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Life Decisions: Education & Debt_Answer

Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015 at 4:54 am.

As with so many important decisions in our lives, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question.  We can learn from our choices and how they turn out regardless of which choice we make in any situation. Practically speaking, the process for applying to graduate school begins early in the year and you may have already missed the deadline for starting a graduate program in the fall. Still, it is worth looking into because it may not be too late, especially if you are planning to go to the same college you went to for your undergraduate education.

If you have missed the deadline, you will have the opportunity to work for 6 or 7 months, hopefully in the field you intend to go into. If you still have a chance to be considered for graduate school admission, I would suggest going forward with your application. That way you cover your bases in case you decide graduate school is the way to go and if you decide to work for a while, nothing is lost by applying.

Student loan debt is a huge problem for most students these days.  You are right to be concerned about coming out of college already owing money and then needing to finance your graduate education.  The truth is that for most students just graduating from university, it is hard to find a job that pays well enough to cover your living expenses and service your student loan debt.

If you are serious about your career goals and know where you want to be professionally, I think it makes sense to continue your graduate education. It will put you into a position to get a higher paying job after completing your graduate degree. In addition, some student loans can be put into deferment status as long as you are a full-time student, thereby allowing you to be in a better position to service your debt after you graduate.

Naturally it makes sense to borrow as little as possible to finance your graduate education. Look into grants, scholarships and graduate research and teaching assistantships. These can greatly reduce your out of pocket expenses.  If possible, try to work part-time rather than rely exclusively on borrowing money.  The less debt you graduate with the happier you are going to be.

Working and paying off prior student loan debt is certainly another valid choice, especially if you can gain work or volunteer experience in your chosen field.  Psychologically, either one can be beneficial and both paths can lead to positive outcomes, but if you are clear on your career goals you might be happier pressing forward and moving more quickly toward your goals.

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Life Decisions: Education & Debt_Question

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at 3:21 am.

Dr. Beth, I am a 22 year old guy and I am graduating from college in May. I am studying Natural Resource Management and hope to eventually be in a leadership position in my field (I know I have a long way to go!).  Even though my parents helped me financially, I am still coming out of my undergraduate education with $17,000 of debt.  My dilemma is that I really want to go to graduate school but I will have to foot that bill myself and I am afraid of accumulating a huge debt.  Should I work for a while and then go to grad school or just go for it?  How to do I decide?

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Being gay – how do you know_Answer

Posted on Sunday, June 21st, 2015 at 4:33 am.

Life in high school can be very challenging and coming out as gay is not an easy thing to do in high school–or really at any time in your life.  Fortunately, this is an area where attitudes have been improving toward gay people for some time.

This doesn’t mean that everyone in school or in your life will be accepting, but chances are excellent that you can find good, safe people to talk to and friends that will be supportive of you for who you are.  Most young people I’ve worked with have also been surprised to find that their parents and sisters and brothers are actually more accepting than they expected. It may take your family members some time to adjust to this new information, but most families value their family life and would not allow the fact that their child is gay to tear it apart.

There are a couple of good first steps you can take.  Consider sitting down with your school counselor and confiding in him or her.  Most school counselors have dealt with young people coming out as gay and may be able to give you some ideas about how best to approach it and what to expect from your peers.

Next, if there is a gay supportive organization in your high school, get in touch with the head of that group and sit down and talk to them one-to-one. You might also consider attending a meeting or two to get involved and meet other young people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual and the straight students who are often good allies to their GLBT peers.

Not all high schools have these support organizations, but many do.  If your school doesn’t have something like this, there are definitely support organizations in this geographic area, such as The Center in Fort Collins, that are very welcoming and informative.  Getting a support system before coming out to more people can be very helpful.

Next, think about the people in your life–both friends and family. Think about who you feel safest with and who in your personal circle seems to be the most open-minded about social issues. This is probably the place to start.   Most young people find that their confidence increases as they get over the hump of initial disclosures. Chances are good that if you choose who you come out to carefully on the front end, you will have positive experiences that give you greater confidence. It becomes easier to come out to others.

Relationships are a whole new arena to think about and discuss. Again, I encourage you to discuss your interests and questions with knowledgeable, supportive adults and peers.  If you have a clear sense of who you are, you can come out to yourself and others even if you have never yet had a same-sex sexual experience or relationship.

