Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
I'm young at heart, in my 30's and Dad to "Sarah," 8 and "Trent," 5. I've been married to their Mom "Brenda" for 13 years and we're doing mostly fine. Except for Halloween season. I'm really into Halloween and decorate the whole house and yard with blood dripping out of windows and gore like severed heads on the walk, etc. There's a 6 foot hooded executioner with a bloody axe on the porch, stuffed bodies here and there, and dismembered zombies scattered around. Of course, we have the standard skeletons and spider, fog machine and the whole works for Halloween week. Sarah loves it, and she's been watching gore movies with me since she was three, at least after Brenda is asleep because she doesn't approve of the kids watching horror movies. Last year, Trent started having nightmares around October, had a reversal of potty training and still sleeps with a pull-up and the lights on. Brenda wants me to tone down the Halloween festivities this year because he does not seem to be recovering. I know he's 5, but I think if she'd let him watch a few movies he'd get used to it and might even have a good time. It seems like, developmentally, she's not letting him mature properly and he should face his fears instead of hiding from them. Am I right? — Hurting Haunter
Your letter will haunt me indefinitely. Of all the monstrous mayhem you have cooked up, what I find most terrifying is your ego. Go back and read your own letter. You argue that a three-year-old should be introduced to the living dead, murder, carnage and general terror so that he or she may "get used to it." So, every preschooler should already be familiar with dismemberment, torture and beheadings, so that they can cope with those things when they happen in real life? Perhaps you only want to prepare your offspring for the predictable trials of life: inevitably, one day in the future they will be hanging out with four sexy teenage friends and you can set your watch by it, the serial murderer will appear, attempting to stalk and kill them one at a time, or two if he can dispatch them via coitus interruptus.
Of course, the gallery of gore that keeps you transfixed is only fiction. What you want to force your children to get used to is merely amusement for you, the adult who understands the difference between entertainment and making children feel unsafe in their own home. You are responsible for teaching these youngsters how to cope with the world, and scaring them does not make them any stronger. You like the thrill of being scared. Perhaps your daughter does as well, if she even had a choice at all. Not all people are like you! Please read this article that explains the adrenaline rush you crave. This is not a rush or a thrill for some other folks, especially young children. And your Trent is just that; his own little individual person in the world. He should not be expected to like everything Daddy likes, and trust me he most certainly will not. The most important thing a parent can remember is that your children always come first. I would encourage you to reconsider the images you are exposing those little minds to, and ask yourself if a child could feel safe with that embedded in his or her subconscious. Then consider getting your fright fix away from the house, instead of turning your loving home into a child's nightmares.
My husband, a teacher and coach in our small town, is facing an attack by his school board for "inappropriate behavior" with female students, even though he assures me that nothing happened and I believe him. We have two young children and I am certain he would never hurt them. The bigger problem is, this is the third time we have found ourselves in exactly the same situation. He is facing almost certain termination after a board review and if that happens, we will have to move again and I will have to leave my job as a medical assistant, for the second time. I love my job but I can survive. What I do not know how to do is explain this to our kids, 6 and 9. They have already been through this twice but since they are older I worry about them hearing things at school and I do not want all these vicious lies to poison their minds against their father. How can I protect them? — Uprooted Again
I cannot accompany you on a journey to La-La Land, where we ignore the obvious for the sake of denial. Please first make sure your children are safe. Your guy has trouble holding down a job, or allowing your family to settle down in one place, presumably because he is constantly being persecuted. You, on the other hand, seem to be able to keep a job. That is a reality, so losing your stable jobs is going to take its toll on your career over time. This conspiracy against your husband spans three towns and as many school districts. Forgive me for questioning his innocence, but at the very least he will want to look into a career change; to a field where no contact with young girls is possible. If nothing else, for the sake of avoiding these far-reaching schemers who seek to discredit him. Counseling will help both of you reconcile these frequent fallouts and what they mean to your family. Therapy may also help him with personal and social adjustment, in the case that he truly is innocent and merely suffers from a debilitating lack of social skills. A third party may help you put an end to this pattern, perhaps painfully, but if it continues your children will most definitely find out; I would be surprised if they were not already aware.
Haunted by Harlot
I'm a divorced woman in my thirties. My ex-husband cheated on me several years ago and stayed with this woman for two years, then they split for the same reason. She seems to think this erases the infidelity, sneaking around, having sex with my husband, breaking my marriage up and ruining my life, at least temporarily. I got over him in a big way, I have a great boyfriend and don't even think about my ex anymore. That is, until his now-ex moved into my neighborhood, joined my gym, and worse, joined the ecological advocacy group I belong to and started attending meetings and protests. She has even tried to pal around with me and come to group coffee meet-ups and strike up conversations with me, rolling her eyes when she inevitably mentions "that guy" we were both involved with as if we are now a little First Wives Club or something. Tim, I can't stand her! She is loud and phony and has the most bizarre sense of humor. I'm not alone on this one, either. She really grates, husband-stealer or not. However, I don't wish to be as thoughtless as she has been in her life. How do I tell her politely to go screw herself? — Haunted by Harlot
I know a certain guy who loves frightening things showing up in his yard, see above; if only we could point her in his direction. On second thought, we need someone who likes to be annoyed more than scared. That may take a while longer to find. In the meantime, you have certainly made your case. I think it is admirable of you to take the high road, but you should be enjoying the scenery there and not have to look over your shoulder and scan the horizon in case she jogs up alongside you or pops out from behind a tree. It is a good thing to know your limits, and you need not apologize nor explain how you choose your company. Boundaries are best served short and sweet. You may approach her in public and simply tell her something like, "Trixie, I believe in owning my limits and communicating them clearly. I am sorry, but we simply have too much history. I am not able to be your friend and I do not want to discuss it any further, but I sincerely wish you the best in life." End it there, and when you see her out and about she will be one of many people you know but with whom you do not socialize.
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
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