The Toll Of Grief

domestic violence date rape sexual assault
AP (file)
In February, adolescent and family counselor Mike Riera answers questions that were emailed to him by two viewers. First, a mother asks what to do now that her son has seen his dad push her during an argument. Second, another mother wonders what to do about a teenage daughter who's unmotivated at school and slacking off on chores at home.

Dear Mike:

My father passed away at the same time my daughter was born. So I have had to deal with happiness and grief. I have had to act normal in front of other people so they know that I haven't completely lost it. It has put a strain on my relationship with my husband. The other night, he pushed me in front of my 3-year-old son. Is there anything I can do to rectify this with my son?

Having a child and losing a father at the same time is anything but normal, so I'm not sure why you feel the need to act normal in front of others, especilly friends and loved ones.

This letter went on to mention that the mother felt she was experiencing post-partum depression. Post-partum depression is very real, and when added to the grief of losing your dad, it can be overwhelming. And yes, it is coming out in the relationship with your husband and child.

Yes, your husband could do better, absolutely, but still it's in your court right now.

Arguing is one thing, but physical contact, no matter how minor, is another ball game. One of two things generally happens:

  1. It wakes up the couple, and they have a series of heart-to-heart talks that moves the relationship forward.
  2. They never confront what the violence was about and, as a result, it escalates, which sounds like the scenario you are in.
In the past, we've talked about arguing in front of the kids. One of the keys is that they know your arguments are peacefully resolved. That's not happening here. So you can't assure him everything is going to be fine.

But you can assure him that you and daddy are doing your best, and that you'll both love and take care of him, no matter what.

And you need to get into counseling as soon as possible -- for yourself, for your relationship, and for your son.

Get into counseling, preferably with your husband, but if he won't go, then go on your own. Ask your physician or friends for a referral, or look under Community Counseling in your Yellow Pages.

If you have a question for Mike Riera about dealing with your teen, send an email to with "Ask Mike" in the subject line. Or write to "Ask Mike" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019. Your question may be featured on future shows.
Dear Mike:

I have a daughter who is 15, going on 30. How do I motivate her to focus on schoolwork and help witthe housework? I am a single mom and just can't keep up with everything by myself. She always says she is going to help but falls short of completing the job. Her teachers say she is not living up to her potential. I am concerned that she will not make it into a good college, and if she gets there, she will flunk. Any advice?

Kids who experience trauma (the death of a family member, divorce, long-term illness) grow up faster than other kids. As a result, some of these kids hold onto bits and pieces of their childhood through irresponsibility. This means that while she is 15 going on 30, she is also 15 going on 5.

These kids want to help out, but seldom do, just like your daughter. In general, this is part of a larger adolescent characteristic: Grandiose plans with little follow-through.

What you need to do is say your piece about grades, housework, etc. and then move off these issues and focus on the Big Picture. What are her passions? Where does she excel? What are her strengths? How can you support her in these? And who are her supports, both among her friends and her teachers and coaches, and how can you support them?

Teen-agers in general, and from divorced homes especially, need to see reflected in their parents' faces a deep belief in them as people.

You are parenting her for the long term of the rest of her life, and while you can't make her study to get into a top college, you can help her learn to trust herself and challenge herself.

© MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved