Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Patients Come Bearing Fruit

In yesterday's inbox was a packet from a former patient who sent her twenty page college essay entitled "Taming Mental Chaos:an integrated approach to treating anxiety disorders." Because we had spent years together managing her anxiety in all of its manifestations and trying a variety of approaches ---I write this blog with her permission, without mentioning names--, she thought I would be interested in how far she has continued the exploration. Not only has she incorporated relaxation and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques into her life, but she has gone on to become a certified yoga instructor and to teach others! This paper is her expression of gratitude toward and recognition of all that yoga can do to promote a more mentally, and physically, healthy life.

As a parent, a physician, and a teacher, there is hardly a more gratifying moment than the realization that one has passed on something important to a child, colleague or student. At the top of her paper was a quote from Plato who said back in the day: "The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated." Since what adolescent medicine physicians are fortunate enough to do best is to integrate body, soul and mind in their practice, I felt moved by what my patient sent, knowing that some of the seeds of her discovery were planted at my desk.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seven Ways for Grandparents to Reach Teens

As promised, I culled some wonderful ideas from the eighty or so retirees I spoke to in Green Valley, Arizona last week. Fortunately my talks ended in lively give and takes and I think I took away as much as I offered them.
The overwhelming impression I was left with was how isolated and out of touch grandparents often feel with respect to teenagers. Here are some ideas for staying in tune with this generation on the go.
ONE: Pick at least one electronic mode of communication. Email, Facebook, cellphone, text messaging, or Skyping are some of the most accessible ones. Use a library or take a course in order to learn these "languages." Without them there is not likely to be much sharing.

TWO: When you see your grandchildren, ask them to show you their Facebook page. Like a scrapbook or a photo album it's a window into their world, their friends and their thoughts.

THREE: Tell them stories. Search for ways that your life relates to theirs: war stories with mesmerizing detail; graphic tales of depression hardship (without too much self-congratulation); how you met your spouse; your best friend growing up; when you were bullied;the dirt on their parents.

FOUR: Share a hobby with them: a card game, a round of golf (with them driving the cart), ping pong, fishing (and learning to clean the catch), chess, or your valuable stamp collection.

FIVE: Rent or see a movie together (You buy the popcorn!) Engage in conversation by asking them what they thought first.

SIX: Expect that interactions may happen in sound "bytes", not lengthy satisfying chapters. Try not to be judgmental about the rapid pace of their lives. Catch them when you can!

SEVEN: After all, tell them you love them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Off to Arizona to Talk Teens to Grandparents

With only minutes to spare before I leave for the airport for two speaking engagements in Green Valley, Arizona, I will share with readers what I hope to accomplish. I am going to speak to two different groups of retirees in their beautiful southern Arizona desert community.

I hope this will be a two-way street. I have something to say about teens and young adults (ala David Brooks in my last post) and I am eager to hear what the senior generation has to say about teens. I am motivated by what I see as a need for grandparents who live at a distance from their families to stay in touch rather than to retreat into old age and give up on trying to understand the marvelous youth in their midst. And I hope to use this experience as a starting point for writing that will reach them on an ongoing basis.

My main points for discussion are:
Communication: it is possible to stay in touch with kids, now more easily than ever but it might require getting educated
Young adults: they are fabulously involved in making the world a better place
Sexuality: yes, it's there. What do you really want to know?
Immunizations: look how far we have come!
Education: what is autism? what is ADD? What's up with this generation?
Alcohol: How can grandparents help the bingeing generation?

I will be sure to let you know what I find out!