[Noozhawk’s note: Montecito psychotherapist Randi Rabin, M.A., MFTI, is now writing a weekly Q&A column for Noozhawk. Click here for a related article.]
Dear Feelings Doctor: I am 58 years old with a wonderful wife and two sweet teenage children. Both of my parents live nearby and we see them when we can. My father is in his 90s and slowing down a lot. The question I have is, how do I deal with the decline of my father’s health without showing him how frightened I am of losing him? My mother takes care of him day in and day out, and she is tired and scared, too.
Dear “Aging Parents”: How lucky you are to have your father close by for so many years, wow!
Visiting as much as possible, listening to those stories that you’ve heard 200 times, and sharing those positive feelings that you and your parents have developed will enrich and enhance that lifelong bond.
There will be changes that occur naturally with an aging parent, so involve your father in decisions that concern him. Change is anxiety producing, but not being involved creates even more anxiety. Even the very frail need to maintain some control over their lives. A person who is railroaded into a new situation usually makes a poor adjustment.
Help to continue the kind and tender moments that will last for generations to come. We are who we are because of the love and kindness that we received from our parents, so in this case, “Paybacks are Heaven sent.”
Dear Feelings Doctor: My daughter, who is 16, went to a party where there was drinking last week. I just found out about it, and I am so angry. She said her friend’s father was fine with it. What do I do?
— Square Dad
Dear Square Dad: First of all, it is such a dangerous situation for anyone to allow underage drinking to take place in their home. That said, it happens all the time. The consequences are high, and the aftermath can be life-changing. So, have a candid conversation with your teens.
Let your teenagers know if they feel unsafe, uncertain or uncomfortable that they have permission to call you anytime, day or night. Your main concern is their safety. The “talk” comes after they are home, safe and sound.
The longer a young person waits to try alcoholic substances, the less likely they are to develop a desire for it, and the easier it is to say no — no is the new cool.
Dear Feelings Doctor: As I am entering into my 60s, soon I wonder who I shall become now. Is who I have become enough — for me, for my loved ones? I know it is all a journey, and mine is not finished yet. But still I can’t help but feel like I should be doing more. Is this a normal feeling as we age, or is my spirit trying to tell me something?
— D., Carthage, Mo.
Dear D.: Congratulations on asking such grand questions for your life, and for turning “60.” What is it that you feel you should be doing more of? Do it now with all the passion in your soul. And yes, my friend, spirit is always speaking to us. Bravo to you for listening.
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— Psychotherapist Randi Rabin, M.A., MFTI, answers reader questions in her weekly Noozhawk column, The Feelings Doctor, and can be contacted at email@example.com. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara and completed her master’s degree in psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute under the guidance of renowned psychologist Stephen Aizenstat, Pacifica’s chancellor and founding president. She has worked as a counselor with a number of local nonprofit organizations and schools. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.