/wp39/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Five-Tips-for-Dads-Who-Travel.pdf

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-be-a-better-dad-when-you-travel-for-business/

healthaffiliatesmaine.com

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Mid-Life Mom Wants to Fight Fatigue

I am a "mid-life" mom to three kids. I work outside the home. I have recently experienced a lot of fatigue in the afternoons. I find myself reaching for sweets or caffeine (or both) to give myself a pick-me-up and get through the rest of the day.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on July 12th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: I am a “mid-life” mom to three kids. I work outside the home. I have recently experienced a lot of fatigue in the afternoons. I find myself reaching for sweets or caffeine (or both) to give myself a pick-me-up and get through the rest of the day. By the time I get home from work, I am too tired to cook so we often get take out. I’ve talked to my doctor and she did a thyroid test and other bloodwork to make sure I wasn’t having any health issues and those were all fine. She basically said this part of getting older and to increase my exercise and sleep. I have done both but still find myself tired all the time. I’m looking for other ways to boost my energy in the afternoons without looking to food and beverages. Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

Answer: Most of us can relate to your question. Many people, women especially, struggle with this and some accept it when they are told they are “aging”. It sounds like this is not the answer you want to accept. Good for you!

There are a lot of things in life that give us energy. Having balance in our lives is important, and adding in those things that “feed your soul” can really help our energy level. One of my favorite quotes is: “If I had but two loaves of bread to feed me, I would sell one, and buy hyacinths to feed my soul.”– Mohamad

Music, meditation, lunch with a friend, hobbies or creative outlets, spiritual study/activities, books, plays, nature walks and courses are some things that can round out your world. In that same vein, consider if you are bored or may need a challenge in your work. Has your primary relationship become distant or stagnant? Are you experiencing mood problems like depression?

Psychological fatigue can lead to feelings of physical fatigue. I ask to nudge you to look at other possible contributing factors.

On the physical level, sweets and other simple carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, donuts, candy, etc.) feed fatigue, in a vicious cycle of sorts. The sweets can give a boost of insulin to our system, which makes us more feel more energy. The problem is, it wears off fast and we experience a drop in energy. Add more sweets and caffeine and we are in a crazy, up and down cycle. This can ultimately cause us health problems, weight gain, mood and self-esteem problems. For some, discomfort means more eating of ‘comfort foods’ which are usually simple carbohydrates. What a crazy cycle! Better choices when you are feeling fatigued are foods with protein, good fats (yes, like olives, nuts or avocado), or whole grains (complex carbs). Try one of these snacks before you are overly hungry, and you will make better choices later. It is also highly recommended to drink water frequently throughout the day.

Healthy eating, which is all about choices, is important for life long health for all of us. A vibrant, healthy friend of mine once laughingly said, that “anything handed to you from a window is NOT food”. Here is a link to read more about making good food choices:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dietary-guidelines/art-20045584.

Here are some suggestions to take small steps toward better choices which can ultimately help your fatigue. Start by adding a crock pot meal once a week, so it is done and ready to eat when you get home. Once that becomes routine, try to make one meal ahead on the weekend. You will start to feel better about your choices. It is also recommended to talk with a nutritionist or health coach about this. Many health insurances companies will pay for wellness activities, or have a set amount toward the cost. You can find out more from the website of your health insurance.

Lastly, try breaking up your work day, with some standing or a brisk walk around the parking lot to help rejuvenate your energy. Many of us at work send our printing to the printer farthest away just for a chance to get up and walk a bit. If you still struggle with fatigue, keep trying to get to the bottom of it—how you feel is so important. Make it your personal rule to get other opinions, especially when the first answer you got was that you were aging. Counseling, massage, yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic are some alternative treatments that may work for you. Don’t give up!

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Reconnecting with Friends Divided by Divorce

I divorced my ex almost two years ago. We had quite a few couple friends and initially I was able to maintain being friends with our couple friends but it got harder and I would no longer be invited out because I was single.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on June 19th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I divorced my ex almost two years ago. We had quite a few couple friends and initially I was able to maintain being friends with our couple friends but it got harder and I would no longer be invited out because I was single. Most of those friends I have basically written off because I felt snubbed. Two couple friends have at least tried to keep in touch though and I would like to try and reconnect with them. I have been dating someone for almost 6 months now and would love to try and go out as couples again. It feels pretty weird though given their history with my ex. (In at least one case, the husband is still friends with and sees my ex.) I want to have an open conversation with my couple friends but am not sure where to start. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

Answer:  This is a difficult thing—not only for you, but for your friends who knew you together with your ex-spouse. When we have friendships with other couples we think of each couple as a unit. We always say “Mark and Mary,” Dave and Nancy,” Mike and Dan.” When divorce happens our friends also experience the loss. The relationship is changed. People who lose a partner to death also experience this same thing with friends that knew them as a couple.  

