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Style Magazine

Q & A with Therapist Bob

Dec 30, 2011 05:38AM ● By Style

When it comes to marriage, parenting or other relationships, there are no cookie-cutter solutions, but the themes in each are timeless.

The following questions are loosely based on subjects I frequently see in my practice.

Q:  I’ve felt depressed and unmotivated since my divorce.  My doctor put me on antidepressants, but two years later I don’t feel any better. How can I feel normal again?

Bob: I’ve never seen a divorce without lots of anger, resentment, grief, loss, etc. If your depression started around the time of your divorce, and after two years of medication you don’t feel any better, you probably have a lot of emotional issues to work through. Your doctor will help you decide if medication is also helpful, but you’ll need a supportive therapist to work through the emotional part.

Q:  My mother and I have never been close. I’m tired of being disappointed and feeling rejected each time I reach out to her. Is there any hope of being close?

Bob: You may need to adjust your expectations of what Mom is able to give you. It’s sad, but if she’s unable to give more it’s unfair to both of you to continue to expect it. Set some emotional boundaries by not being as vulnerable with her, and work on accepting her for who she is and what she can provide.  

Q:  My eight-year-old has recently been asking questions about sex. Other than, “don’t do it,” my parents never talked to me about sex. I feel very uncomfortable and unprepared to answer my daughter’s questions. What should I say to her?

Bob: As your kids grow, maintain an open, frank, simple and age-appropriate dialogue. Teach modesty, but don’t ever make them feel ashamed about their feelings or bodies. If you’re teaching abstinence, give them the benefits and reasons to want to wait. If you only tell them, “no,” it is very unlikely they’ll share your values.

Q:  My sixth grader keeps getting teased by another boy in his class. I don’t want him to be a victim, but I don’t want him to be a bully either. How can I help my son?

Bob: Most important is your son’s long-term character development, confidence and self-esteem. Teach him to stand up for himself and avoid a fight if at all possible, but not at the expense of his self-worth or becoming a “victim.” He’ll need a healthy sense of self for the real world, and the ability to stand up for himself is critical.  Unfortunately, your son’s school may not agree and he may still get in trouble, even for defending himself. Teach him to accept the punishment, albeit unjust, and reward him for good character.

Q:  My wife and I spend every night watching separate TV shows, in separate rooms. We don’t have a lot of big issues or problems but we have little to say to each other, and I am left feeling empty and alone. How do we change things before it gets any worse?

Bob: You need to meet with a competent marriage therapist!  It’s very common for couples to wait until it’s too late before they go to counseling, when otherwise their marriage could have been saved. You may not see any big issues, but your relationship is in critical condition, and there are no easy or simple solutions to this without professional help.

Bob Parkins is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He can be reached at 916-337-5406 or