News & Events

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 26th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

This is indeed a really strange time—not going to work, having the kids and even (for some) a spouse at home. How unexpected. This is not something any of us had planned on. For some, this is a great adventure in family time. For others, it may feel like a really overwhelmingly big challenge. The threat of illness and possible financial problems can keep us stressed. You are not alone in that.

In whatever frame of mind you are experiencing this time of being sheltered, remember that you are not alone. Parents all over the country and the world are adapting to this temporary hiccup in our lives. It is a little like the ice storm years ago that cut power for weeks. We were all experiencing the same thing and life was disrupted.

We will get through this with our own stories to tell and one day this will be a memory. In the meantime, one of the best ways we can cope is by practicing self-care. 

What is self-care? Basically, it means taking time to care for our own needs. The result of doing this is that we will have more energy for the tough jobs, like parenting. It is taking care of ourselves that gives us energy. Think of what happens when your vehicle runs out of gas. It stops; nothing works. When we humans run out of energy, we stop too. It causes us to feel moody, sad, anger easily; we may fill with anxiety. Sometimes when we do not take care of ourselves, something else stops us, like an illness, depression, and other things that sap our strength. Caring for ourselves, especially during stressful and uncertain times like this is not just a good thing, it is essential!

Here are some ideas for quality self-care. This is not just the “get a cup of tea” variety (which can be very nice), but things which may give you lasting fuel for your tank.

Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. Families isolating to protect themselves and the greater community is really important. We are in this together. Everyone is doing a little extra to keep everyone safe.  

Find people with whom you stay in contact. Share ideas for kids’ play or meal planning with a friend who is also home with kids. Check on neighbors, parents, and singles you may know. Think of it this way: reach out to one that feeds you, one that needs you, and one that makes you laugh. These brief contacts can restore your energy and spirit.

Put those kids on a schedule. Organize their day for them (this is really for you). Divide their time so they are not just on electronics (too much is not good for kids) or not driving you crazy with wrestling, fighting or bickering. Help each of your children to identify what they would like to do in each area. 

Here are some possible divisions of time:

  • Help with making and cleaning up meals and doing chores
  • School studies time or completing worksheets
  • Outside time (daily!) for the kids to burn off energy
  • Dancing or high energy playtime
  • Quiet time (puzzles, reading, napping)
  • TV/game/video time

Set boundaries on these activities and take charge.

Limit news consumption. Too much reading, watching and listening to the news can contribute to anxiety. The news cycle repeats throughout the day, so you will always get the latest when you tune in. Always remember to get your news from reliable media sources, and when possible from different viewpoints.

Practice gratitude. At the end or the beginning of each day, take stock on those things for which you are grateful. Think about each child, each supportive person in your life, and moments big and small that made life better. Look for and acknowledge those places in your life where you are truly rich. 

Lastly, remember you are not alone. We will all get through this challenge “at a distance” but together. Spring always comes, let’s be grateful for that.

 

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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Now, more than ever, it’s important to be aware of your mental health. Rather than letting anxiety, stress or negativity overwhelm you, it’s best to stay present and minimize stress as much as possible.

There are many techniques that may help you process and reduce stress. While not every suggestion will work for every person, adopt what works best for you into your daily wellness routine.

Stress-reducing techniques:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can boost your immune system, help you feel good about yourself, increase your energy levels, alleviate stress, and help with sleep. There are numerous home workouts available online to try for free!

 

  • Meditate: Find some time every day to do even a few minutes of meditation. It helps calm the brain and make you feel more grounded and present.

 

  • Be informed: Uncertainty or misinformation can increase worry and cause panic. You can stay informed through official, fact-checked channels such as the CDC website or the World Health Organization’s website.

 

  • Don’t obsess over the negative: Sometimes too much information can lead to overload or more stress. Try to limit exposure to media outlets and make sure your information sources are reliable. Avoid reading before bed—it can increase anxiety or stress.

 

  • Pay attention to positive news: Despite this difficult time, there is often positive information in the daily news, online, and in social media. Find hope in these stories and share them with those who may need a boost.