I think your desire and effort to reconnect is good and worth trying. It is best just to be honest. Say that it would be great to see them again, that you have a new guy in your life that you would love to have them meet.  Acknowledge that it may be awkward at first. Ask them how they would feel about getting together. For your friend who is still friends with your ex, be aware that this could put him in a difficult triangle and he may feel he has to choose. In that case, accept it.

If you are able to get everyone together again, you might want to keep the first meeting brief or at an event where there are lots of other people around. Pick a place where there is something to watch (a game, a comedy show, etc.) so silences or awkwardness in the conversation is not so pronounced. 

Lastly, remember that each relationship is different. Some are strong enough to weather this change, while some relationships function better on a one-on-one basis instead of a “couples relationship.”  Yet, some people cannot move past the change. It is not that they don’t care about you; it is just so different. In instances like this, it is best for you to recognize and accept their choice. There is an inspirational saying about having friends for  “A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime”. Some of our relationships last all through our lives, others last only for a brief time, and some seem only to serve a specific purpose and then vanish from our lives. All of these relationships enrich us for however long they last. The healthiest way is to understand and accept that relationships change and to cherish the gifts that come with each one. 

In the loss of a relationship like a divorce, and in the death of a loved one, there is a time of rebuilding, and a new way of functioning in the world. Congratulations on your new relationship. Let it open you up to new ventures and friendships. I wish you the best.  

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Mom Misses Friends

I have trouble making mom friends. I am fairly shy and not comfortable approaching people. I have brought my kids to a lot of Macaroni Kid suggested events but can never work up the nerve to approach other moms.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 8, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: Hello. Thanks for taking questions from families in need of help. I just love Macaroni Kid and have told all my co-workers about it. Here is my dilemma. I have trouble making mom friends. I am fairly shy and not comfortable approaching people. I have brought my kids to a lot of Macaroni Kid suggested events but can never work up the nerve to approach other moms. I’ve found they don’t approach me either. Usually, moms are with a partner or have brought a friend along. I have now lived here for two years and still only have co-worker “friends.” How do I break out of my comfort zone to approach moms?

Answer: First of all, I want you to know you are not alone, many feel as you do. When this isn’t second nature, it is good to have a few “openers” for conversation ready.  Your questions should be open ended, meaning they can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  That gives you more to hook into the conversation.  Here are some examples:

  • “I couldn’t help but notice how cute your daughter is in that hat”.  Where do you shop?
  • “This is the first time I have come to this kind of event, have you come before?  How often are they offered?  Are there any other events or activities that you like?”  
  • “I’m looking for ways to meet more moms; do you have any places that are good to go?”

You can also break the ice with some nametag fun (in the event you are given a nametag).  Write something like Hi I’m Carrie (I’m superman’s mom).  This will make people curious and want to know which child he is.  

One mom told me that she found that it was easier to make friends with other moms during children’s lessons or practices.  Talking is easier because another adult is with your child and everyone is a kind of captive audience.  Small talk and conversation is a natural outcome.

When you notice your child gravitating toward another child, comment about it to that child’s mom.  If the two seem to hit it off, mention a playdate.  One mom also said it is important to follow-up any play date offers.

There are also several apps that can also be a help in meeting other moms.  There are several which will give you the groups in your area.  Try Meetup.com for Moms, and try to explore others. These apps arrange for mom and baby/child activities and play dates.  You might also enjoy chat which can develop into a friendship offline.  They are also a great source of things happening in the community to do with kids.

One of the keys to making friends is to keep going back. Eventually, you will begin to know people.  It takes at least three times to begin to feel comfortable with the people and the routine of a new activity.  Studies have shown that friendships form from the length of time people spend together and the experiences they share.

Don’t let “coupled” friends stop you from interacting.  You may end up with two new friends.

I have been in this place before and I have tried something new.  I had an outgoing friend I admired, who could start a conversation with just about anybody.  In situations where I am uncomfortable, I think of her, and what would she do in this circumstance?  Sometimes it has given me the words and the courage to be like her, and step out of my comfort zone.  I have experimented with this in the quiet of an elevator.  It always surprises me how friendly people actually are when you joke and talk with them.

Lastly, volunteering to help out is one of the best ways to meet people.  It will give you something to do, which is helpful when shy, and you will meet the other moms who are volunteering.  I wish you lots of courage and fun!

