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Ask Julie: My Son’s Illness Is Ruining My Life

Q: My son is now 13 and had been diagnosed ED / ADHD since he was 3. I was a single mom the first 4 years of his life, and married when he was four.

I now have two other boys, 2 and 4, and my husband and I are struggling to deal with the oldest’s behaviors. It is actually causing me to be very depressed at times and it is straining our marriage. I’m not sure what I can do, to help him and us. I feel like I’m going to literally lose my mind on a daily basis. I end up snapping at everyone or not dealing with normal issues, because I feel so overwhelmed.

My son’s therapist suggested I see someone, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing I need. Help? I’m afraid of losing my son to his illness, my husband because of the difficulties with son, and my sanity in it all.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help. You’ve hung in there a long time with your son’s illness and it sounds like it’s wearing you down emotionally.

I’m glad to know that your son is in therapy, and from what you’re describing, it sounds like it is time for you to get some help. I suggest specifically being assessed for depression and anxiety. The irritability, overwhelming feelings, and fears you’re describing deserve attention and treatment. It’s common for parents of children with chronic mental health issues to feel discouraged, down, overwhelmed, and scared. It’s also common to feel isolated, alone, and helpless.

After seeking support for you, I recommend accessing additional help for you and your family. Since you already have a relationship with your son’s therapist, he or she may be an excellent referral source for additional support services. Have you discussed with your son’s therapist your need for specific skills to manage your son’s behavior, or requested to include the family in the treatment process? If your son’s therapist isn’t comfortable with family therapy, ask if there are any recommended colleagues who work with marriage and family issues. Also, ask your son’s therapists for book recommendations about your son’s specific struggles. If you haven’t already done so, it may be helpful to read about your son’s illnesses, and encourage your husband to do the same. Gaining more understanding about what your son is going through may help you frame his illness in a more manageable way, help you less overwhelmed, and help you feel more prepared to support him.

Check with your local school district about parenting classes and support groups for children and families with ADHD and other behavior problems. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by my suggestions, ask your husband to help you research additional services to help your family during this time of crisis.

Take good care of you and yours!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

This post was originally published on my PsychCentral Ask the Therapist column

Avoiding Parenting Clashes With College-Age Kids: Studio 5


They’re back! College kids are home for the summer and while it’s normal to butt heads a bit during summer break, therapist, Julie Hanks, says there are ways to avoid clashes and enjoy the summer together.

As your college-age children come home for summer it’s important to address and renegotiate these “hot button” topics head on, before different expectations turn into sources of contention. Be proactive and address topics together adult to adult. It can be tricky to navigate the rules because they are technically an adult, but you still your home. Here are some common sources of conflict among college kids and parents and some tips to help you smooth the transition to parenting adult children during the summer months.


Curfew seems to be the most common topic of disagreement between parents and adult children. I’ve recently heard a fried say, “I know he’s an adult, but I just can’t sleep if I know he hasn’t come home yet.” I said, “You slept just fine for the past nine months while he was away at school!”

Revise house rules together ASAP

You are no longer legally responsible for your child’s behavior and whereabouts, but you do have the right to set guidelines for what goes on in your home. For nine months away at college your adult child has made choices for him or herself on when to go to bed, when to eat, how to spend money, how to spend her time. Don’t expect old house rules to apply to your college-age child when he or she returns home for the summer.


It is reasonable to expect your adult child to contribute to the household in some way either financially or through participating in household chores. How much should I expect? Should my daughter get a summer job? Who pays for what? Do I make them pay rent? Should I pay for their car or gas? There are no right answers.

Focus on your boundaries, not theirs

Decide what you will and won’t do instead of trying to dictate what they should do. For example, you may decide not to do your adult child’s laundry. If son’s laundry is piling up all over the floor and he has no clean clothes, the best approach is to do nothing. Don’t nag or criticize. And if your child is asking for money to go out with friends say, “I will pay for your dinner if we’re going out as a family, but if you’re going out with friends you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.”


Many adult children look at summer as a break from the pressures of schoolwork, finals, and endless hours of studying. They want to relax and reconnect with old friends, and have more unstructured time. Parents, on the other hand, might view their child’s “break” from school as being lazy and unproductive, and may even wonder, “Have I failed as a parent?

Reflect, don’t direct

Reflect what your adult child is doing or saying without telling them what to do and how to do it. Instead of nagging about them sleeping in until noon say “You must be really tired”. Actively encourage their positive efforts and goals.


While you may envision your college child spending a lot of time with the family, he or she may have different expectations. Previous norms of family dinners, family reunions, Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, and other holiday traditions may need to be renegotiated with your young adult.