 

  • Think positively: Recall how you and your loved ones overcame past hardships. Remind yourself that things are temporary, and the current situation will pass. Consider the current time as an opportunity to show more care to yourself and your loved ones.

 

  • Share thoughts/feelings with others: Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help alleviate stress. Others might share similar feelings and can help you process your emotions.

 

  • Check in with loved ones: Loved ones are often concerned about us and may try to protect us by not being fully truthful. If you are worried about loved ones, reach out to them frequently and lend a listening ear.

 

  • Learn to say “no”: Although sharing information and feelings can be helpful, it is also important to say “no” when you are uncomfortable. Respectfully set boundaries and leave conversations in an appropriate way.

 

  • Engage with others (from a safe distance): There is still life outside of the current crisis. Join in a virtual dinner party, video chat with friends or family, listen to music, or start a new hobby.

 

  • Do some relaxation: Plan some relaxation techniques or activities that you enjoy into your daily schedule. Read a book, enjoy a warm bath, meditate—anything that calms you or brings you joy.

 

  • Get outside: Go outside for walks! Fresh air and sunshine are excellent for boosting your mood. Get outside as much as you can if you are in an area where you can practice safe social and physical distancing from others.

 

  • Let it out: Sometimes expressing your emotions can be helpful. Try journaling, keeping a voice diary, or letting yourself be upset for a while. It’s important not to bottle up your emotions.

Remember, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s crucial to your wellbeing. A strong body and mind will help you to navigate through uncertain times.

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All three Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy events have been postponed.

Dear Attendees,

Due to our first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Maine and recommendations to postpone large gatherings, at this time we are POSTPONING all three of our “Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy” workshops. We will look to reschedule these as soon as we are able.

If you would like your order refunded to you, please e-mail Mary Gagnon at mary.gagnon@healthaffiliatesmaine.com to make the request. Please giv the refund process a few days to occur if you make that selection. Otherwise, we will hold your order until we reschedule this training.

Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely,

Mary A. Gagnon, LMFT
Training and Clinical Development Specialist

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Februaury 11th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I believe my husband may have a gambling problem. What started as a few nights of card games out with the guys has turned into more frequent outings and I suspect trips to casinos. He also buys a lot of scratch and lottery tickets and has been hiding them. I’ve asked him about it a few times and he shakes it off as not a big deal. He recently sold some household items that I know he would not have parted with if he didn’t really need some money and it has me very worried. I want to get him help if he needs it but if he doesn’t see it as a problem, I don’t know how to.

Answer: I am glad you asked about this question.  It is hard to help someone when they don’t believe they have a problem. As with other addictions, admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery. There are several indicators in what you wrote that do indicate a problem. You have noticed his attention to gambling increase, you have noticed he is buying a lot of scratch tickets and is hiding them. You have also noticed he has sold household items which you doubt he would part with if he didn’t need the money. Lastly, it is affecting your relationship; you are very worried.

Before I talk about him and the gambling problem in general, I would like to talk about you. It is important that you put in place things to protect your financial and your emotional health.  

  1. First, take over managing the family accounts. Keep a close eye on bank and credit card statements.  Do this frequently by checking periodically online or by phone. This will ensure that your own credit and finances are not at risk. Address questionable financial transactions early. Gambling addiction can cause people to behave in ways they never would have thought possible previously. This can mean lying and stealing.
  1. Prepare to be able to answer when he asks for money and be careful not to give in to manipulation.  Often with addictions the ones closest to the person with the problem can end up enabling them to continue. You can continue the cycle if you bail him out of debt or cover for him. Without efforts to recover he will have more debt soon.
  1. Confront the problem by talking with your husband about how his behavior is affecting the family. Try not to lose your temper or lecture him. Talk with him about getting help. Offer to go with him. A counselor can support you both in this. They can work with you on skills for setting boundaries. 
  1. Get support for yourself with such groups as GamAnon which can give you tools from people who have lived through this. You will learn not to bail him out if he gets into financial trouble. Even if he does not seek support from such a group, do so for yourself.
  1. Keep in mind that someone with a gambling problem is suffering and feels powerless to stop but often is not ready to recognize or admit this. Sometimes they gamble to treat underlying mood problems. Always take any statements about suicide seriously (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255).