Take your time and move into sexual and romantic relationships at a pace that feels safe and right to you. If you are thinking about being sexual, you definitely want to learn about safe sex and use this knowledge in your new explorations. It is very important for your health and safety and saves you lots of unnecessary worries as well.

I’m sure this is an anxious time in your life, but it can also be relieving, positive and even exciting.  Young gay, lesbian and bisexual boys and girls find that coming out and being honest with themselves and others gives them a sense of freedom and self-acceptance that makes their lives fuller, richer and happier. And remember, you don’t have to go through this process alone.

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Being Gay – how do you know_Question

Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2015 at 4:15 am.

Dear Dr. Beth, I’m writing because I need to talk to someone and I don’t want to talk to my parents or my friends.  I am in high school and I am afraid I might be gay.  The idea of it scares me yet I really do know on the inside that this is who I am.  I don’t know who I can talk to or what to do next. Can you help?

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Relationship to own parents as a parent_Answer

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 12:40 am.

Your mother has clearly engaged in this behavior for a long time, probably decades.  As most people know, yelling is a very unproductive and ineffective way to parent and provides a poor model of self-control for kids.  It is certainly not unusual for parents to raise their voice and yell at their kids.  If this doesn’t happen frequently and the parent apologizes to the child for their inappropriate behavior afterward, no lasting damage is likely to be done.

It is extremely inappropriate for your mother to be screaming at you or for that matter, at your children or your spouse. Many people handle this situation by ignoring it and saying “That’s just the way Mom (or Grandma) is. Just don’t pay attention to her.” Avoiding conflict certainly seems easier than confronting it. You may even have tried to confront the issue in the past and had it do no good.

Certainly a first step is to try and address the issue with her, preferably face-to-face, and let her know that you will no longer accept this behavior from her.  It’s best to meet either on neutral ground (like a park or coffee shop) or at her home so that you retain the option to leave.

Keep the conversation short and to the point.  Ask her not to do this to you or to anyone in your family and let her know that in the future if she continues to raise her voice to you on the phone, you will hang up and talk to her at another time when she can speak to you calmly and in a normal tone of voice.

If she starts yelling at you as you try to bring this up, give her a verbal warning that if she continues, you will leave.  Then give yourself permission to leave if she doesn’t regain her self-control after two warnings.  It’s OK to protect yourself but be careful that you don’t do this in a rage or in an aggressive manner.  You don’t want to be like her; you just need to set a limit on how she can treat you. Let her know that you can’t continue talking to her right now, you are going to leave and that you will talk another time. Then leave. Don’t try to argue or convince her.  At this point doing so is futile.

Follow the same process if she begins to scream at you on the phone. Give her a couple of verbal warnings that you will end the conversation unless she stops yelling and if she continues, follow through and end it.  It takes two people to engage in the dynamic:  the yell-er and the yell-ee.  If you stop being the yell-ee she no longer has you to yell at.  Her behavior may or may not change but you do have the power to change yours.  And it just might lead to a significant change for the better in your relationship with her.

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Relationship to own parents as a parent_Question

Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 1:19 am.

Dr. Beth, I am 35 years old and I grew up in a home where my mother and father fought often. Also, my mother often yelled at us. Sometimes we probably deserved it but often it was over the most trivial things.  Since having children of my own, I realize how easy it is to get annoyed at your children and even to get mad at them, but I seldom yell at them.  I now realize my mother was way over the top. Even now, my mother sometimes screams at me on the phone, just like she did when I was a child.  I feel like hanging up on her. How do I handle this?

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Finding physical love after a divorce_Answer

Posted on Sunday, June 14th, 2015 at 4:09 am.

This is a really good question. It is a question that many single women (and single men) are asking themselves. Whether always single, divorced or widowed, many adults feel lonely for companionship, but also for touch.  No one really addresses how long-time single or divorced adults can meet those needs in a healthy way.

In counseling a number of clients over 20+ years, I have seen and heard about a variety of solutions single women and men have created to meet these needs–some with positive outcomes and some with negative outcomes. Let me share with you some of what I have seen work and not work for people who really miss having sex and non-sexual touch in their lives.

Some people just miss touch and affection but are not missing sex per se.  Some women have the good fortune to have one or two close female friends with whom they share a natural, non-sexual affection.  Some women friends are comfortable sitting on the couch and rubbing each others’ feet or holding hands in a friendly way when out and about.  Other people have found it very helpful to get relaxing and therapeutic massages once or twice a month. This is one way to meet some of those needs for nurturing, non-threatening touch without the complications of a relationship involvement.

When non-sexual touch just isn’t enough there is the question of how to meet one’s partner sexual needs when not in a steady or serious relationship.  I use the term “partner sexual needs” deliberately.  Some women are comfortable with pleasuring themselves through masturbation and fantasy and this is satisfying enough to meet their short-term sexual needs.  Other women just miss the affection and sexual intimacy that can only be shared with another adult.

Casual sexual liaisons are an option but you should be really clear about whether or not it is really possible for you to have sex without expecting a sexual encounter to turn into a relationship. In most cases it will not become anything more. Culturally, men are more psychologically able to have sex without needing it to lead to emotional involvement. (Of course, this is not true of all men.) Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can have sex without emotional involvement unless you know that this is something you can handle. In this type of situation or any sexual relationship be sure that you know what safe sex is and that you insist on it with each and every partner.

Single adults have also found that it is sometimes possible to have a physical (sexual or sensual) relationship with a person they know as either an acquaintance or a friend when both of you are in the same boat with respect to missing touch and intimacy.  This type of relationship is usually referred to as “friends with benefits”. These relationships are also tricky but often work well, at least for a time.  It’s important to talk with your friend about how you will handle ending the arrangement if either of you no longer feels right about continuing it. Try to handle such an ending with honesty, tact and gentleness. After all, this person has been a special friend to you at a lonely time in your life.

Of course, you can always have sex as part of a dating relationship that you hope may lead to a deep, committed relationship.  Most adults these days do have sex as part of exploring the potential of a relationship.  Just make sure and take care of yourself physically and emotionally.  When in doubt about whether to do something, wait.  It is much better to reflect and consider your options and the potential consequences of an action rather than act impulsively and regret it later. Take your time, look into your heart and let yourself know what your real truth is about this particular option; and know that we all have lonely times.  This one too shall pass.

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Finding physical love after a divorce_Question

Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2015 at 4:49 am.

Dr. Beth, I am a single woman in my 40s.  I was married for 16 years, but now I am divorced.  Even though my ex-husband and I didn’t get along in a lot of ways and grew apart, for the most part the physical side of our relationship was really good.  I am a very physical person and I miss having touch and sex in my life.  I don’t have any good relationship prospects in my life and I wouldn’t be ready for one right now anyway.  How can I meet these needs in a healthy way without jumping into the wrong relationship?

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Parenting Challenges with extended family close by_Answer

Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 at 2:27 am.

First of all, it is clear that you realize you are fortunate to have a caring and involved extended family and it’s great that many of them are geographically close to you. That is wonderful! And it sounds clear that they love your children and are quite well-meaning in their suggestions and attempts to help them develop.

Of course, as the parents you and your husband always have the final say about what your children are ready to do and what you are ready to let them do.  However, sometimes parents can be a little overprotective or overly cautious in judging their child’s readiness for a next step. This isn’t a bad thing. It is a safe and cautious way to proceed and protecting your children’s physical and psychological well-being is paramount.

However, I encourage you to consider broadening the range of what you think your child may be capable of and allow your siblings, parents and cousins to bring new energy and sometimes greater confidence to the idea of what your children are ready to try.  In most cases, the consequences–a bump or slightly bruised ego on the part of the child–are extremely minor and can actually be helpful in reinforcing their sense that it is OK to take risks.

Most parents can’t bear to see their children hurt, uncomfortable or crying, even if it is for a very short time.  Extended relatives may have the objectivity and slightly greater emotional distance to allow for a different perspective on your toddlers’ capacities.  If you trust your family members and can relax into the possibility that others can also give your children confidence and help them grow, you may find your children growing a little more rapidly in unexpected and delightful ways.

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Parenting Challenges with extended family close by_Question

Posted on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 at 1:54 am.

Dr. Beth, our family is young. My husband and I have a 1 year old and a 3 1/2 year old and we love our children and our extended family more than we can say.  A couple of our extended family members live in the same city we do and several are spread out around the state or the country. We are both fairly close to our parents and siblings and they love our children and come to visit fairly often. We are happy about this, but sometimes they act like our children are ready to do things (like walking) that we don’t think they are ready to do.  They encourage our kids to take risks that make us nervous. We don’t want to offend our family members but how do we handle this?

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