Family, Health & Lifestyle

A collection of articles I’ve written on family issues such as Divorce and Mediation, PTSD, adapting to an Empty Nest, Social Phobia and Heart Transplantation.

 From Northern Virginia Magazine’s December 2015 Cover Story:   The dissolution of a marriage is never a pleasant time, but just because two people decide to part ways does not mean it has to be a knock-down, drag-out war. The process of divorce can be amicable, and we’ve tapped leading divorce lawyers to find out how to accomplish this. We’ve also reached out to experts for tips on how to get back in the dating game.
By Renee Sklarew

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Filling the Empty Nest

Life begins anew when the kids leave home.

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Like many mothers, Ellen Broadman of Arlington felt tremendous loss when her first son went to college. So much of her attention had been focused on her children that her son’s departure seemed to be the end to the most important phase of her life. At the same time, Broadman felt a sense of accomplishment and pleasure seeing him do so well in college.

Broadman also observed how much easier her life had become with only one child at home. And, the separation from her first child became less painful thanks to regular communication via cell phone. But, best of all, Broadman began a new hobby—drawing and painting—at the Torpedo Factory.

“When my second child went to college, the transition was easier. He called regularly; we had more, and better, conversations than during the high school years. Also, my husband and I started traveling more,” describes Broadman. While she kept her sons’ bedrooms intact, she transformed their playroom into an art studio.

For some, there’s relief when kids head off to college, while for others, the looming empty nest brings terror to the heart. That’s why Susan Alexander Yates, Falls Church mother of five, co-authored a book on navigating the empty nest. Yates found there weren’t many books on the subject; so she began interviewing mothers all over the country, asking about their fears and what they planned to do with the rest of their lives. “People are living a lot longer, and I wanted them to have a vision of how to be positive difference-makers in the world,” explains Yates.

“Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest: Discovering New Purpose, Passion and Your Next Great Adventure” by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates

“The New Normal”  Military Families Living with PTSD

Military families struggle with PTSD in Northern Virginia Magazine Kin Column 2011

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A ll over Northern Virginia walk the survivors—people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan—carrying around memories of horrific events. They return to their families, work, coach, but many are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Coworkers or loved ones may never learn of the carnage they witnessed, or of the pain they’re bearing.

Give an Hour was founded in the Metro-D.C. area by a volunteer corps of licensed mental health professionals with clinical expertise in PTSD who “serve their country” by donating an hour a week to military members and their families. Beverly Lynch, a social worker practicing in McLean, participates in Give an Hour; encouraging military personnel to process experiences in confidential therapy sessions, so memories don’t fester. But, Lynch says military men and women are “helper personalities,” strong and independent types, who prefer not to ask others for help.

Research and analysis nonprofit RAND put out a study in 2008 that found most service members do not seek treatment for psychological illnesses, because they fear it will harm their careers. “In the past, seeking mental health counseling meant professional suicide. Promotions might not come, clearances could be withdrawn. Frankly, the services frowned [upon] psychotherapy. Now, fortunately, this attitude is changing,” explains Lynch, who advised the first Family Support Center in the U.S. Air Force. “Many spend an ungodly year in a war zone then return home to work not realizing how angry they are. Reintegrating into their family may be difficult; both spouses have changed; children felt abandoned by the military member and withhold affection. Everyone hurts.”

Fear Factor: How Some Cope with Social Anxiety

Social anxiety does not have to follow the child throughout life. By Renee Sklarew

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When the new school year approaches, your child seems anxious. When faced with a new situation, s/he doesn’t engage with others, clings to you, or even cries when you leave. But what is wrong? And how can you help?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports 5.2 percent of American adults have “social phobia”—people who feel uncomfortable speaking to others beyond their own family members and are fearful of new things—a psychiatric disorder that usually manifests in childhood and early adolescence.

Some common physical symptoms include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea and difficulty talking. People with social phobias may seek therapeutic environments to overcome fears and anxiety.

One option is the Social Anxiety Support Group of D.C., Maryland and for SASG, says she was an extremely shy child, but today she supports adults who are nervous dealing with new people and new situations. Sunny believes parents play a key role in helping shy children gain social confidence. “How parents treat other people, and how they handle new situations, teaches children how to behave. Children learn behavior from their own parents. Social anxiety is partly genetic and partly environmental,” explains Sunny (full name withheld).

George Mason University professor Koraly Perez-Edgar, Ph.D., is an internationally known researcher studying temperamentally shy children and their psycho-physiological traits. Her research looked at children from 4 months to 19 years of age, whom she followed for exhibiting “early negative reactions”—they expressed a strong fear response to new settings and were more likely to withdraw in social situations. Perez-Edgar found that without early intervention, shy children often develop anxiety disorders.


 For a Heart Transplant Patient and her Family, Pittsburgh Food Helps Heal

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