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Special Needs Child Means Marriage Has Special Needs

I am a married mom of a child with significant special needs. My husband and I have been struggling a lot lately because we both work full-time jobs and then spend most of our free time caring for our home and our son.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 10, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:I am a married mom of a child with significant special needs. My husband and I have been struggling a lot lately because we both work full-time jobs and then spend most of our free time caring for our home and our son. Caring for our son is a full-time job alone. We love him dearly, of course, but he requires constant care, even needing care during the night. We literally have no time to ourselves or for each other. We are fighting a lot and about things we never used to, especially who is doing more around the house or for our son. Date nights are nearly impossible as we do not have family close by and we could not leave our son with someone without significant training. We need ways to work together without fighting and to reconnect. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: 

Thank you for writing and asking your question. Many people don’t realize the difficulties involved in families with special needs children. You are not alone, even though it may, many times, feel that way. I’m glad you are reaching out before the stress of caregiving and the fighting does damage to your marriage. Often couples wait to get help only after significant damage has been done to the relationship. Not knowing the age or type of special needs of your child, I will provide a spectrum of suggestions in hopes that you and other parents will find one that will help.

  1. Tap into Respite Services (Info taken from OCFS and NAMI sites). Respite services are available to families with children with disabilities through three regional agencies in Maine. Respite can take place in your home, in the home of the respite worker, or in the community. Though the service is funded by the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), each agency determines the eligibility, decides on the allocation, and arranges for respite services. National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) also has Family Respite services; there is information at this website. NAMI Maine Family Respite exists to assist families by enabling a much needed break in the responsibility of caring for a child with significant developmental delays, and behavioral or emotional disorders.

    https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cbhs/family/respite.html
    https://www.namimaine.org/page/FamilyRespite

  1. Get creative about together time. Use your vacation time or lunch time to take dates with your husband while your child is in school or services. Make it a once-a-week priority.
  1. Seek help from a telehealth counselor or in-home counselor. A counselor can help you to find ways to work together without fighting and to reconnect—and if leaving for this service is impossible, the service can come to you.  Many counselors offer secure therapy services through telehealth and many insurance companies reimburse for this service.
  1. Make a purposeful effort to appreciate each other in big and small ways.  Show appreciation and respect for each other by recognizing effort—for example, noticing when unasked-for help is given, when interventions with your son were tried, when needs were anticipated and attended to. This will go a long way in making your situation more tolerable.
  1. Become an advocate for yourself and your son. You may be eligible for a variety of services which may help make yours and your son’s life easier. Inquire at agencies about what services they offer. Research online. The Maine Parent Federation is a good place to start. Visit them online at www.mpf.org.  
  1. Subscribe to news feeds. They can give you up-to-date information, ideas, and support.
  1. Look for ways amid your busy life to show your love and affection for each other. You are in this together, a team; you are each other’s best means of support. Work at keeping that in focus.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Struggling with Sexual Identity

My husband and I suspect our daughter (age 15) is a lesbian. Is it best for us to broach the subject with her or best to wait until she is ready to talk with us?

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 21, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: My husband and I suspect our daughter (age 15) is a lesbian. We’ve actually suspected so for a few years now and the high school years have made it more clear to us. She has not said anything directly to us, or to anyone that we know of. We want to fully support her as best we can. Is it best for us to broach the subject with her or best to wait until she is ready to talk with us? I don’t want her to feel pressured to come out but I also want her to know we are in her corner. 

Answer: I like your last sentence.  This is probably what she needs to hear from you, that you are in her corner. Struggling with sexual identity is difficult. All of us thrive when we are authentic to who we are, however, it can be the hardest thing to talk to loved ones about. Big questions like: Will they be hurt? Will they disown me? Will I bring shame to the family? Will they expect me to change? You, however, seem to hit all the right notes of accepting and caring.  

By your words and actions you can continue to let her know:

  • you care about her  
  • you love her just as she is
  • you are open to conversations on all subjects 
  • you are willing to learn about differences
  • you want to support her

Your daughter will talk about it when she is ready. She may be in a state of questioning herself. Some individuals have reported being “outed” by someone before they were ready, and this had been damaging. You can demonstrate your acceptance and support by such things as attending events involving the gay community, inviting your gay friends to your home, or perhaps watching movies that depict gay characters. Many parents have gone down this road before you and can provide valuable information. Investigate organizations that focus on these issues like The Family Acceptance Project, PFLAG, and other online and community resources.  

Note to all parents: As parents, we hold a vision in our heads as to who our children are, what they will be, and what their future relationships will look like. Sometimes the picture in our head does not match the current reality. This can cause distress. It is important for you to allow yourself time to work through this and get support if you need it. Individual or family counseling can help. Always stay focused on loving your child, no matter what. The goal is for us to nurture and raise, what I think of as good humans; which are healthy, independent, adults who care about themselves, each other and the world.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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