Here are the criteria for Gambling Addiction from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association. Help should be sought if someone has 4 or more of these behaviors:

  • A need to gamble in increasing amounts to get the same level of satisfaction from the process.
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to control or stop gambling or buy lottery tickets.
  • Preoccupation with gambling, watching for lottery numbers or purchasing scratch-off tickets in high amounts or very frequently.
  • Gambling when distressed (helpless, guilty, anxious or depressed).
  • Lying to hide the purchases or the extent of the investment in scratch-off pieces.
  • Chasing losses with more investments the next day, especially when done routinely.
  • Seeks out money from other people for gambling or buying lottery tickets.
  • Has jeopardized or lost significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunities because of gambling
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Here are the keys to help you and your husband:  

  • Protect your finances
  • Get education about gambling
  • Get professional and community help and support for both of you 

Helpful links:

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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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on January 9th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I am a single mom to two kids. My oldest son is 16 and taller, bigger, and stronger than me. He has recently switched from sulky teen to angry teen and twice has grabbed me to the point of it being painful. I’m worried about this escalating into more and it prevents me from bringing things up with him as I am fearful of making him angry. As far as I know he has never been exposed to abuse. His dad was not abusive and I don’t know where this anger comes from. He always apologizes after but I need some ideas to talk to him about the seriousness of what he is doing without making it worse. Thank you.

Answer:  This is a tough situation, and one that I feel needs immediate intervention to help your son, and to protect you. You said that your son “recently switched” from being a “sulky teen to an angry teen.” Switches in personality, like you describe, usually have a precipitating event, or circumstance. It could be something going on with him physically, of which he has no control, or his emotions may be rooted in abuse, bullying, or fear. In our culture, anger is often easier for us to express, rather than the true emotion lying underneath. That is why talking with a professional, like a counselor, can help get to the root of the problem and find new ways of coping.

Adolescent depression is also a possibility to be explored; it can present as profound irritability and a shorter fuse. Your PCP can screen for depressive disorders for which treatment might be helpful.

Substance abuse must also be considered. Many teens experiment and some can have reactions, even allergic reactions, which seem to change their personalities, leaving parents wondering what happened to their child. This is serious and needs to be addressed early. If you don’t feel confident about this, seek parenting help and call your PCP.

Teens have a lot going on not only in physical growth and the demands of school, but also with adulthood looming in the future. This may lead to anxiety. Psychologically, they are doing a push-pull with parents, both pushing you away because they think they are adults while pulling you close for fear of growing up. This is part of normal development. Your son’s school most likely has a counselor whom he could see, or may have a recommendation. Health Affiliates Maine can connect him with a counselor, as can other agencies.

If his father is deceased or absent from his life, your son could benefit from male mentoring. Perhaps there are family members or family friends who might be able to take on that role.  There are other organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, New Beginnings, and Advocates for Children that might have resources which are helpful. 

Here are some things you can do that may be helpful:

  • Connect with his school and see if they have noticed any changes in him or can provide you with information.
  • When you feel it is safe to do this, talk with your son when he is calm, and see if he has any insight into what if troubling him. It’s reasonable to say to him that you both need to work together with a family therapist to learn how to communicate in a safe and healthy manner, and likely both parties need some help in this area. Open communication is the best plan, even when it is difficult and even when you are upset and angry, too. It is best for him to know where you stand and what your limits are. 
  • Take him to see his primary care provider (PCP). Let the PCP know what you are experiencing with him.
  • Your own safety also needs to be considered. If you are truly afraid he will hurt you or your other child, you may have to call 911 for help. At your son’s age, this will most likely lead to other interventions which could help him. He will be angry at you, but later understand.
  • Talk with your other child who may also feel afraid of their brother, yet fearful for him. When brother is angry, it can be an emotional and scary scene for the younger sibling, check in with them often about feelings and safety.

