Infertility: Not for Women Only

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for two years. Both of us have undergone lots of testing but the doctors still don’t know what the problem is. Throughout all of this, dozens of people—mostly friends and family, but also doctors, nurses, lab techs, and others—have come up to me and either offered some kind of advice, asked how my wife is doing, or told me what I need to do to support her. This whole process has been extremely stressful, and both my wife and I are emotionally devastated, but not a single person has asked how I’m doing. I’m getting really angry about being ignored and I’m trying to keep from biting someone’s head off. How should I respond?
A: Just a few decades ago, infertility was considered to be the woman’s “fault.” But today, experts know that it’s more evenly split. About 40% of the time, the cause can be traced to the woman; 40% of the time it’s traced to the man; and the remaining 20% is “unexplained.” Still, because the pregnancy would happen inside the woman’s body, society assumes that women are the only ones affected by infertility. The fact that men experience stress or grief or might be “emotionally devastated” by the shattering of their hopes and dreams rarely occurs to anyone.
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A Tragic Death Gives Life to Others

www.amazon.co.ukTodd and Tara Storch, authors of Taylor’s Gift.
Topic:
A courageous story of giving life and renewing hope.
Issues: Dealing with the question no parent every wants to hear: “Would you be willing to donate your child’s organs?” Overcoming grief at the loss of a child.

Making Sense of Your Feelings

www.amazon.co.ukGuest 1: Mary Lamia, author of Emotions!
Topic: Making sense of your feelings.
Issues: Anxiety can improve creativity and productivity; guilt helps you maintain your relationships; showing pride in your accomplishments can help you socially; venting anger doesn’t help; overvaluing happiness can actually lead you to be less happy.

Helping Dad Grieve

Dear Mr. Dad: My mom passed away three months ago. I moved into my parents’ home to support my dad through these hard times. The problem is that it’s like I’m in prison where I can’t do anything. I feel sad and depressed and find myself crying a lot during the day. Is that normal? My dad and I don’t get along either. He’s messy and I’m not. I like structure and he doesn’t. It’s a nightmare—what can I do?

A: When you look at lists of the most stressful life events, the death of a spouse or close family member and moving to a new house are at or near the top. You and your dad are both dealing with a huge amount of pressure. As a result, it’s not surprising that there’s some friction between you.

Losing a parent is very different than losing a spouse (notice that I’m not saying “more” or “less,” “easier” or “harder”—just “different”).

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Miscarriage: Men Grieve Too

My wife just had a miscarriage. I’m trying to be as strong and supportive as I can but it’s affected me too. I wanted to be a dad so badly, and my wife really wanted to be a mom. We are both devastated. I want to talk to someone about what I’m going through but I’m feeling guilty about not focusing completely on my wife. What can I do?

Miscarriages, like the pregnancies they end, have almost always been thought of as having an emotional impact only on women. But this simply isn’t true. There’s no question that men don’t suffer the physical pain of a miscarriage, but our emotional pain can-and often is-as severe as women’s. Expectant dads, like expectant moms, have hopes and dreams and fantasies about their unborn children, and most of us feel a profound sense of grief when those hopes and dreams and fantasies are dashed. And like our wives, most men feel inadequate and guilty when a pregnancy ends prematurely.
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When Friends Let Friends Down

Dear Mr. Dad: My eight-year old daughter’s best friend—a girl she’s known since kindergarten—just moved out of the area. My daughter doesn’t make friends very easily—she’s always had a small number of pretty intense friendships—and she seems particularly devastated that this girl is leaving town. I’m worried about her. Is there anything I can do to make her feel better?
A: Losing a friend—whether because of a physical separation or a relationship-ending disagreement—is usually a major event in a child’s life. Unfortunately, though, too few parents take these breakups seriously enough, and may try to comfort a child with a well-meaning but flip, “Don’t worry, you’ll find another friend” or “You can always email each other.” I’m glad you’re taking your daughter’s loss more seriously.

The truth is that children at this age make very deep emotional attachments to their friends, and although losing friends is a normal part of growing up, friends are not interchangeable. Parents need to encourage children to explore and understand why a friendship ended (although in this case, it’s pretty clear—at least to you). Otherwise, “they can end up blaming themselves, and that self-blame may make them wary of forming new friendships in the future,” says psychotherapist Mary Lamia. Reassuring your daughter that she’s in no way to blame for her friend moving, may help.

On the other hand, as irrational as it seems to most adults, your daughter may be very angry at her friend for leaving. So if you have any suspicion that she’s blaming her friend, it’s important that you gently encourage her to forgive. “Hurt feelings, disappointment, and transgressions are an inevitable part of close friendship,” says Lamia.

You’re absolutely right to be concerned about your daughter’s reactions. “Children often compare potential new friends to the old one,” says Lamia. “And usually, the new ones can’t compare.” You may need to remind your daughter that establishing a friendship often takes time. Encourage her to talk about the feelings and emotions she’s experiencing, and let her know that you understand how hard it can be to lose a friend, and that being sad, angry, and hurt is perfectly normal.

At the end of the day, your daughter will be okay, Although it comes naturally to some, for others, making friends is very difficult. And since your daughter values quality over quantity (and that’s just fine—as long as the quantity isn’t zero), it may take her longer than you think to move on. If she’s still down in the dumps in a few weeks, talk to her pediatrician about getting her some counseling.
In the meantime, here are seven characteristics that researchers believe (and common sense confirms) are critical to forming long-lasting, healthy friendships:

  • Friends share—anything from toys to secrets.
  • Friends help each other. This might mean anything from helping a fellow preschooler look for a lost doll to helping a fellow twelve-year-old deal with the death of a parent.
  • Friends forgive. This is easy enough for a toddler, a little harder for school-age kids, and pretty tough for pre-adolescents.
  • Friends manage their conflicts. Everyone has fights once in a while, but friends are willing to spend the time it takes to work things out.
  • Friends are active participants in maintaining the relationship and don’t just wait for the others to call.
  • Friends want the chance to be open and frank with someone who is open and frank with them.
  • Friends keep each other’s confidences and stick up for each other.