More on the Marysville tragedy: Coping with Fear

mp-2Last night, at two in the morning, I tossed and turned as I thought about the events of this week in Marysville. All week, our staff and I have listened to kids and parents talk about the horror of last Friday. We have tried to provide support to these individuals, all shaken by fear, sadness, and confusion. We are distressed too.

{Photo courtesy of Marysville-Pilchuck High School Victims Support Page}

One parent shook with fear, “My greatest worry has always been that something bad will happen to my son,” he said. Our most important job as parents is to protect our children from harm. But can we? Last Friday, parents saw their children off to school, with the illusion that all would be well. Several hours later that sense of security was shattered by gunshots. Parents of teens are already worried about their youngsters. They fret over drugs, sex, bad choices, bad influences, and car accidents. Teenagers, using their undeveloped brains, have the ability to wreck havoc. Read more »

Tragedy in Marysville

marysville-pilchuckNews travels quickly.

On Friday morning, a freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck High School shot and killed a fellow student, seriously wounded four other students, and then killed himself. In one instant, two young lives came to an end and scores of other lives were permanently changed. Hundreds of other children have been traumatized by this ghastly experience. Waves of fear and sadness will impact 1000’s of Marysville residents, young and old. These breakers will crash into other cities and towns in Snohomish County. What was supposed to be “spirit day” at Marysville-Pilchuck High, heralding a big football game and homecoming, turned into a truly macabre scene. Sadly, this picture has become all too common in American life. Read more »

Keeping a good marriage on track

keeping-a-good-marriage-on-trackEvelyn and Jim love each other deeply. Their short courtship overflowed with affection and long intimate conversation. A romantic honeymoon by the sea capped a beautiful wedding. Their marriage, off to a sound start, seemed destined for success. But as the sound of the wedding bells fade, Evelyn and Jim are troubled. They’re disappointed with each other.

Marriage is one of the most demanding commitments that men and women make in their adult lives. Initially, committed relationships arise out of passion and “good chemistry”. Intense feelings is the fuel of the marital machine during the first years. But as time passes, successful relationships demand more. They require generosity, patience, and maturity. Many adults are unprepared for these rigors. They lack the daily hand tools of a committed relationship—realistic expectations, communication skills, and the ability to resolve conflict. Read more »

A day in the life of a psychologist

dr-paul-newMany folks wonder—what does a psychologist do? So, I thought I would share a typical day with you, of course changing any identifying details of the many people I see. I consider myself fortunate. I have a great job! I get to come to work everyday and help both kids and adults become the individuals that they want to be. It’s very gratifying. I also have the opportunity to be the Director of the Behavioral Health Department at The Everett Clinic (TEC), which is also very meaningful. I enjoy mentoring many outstanding mental health clinicians and to participate, in some small way, in the growth of TEC.

So here we go! Read more »

Important realizations of family life

important-realizations-family-lifeWhen my daughters were little, I had two important realizations that changed the course of my parental life.

I realized that their childhood was going to fly by like a flash of lightening in a summer sky. Before I knew it, they would be out of our nest. And, I recognized that as a full time working parent, my moments with them would be limited. Like most parents, I had to balance work, parenthood, household responsibilities—in other words, the laundry of life. How was I going to approach this time limited opportunity?

In that moment, I made several major parental decisions. And I stuck with them for their entire childhood. Read more »

Will you still love me when I’m 64?

will-you-still-love-meDiane and I were sitting in the living room Friday night, talking about some friends of ours, also in their 60’s, who were struggling with marital problems. Diane laughed and said “Well I guess you’re stuck with me.” I laughed too, “After 41 years, I think your right.” We both consider ourselves lucky to have found each other so many decades ago and to have such a strong bond. But she noted that there are couples that do break up after many years of marriage.

Interestingly, in the 2010 census, one in four divorces occurred in the 50+ age group. In the 1990 census, the ratio was one in ten. Since 1980, the divorce rate has been decreasing. But it is increasing in the mid-life group.

Why? Read more »

To tell the truth?

to-tell-the-truthBill and Mary tried to conceive a baby for two years. After some medical tests, the young couple finally accepted that it would be impossible for them to have a baby of their own. After days of anguished discussion, they decided to try AID or Artificial Insemination by Donor. After a few months, Mary became pregnant and later they were both the proud parents of a beautiful baby daughter, Amy. But now they wondered, when Amy is old enough, should they tell her how she was conceived. Should they tell her that Bill is not her biological father?

Most families have had complicated life experiences of one kind or another. Some parents may have been less than perfect teenagers. Their histories may include drug or alcohol abuse, school problems or even legal difficulties. Some adults may have had a previous marriage when they were young that they would just as soon forget about. Should parents tell their children the truth, no matter what the consequences? How do parents decide when to tell their kids the truth? Read more »

Becoming an Orphan at 63

becoming-an-orphanEarly this September, my brother (David), an old family friend (Colin) and I, went on our yearly “boys” hiking trip. Growing up, my brothers and I had a tradition of yearly outdoor trips. When I was 11, my two older brothers and I went on a 5-day canoe trip down the Delaware River in New Jersey. When I was in college, we always went on summer backpacking trips. On one trip, David proposed to his girlfriend—they have been married now for 41 years.

We took a break, when our kids were little, but started up again when they were older. Some years, we took along my oldest daughter (she was 15 the first time), and then later, our oldest family friend Colin and my friend Tracy. It’s a tradition that we look forward to. My wife calls us the “Cascade Cadets”. Now, as we have aged, we rent a cabin, go on day hikes, and come back to hot showers and a glass of wine. Read more »

How do you see yourself?

how-do-you-see-yourselfAmy wonders: “What is my worth”? She measures her income, material wealth, appearance, and weight. She adds it up, subtracts her age, divides by the size of her family, and multiplies by the dimensions of her house. Out comes the sum of her worth.

Fortunately, net worth has little to do with self-worth. Having it all—good job, beautiful high-performing children, nice home, and respect in the community—doesn’t necessarily bring high self-regard. Instead, self-esteem is elusive. It’s hard to grasp in the maze of everyday life, but everyone wants it. Read more »

Turn on the lights! Seasonal Affective Disorder

turn-on-the-lights-sadAutumn has finally arrived!

No one disagrees, we had a fantastic summer! The weather was great and the sun was shining, starting in June all the way through the middle of September. Okay, it did sprinkle a bit on July 4th, but that’s typical. We can all look back at those lazy, bright days of summer with warm nostalgia.

One of my favorite aspects of life in the Puget Sound are the long days of summer. On July 4th, we had almost 16 hours of sun. The sun rose at 5:17 a.m. and set at 9:10 p.m. The western sky is lit until almost 10 p.m. It’s tough to get kids to bed in the summer and they are up with the birds. Everyone in the Northwest seems fueled by the summer sun. Read more »