Right now your son needs you, even though he is pushing you away. He desperately needs to find another way of expressing his emotions, and you and your other child need to be safe. This is a very tough time for a parent. Don’t hesitate to get help.

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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Dear Attendees,

Due to our first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Maine and recommendations to postpone large gatherings, at this time we are POSTPONING all three of our “Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy” workshops. We will look to reschedule these as soon as we are able.

If you would like your order refunded to you, please e-mail Mary Gagnon at mary.gagnon@healthaffiliatesmaine.com to make the request. Please give the refund process a few days to occur if you make that selection. Otherwise, we will hold your order until we reschedule this training.

Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely, Mary A. Gagnon, LMFT Training and Clinical Development Specialist

LewistonFri, March 13, 2020 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Franco Center
46 Cedar Street
Lewiston, ME
Register
PortlandFri, March 20, 2020 from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Italian Heritage Center
40 Westland Avenue
Portland, ME
Register
OronoFri, March 27, 2020 from 8:00am – 4:00pm
Black Bear Inn
4 Godfrey Drive
Orono, ME
Register

Deepen your knowledge of personality disorders with this one-day training, in which we’ll discuss diagnosis, myths, biases, tools, and more.

About this Event

Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy: Decreasing Myths, Increasing Clinical Effectiveness and Tools to Use in Your Practice

Clients who present with personality disorders can be some of the most difficult and challenging clients that mental health providers engage with. These clients present with disrupted interpersonal relationships, self-harming and suicidal crises, difficulties regulating their emotions and an unstable sense of self. Without the right skills and support clinicians often find themselves feeling exhausted and frustrated when working with these diagnoses. Through this training clinicians will deepen their knowledge of personality disorders and discuss differential diagnoses. Clinicians will be able to challenge their preconceived notions and myths regarding this population. Clinicians will be provided with tools to enhance and freshen their skills set when working with personality disorders in a therapeutic setting.

Objectives:

  • Understand myths, biases and judgments related to personality disorders
  • Review diagnostic criteria, differential diagnosis and co-occurring disorders
  • Learn therapeutic interventions to use in clinical practice to increase therapeutic effectiveness and client engagement
  • Develop an understanding of healthy and effective boundaries to set in an effort to decrease therapist burn-out

Outline:

8:30 What do we know about personality disorders: Exploring biases and myths
9:00 Understanding personality disorders in clinical practice
10:15 Break
10:30 Evidence-based treatments and personality disorders
11:15 Exploring ways to implement clinical interventions
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Exploring ways to implement clinical interventions
2:15 Break
2:30 Case Conceptualization
3:00 Maintaining professional boundaries: decreasing therapist burnout and practicing self-care
4:00 Conclusion

About the Presenter

Katelyn Baxter-Musser is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Gorham. There she provides individual therapy, couples and family therapy and consultation to mental health professionals. Katelyn has been in the field for over ten years and has worked in a variety of different roles including as a case manager, child and family therapist, trauma therapist and clinical coordinator. Prior to being in private practice Katelyn has worked for several agencies as well as Native American reservations. In her private practice Katelyn specializes in working with domestic violence, abuse, trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, grief and relationship issues, dissociative disorders and personality disorders. Katelyn is a Certified Dialectical Behavior Therapist and a Certified EMDR therapist. Katelyn is trained in a variety of therapeutic modalities including DBT, EMDR, CBT, mindfulness and motivational interviewing. She sits on the EMDRIA Standards and Training Committee and is the co-regional coordinator for the EMDR Southern Maine Regional Network.

 

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Jay Burrows, LCPC, LADC, CCS
Jay Burrows is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor and Certified Clinical Supervisor. In addition to providing counseling services to clients, Jay assists his colleagues and helps to develop their counseling skills.

Jay attended the University of Southern Maine for his undergraduate degree and for his Master of Science in Counseling with a Clinical Mental Health Concentration. Prior to graduation, Jay completed his internship at a residential program treating mental health disorders along with co-occurring substance use disorders. After graduation, Jay joined Catholic Charities Counseling Services in Portland as a clinical counselor providing outpatient services. He stayed with Catholic Charities for more than eight years. During this time, Jay worked with a co-occurring population who were often incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system.