Invite but don’t expect

Invite your young adult to participate in activities, but don’t expect them to join in every activity. Keep up your own interests and social activities, too. I came across this suggestion online and thought it was brilliant and may help you make the needed shift in expectations with your college-age child:

“Treat your returning child like a foreign exchange student — someone who might be persuaded to share your quaint customs (such as having breakfast before noon), while passing on a few of her own (such as the vegan cooking she learned from her roommate).” (


“He won’t go to church with our family” is a common complaint I hear in my clinical practice with families when college kids come home for summer. During several months living away from family adult children may start to question his or her family’s beliefs Religious differences or having a child leave the faith can parents wondering, “Where did we go wrong?”

Place connection above conformity

Your child will have changed while they were away from school – in ways that please you, and in ways that disappoint. Even if you don’t love the choices and beliefs your child is making, be curious about your child’s thoughts and feelings in a way that allows room for open dialogue and mutual respect. Remember that your connection with them is the most important thing. This is the time of life where you child needs to room to sort through what he or she values and believes.

Dangers of Over scheduling Your Child (part 1)

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, we did 1 (maybe 2) extra-curricular activities. It was soccer or piano or dance or drama or art class…not all of the above.

These days it seems that many well-meaning parents spend most of their after school time in the car, rushing around to pick up and drop off children from multiple activities.

  • What’s this over scheduling about?
  • Is it fear of our child being “left behind” if he doesn’t start playing football by age 5?
  • Is it that we want our kids to be so busy that they don’t get into trouble?

I chatted with Todd and Erin at B98.7 radio about this very topic – the struggle for parents and families to find a balance in after-school activities and down time. It IS important for us, as parents, to reflect on our motives and intentions so we don’t inadvertently need our child to meet our needs or fulfill OUR dreams…

Click arrow below to listen to interview…


Listen to part 2 here

Dangers of Over Scheduling Your Child (part 2)

I just listened to this interview again and I giggle every time I chat with Todd and Erin. You won’t find anyone as witty,  spontaneous, and warm on the planet! What a joy to talk with them each week at KBEE radio.

Ok, now we’ll move on from the “love fest” to part 2 of the dangers of overs scheduling your child.

  • How can we help our child find their own passion?
  • What behavioral cues might your child manifest if they are overstressed and over scheduled?
  • How to set healthy expectations and reasonable structure for your children so they don’t quit everything they try?

Click arrow to listen to interview…


Listen to part 1

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes: Add these words to your vocabulary

Want to impress others by adding some edgy and impressive new words to your vocabulary? Try these creative words offered by my own kids and my facebook friends’ children…


Over the years our family has developed several new words that we have integrated into our everyday use.   My kids are exceptionally good at combining two words into an entirely new word that actually makes sense. Last week I posted some of our family’s favorites words on Facebook and asked for some input from other friends and fans. They did not disappoint…as if I need another reason to love Facebook! Consider adding these words to your vocabulary…


(but + except) “I want to do my chores butcept I’m not feeling well”


(tomorrow + later) “Mom, Can we go the store tolater?”


(bedtime + nighttime) “I want a bed-night snack before I go to sleep”


(ignorant + annoying)  “Stop being so ignoying!”

Here are some gems from my Facebook Friends

(Julie de Azevedo-Hanks & Julie de Azevedo Facebook walls)


Michele — My youngest use to call any new outfit that she received a “newfit”. Funny thing was just a few years later JCpenney’s used that word in one of their advertisements. We had a good giggle over that.

Cheese papers

Carrie — My sons call pre-sliced cheese “cheese papers”. We’ve all adopted it and I forget that it isn’t the correct term until I tell someone I have to run to the store to buy cheese papers and they look at me funny.

Verse (as a verb)

Tracey — my boys use “verse” as a verb. “do you want to verse me in tennis?” “I versed him in handball”. Hilarious…and kinda makes sense.


Amy–“but mom” I usually tell them I am not “butt mom”


Bill–My grandson uses the term “Hoosey” as an adjective. “Lightening mcQueen is a Hoosey fast car!”


Lisa — ‎”Posta” I was posta do my chores.


Laurel — Yabutt (yeah + but)


Elizabeth– My 8 yr old grandson always says “whabou” I always respond, “how do you spell that?”. W H A T A B O U T


Elizabeth–Imaginating…And my granddaughter will be sitting quietly and when I ask what she’s doing, she responds, “I’m just imaginating, Grammy.”


Mike– beginst (beside+against). made sense to me.


Emily –My kids say I.D.K like its an actual word…thank you texting. ( I don’t know) We also have the yabut at our house. Oh and shup (shut up which I do NOT appreciate either!! LOL)


Becky — The remote has been called a “notatoy” for 32 years ( our oldest son thought that was what it was as everytime he picked up my husband would say “that is not a toy”.


