Dear Family Coach: Lately, all of the news is having a disastrous effect on me. Every day, I become more and more depressed about world events, tragic shootings, police brutality and natural disasters. There is suffering all around, and I'm feeling hopeless. At the same time, I'm trying to protect my kids and put on a happy face. I worry I'm failing. Please help me. — Losing It
Dear Losing It: I commend you for not wanting to unleash your worries on your kids. But you are allowed to be human and be affected by the world. If they see something is bothering you, then feel free to share it with them in an age-appropriate way.
However, shielding your kids isn't really the issue. More importantly, I think you need to work on managing your hopelessness. For starters, I recommend taking a break from social media, turning off the nightly news and avoiding some of the harsher realities of the world for a bit. This isn't putting your head in the sand. This is self-care and preservation. Find something relaxing that you enjoy, and do it. Take up yoga or meditation or mindfulness. Renew your gym membership, or take an art class.
Getting involved in a local effort of some kind might also help you feel better. Volunteer for a local political club, or raise money for those affected by the latest tragedy. Actively doing something should help, too. Lastly, if nothing helps you out of your funk, then you might be depressed. I'd recommend finding a therapist who can support you through this difficult time.
Dear Family Coach: My brother's youngest has been diagnosed with autism. The boy is 4 years old, and he's a handful. But my brother, who is a single dad, doesn't seem to give the boy the required attention. I've had to step in several times right before the boy risks being hurt in a dangerous situation. It seems like my brother takes breaks from parenting when he should be monitoring constantly. What can I do to get him in shape to handle his son? — Worried
Dear Worried: Being a single parent is extremely difficult. Parenting a child with autism can also be extremely difficult. Put those two difficult situations together and you can understand some of the trouble your brother is having. It sounds like he could use some support.
One of the most difficult aspects of being a single parent is that you are on all the time. And being on all the time can bring about fatigue. Instead of judging your brother's complacency, try empathy. Ask your brother how it is to be a single parent of a child with special needs. Listen, and find ways you might be able to help.
If you are in a position to help, then offer up your services. When are you available to give him a break or take one of his children for a bit? When can you provide meals or babysitting, or even housekeeping services? At family gatherings, could you give him a hand watching the kids without waiting to be asked? Are there organizations in his area that could provide parenting assistance, or groups for parents of children with autism? Reach out, and do what you can.
It does take a village to raise kids, especially when one is doing it alone. Be his village. Maybe there isn't much you can do to help. In that case, at least let him know you hear him and see all that he is trying to do to raise his kids alone.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.