This experience led Jay to establish an Intensive Outpatient Group at Catholic Charities, which he facilitated for five years. Here he helped people gain more pro-social attitudes and behaviors, increasing their ability to successfully reintegrate into their communities and decrease their rates of recidivism.

In his role as clinical supervisor at HAM, Jay is dedicated to helping colleagues deliver quality services to their clients while also developing strong professional ethics. He also mentors clinical internship students, preparing them for a future in case work.

Outside work, Jay can be found reading a captivating book or volunteering with his community’s little league. He spends his summers traveling to Bar Harbor with his wife and four children.   

 

Lindsay McKeen, LCSW, CCS
Lindsay McKeen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Clinical Supervisor. In this role, Lindsay reviews client treatment plans, clinical records and the professional concerns and goals of other practitioners.

After attending the University of Maine Orono for her undergraduate degrees in social work and psychology, she then earned her Master of Social Work from the University of New England in Portland. Since then she has worked as a clinician at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston in the Psych and Chemical Dependency Unit. While there, Lindsay used a strengths-based approach with her clients to identify their goals and treatment plans.

Lindsay received the “Service Star Employee” and “MVP” awards while at St. Mary’s. She is a lifelong learner, always looking to continue her education and professional career (ask her how quickly she can solve a Rubik’s cube)! She has completed many professional trainings including trauma-informed care in behavioral health, cognitive behavioral therapy certification, ethics in boundary setting, motivational interviewing, and art interventions for addiction, anxiety and chronic pain.

When away from work, Lindsay’s favorite place to disconnect is Rangeley, Maine, where she can rejuvenate and be one with nature. There you can find her hand-feeding chipmunks, watching birds and indulging her creative, artsy side.

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Studies have shown that adults with severe mental illness have a shorter lifespan than adults without a diagnosis by an average of 25 years. Additionally, 68% of adults with a mental health diagnosis have at least one chronic disease that limits their daily functioning.

Behavioral Health Home (BHH) programs are evidence-based care-coordination programs designed to reduce the impact of preventable diseases in people with mental health diagnoses by ensuring the coordination of medical and mental health treatment.

This coordination is done by BHH team members, including a wellness coordinator, peer/parent support person, nurse, consulting psychiatrist and primary care provider. The common goal is to address the gaps between physical health and mental health care plans.

BHH participation, when delivered with core principals, improves the outcomes of the individuals served—reducing emergency care visits and hospitalizations and increasing overall quality of life.

How can BHH help my client?

  • BHH creates treatment plans that address client life experiences, chronic stressors, poverty and isolation to reduce the risk of premature death.
  • A BHH team shows clients how to self-manage physical and mental health symptoms through education, coaching, forming support systems and connecting to community resources.
  • Emergency room use, appointment attendance and medication refills are monitored, and clients who have had two or more refills of antipsychotic medications have their blood sugars monitored.
  • Educational and peer support for adults in the program, and support to parents with children in the program, gives clients and their families the opportunity to learn from each other and to foster a sense of belonging and community engagement.

How does it benefit me as a healthcare provider to recommend BHH to my client?

  • Unlike other case management programs, BHH is an easier program to access. It does not require specific criteria relating to mental health diagnoses and you don’t need to write a section 17 letter.
  • The BHH team will ensure that the tools used during a client’s session encourage positive treatment outcomes, and that they continue to use the tools in their home and community.
  • Clients that struggle with chronic illness also struggle to attend appointments. As clients begin to feel better, they find it easier to attend sessions and take advantage of other resources available in the program.

Why HAM is the right BHH provider to partner with.

  • We don’t have a waitlist. We will assign your client within 24 hours and have a team member see them within 4-7 days.
  • We are not case management as usual. We worked with Maine Quality Counts to help design an effective program that adheres to the highest standards of BHH. We are fully committed to model fidelity.
  • We welcome client feedback and offer the ability to participate on an advisory board.
  • Our partnerships are important. We will be proactive in our collaboration with you and you can reach us at any time.
  • We collaborate with other case management programs. If we aren’t the right fit for your client, we will transfer them appropriately. (If your client would benefit from Section 13 or 17, they may still want to continue with BHH to work on self-management skills.)
  • We regularly consult with psychiatrists and primary care providers to ensure that we are educated and that we understand the impact of client treatment plans and interactions.

Do clients need to have a chronic illness to benefit from BHH?

No. If you have clients with mental health diagnoses and they are having challenges at school, work, home or community related environments, BHH can offer them help. The BHH program allows us to work on prevention activities that help with the overall well-being of your client such as nutrition, stress relief, physical activity and tobacco cessation.

Does my client need to have MaineCare?

Yes. A client must have full eligibility in MaineCare to qualify for BHH.

How do I refer a client?

We offer BHH services in Androscoggin County, and are accepting referrals for adults in Oxford and Southern Franklin County and surrounding communities.

Referrals can be made by calling us at (207) 333-3278 or (877) 888-4304. Click here for our online referral form. 

References:
Reisinger-Walker, E & Druss, B. (2011, February). Mental health disorders and medical co-morbidity. The Synthesis Project. Retrieved from: http://www.integration.samsha.gov/workforce

The Center for Integrated Health Solutions, SAMSHA-HRSA. (2012, May). Behavioral health homes for people with mental health and substance abuse conditions: The core clinical features. Retrieved at: http://www.integration.samsha.gov/workforce

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Soon “Empty Nest” Has Dad Sad

Our youngest child is a senior in high school and I am looking at a future empty nest with a heavy heart. My wife is the opposite and talking about our retirement years and being kid-free.

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

Question: Our youngest child is a senior in high school and I am looking at a future empty nest with a heavy heart. My wife is the opposite and talking about our retirement years and being kid-free. I know she will miss the kids too but seems almost gleeful about it being just us. I love my wife and look forward to those years but am also pretty sad about losing our kids. How do I address it best with her to maybe tone down the glee and recognize I may have some tough feelings around our empty nest?

Answer: I think like you. Having my children around, as little ones or adults, is one of the joys of my life. I have found that doesn’t change even though they no longer live under my roof. This time of having children transition to adulthood affects everyone differently. For some, the “Empty Nest Syndrome” is characterized by sadness and even depression, while others may view it as “Empty Nest Symphony” as one feels the lightening of responsibility and a newfound freedom. Most people experience both ways of feeling to some degree.  It is one of those life transitions that take time.

This would be a great time to have a conversation with your wife. Try to really understand what this means to her. After years of insisting that homework get done, teeth get brushed, or they get up and off to school, she may be looking forward to not being responsible for everyone. Enjoying being with you, and having time to herself, may have been put on the back burner.

I also urge you to talk with her about your feelings about having the kids gone, and that it is harder for you. If it is difficult for you to ask her to “tone down the glee,” it may point to a larger issue of needing to find each other again. All parents should work hard to not make their kids be the only focus in their relationship with each other. This is hard to do. It takes an effort to continue to have your personal interests, and those interests you share as a couple, once you have children. Setting aside time for each other without kids, through the years, will help when the empty nest comes around.

Try not to think of having your kids move out as a hard stop. Your relationships with them should continue. Enjoying your children as adults can be a new kind of fun. Your children will also need you for many reasons in their young adult lives. Try to view each stage of their lives as new beginnings, not endings. If your adult children plan to live close to you, make some family time together each week. Before long more children may come along to enrich your life. 

Right now, take on the new project of making the most of the marriage that produced those children you have enjoyed so much.  There is a richness there that needs to be rediscovered. The goal is to grow together in the empty nest. Through the child raising years, people grow and change. Many couples seek counseling to help them rekindle those connections which brought them together pre-kids, and to learn to enjoy each other again. Don’t hesitate to seek support in the process, and if you continue to struggle with this transition, seek help for yourself.

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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