Darcell– my daughter say’s” mote” for the TV remote.


Vickie — We started calling a late lunch “lundin” when my kids were little because it was in between lunch time


Rebecca– My 4 year old says “Lasternight we went to Grandpa’s house, remember?” It’s like yesterday… but… laster-night!


April — Ginormous. Gigantic + enormous. They all use that one.


April–  “you are being ridifficult” combination of ridiculous and difficult. only when she is mad at me for not getting her way.

And one of my favorite comments….

Matt –Not any words I could post on facebook:)

If you have any words that aren’t words but kind of make sense, please comment below. Your email will remain private.


Pre-baby Counseling Keeps Marriage Strong: KSL TV News

I am all for pre-baby counseling. We don’t really talk about how traumatic the birth of a child can be to the marriage relationship–loss of attention to spouse, sleep deprivation, jealousy, miscommunication, financial and time stresses, additional household duties…I sat down with Scott Haws this morning (bright and early) on KSL TV News to talk about pre-baby counseling for couples and why I think it’s a great idea…

Watch the news clip


Behind the scenes clip before the show…

Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero: Studio 5

Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero

In a culture consumed with pop stars and super heroes, it’s hard to spot true heroes. Find out what real heroes are made of and how to help your child be a real life hero. Therapist, Julie Hanks, LCSW explains the difference between role models and heroes.

What do you think of when you hear the word “hero”? For many, the word “hero” has become synonymous with celebrities, inventors, sports figures, musicians, and other individuals with special gifts or powers, excellent performance, or other noteworthy accomplishment.

Social psychologist Phil Zimbardo, PhD, claims that as a society we’ve “dumbed down heroism”. Not every good, kind, generous, smart, talented, famous person is a “hero”. There is a difference between role models and heroes.

Helping children become heroes in their own life story

1) Redefine Hero

What is a hero? Heroes don’t have to have magical powers or be involved in monumental feats. Zimbardo defines a hero simply as “a person who acts on behalf of others or in defense of integrity or a moral cause” and involves these 4 parts:

  • Voluntarily action
  • In the service of others or moral cause
  • Involves personal risk
  • Without expectation of personal benefit

Last Christmas my 8-year-old son showed heroism in a simple, yet touching way, when he left this letter for Santa on Christmas Eve. While it’s a small gesture, it was the opportunity for me as a parent to celebrate those budding heroic qualities.

“Thanks for bringing presents, but iff you think I don’t need it than give it to people who doesn’t get presents”

2) Watch for Heroes Everywhere

Once you’ve redefined what a hero is, you can take note of every day heroes in your community, in your family, and literature and movies.

Disney’s animated movie “Mulan” is an entertaining movie, with lively characters, and it can also be a springboard for conversation with your children about the 4 parts of heroism. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your children.

What value or moral cause prompted Mulan to go to battle?

Why do you think Mulan volunteered to fight in her father’s place?’

What was Mulan personally risking by making the choice to join the army?

What are some values that are important to you?

Are there any situations where you can act like a hero?

Jason M. Robison posted this on Facebook, “We teach our four children that being a hero is rarely glamorous and very often unpopular. We keep our eyes wide open for examples in the community that we can point out to them.”

3) Encourage Social Awareness and Action

The greater more people who witness an emergency; the less likely anyone is to do something about the situation. This is called the bystander effect. Help your child to understand this tendency and encourage them to act. They have the power to change the group norm by taking action on behalf of someone.

Encourage your child and teen to speak out, and to even challenge authority, in defense of another or one of their core values, even if it’s not popular.

Our children and teens come up against opportunities every day to be heroes. It may be as simple as sitting next to a lonely classmate in the lunch, walking away from a group of friends when they start to gossip, or reporting an act of bullying that they witnessed on the playground.

On Facebook, Vickie Johnson De Blasio says “We teach our kids that a hero does their best to improve the lives of others, without looking for acknowledgement.”

4) Teach and Nurture Heroic Virtues

Talk about your family’s values and the importance of developing character. Cultivate integrity, courage, compassion and social awareness in your family life. Families are losing the oral tradition of storytelling, and technology is taking over conversation and reading times. Provide your child opportunities all have examples of heroic figures with qualities that children can emulate in your family history, in literature and in religious text.

I’ve often heard my neighbor and dear friend Rene tells her three young children, “You can do hard things.” That simple statement can help her children see themselves as standing for something greater than themselves. Another family member frequently asks his son daily, “Who’s life can you bless today?”

Sharing stories of heroic family members can help nurture heroic virtues in your child. In 1856, one of our distant family relatives, Ephriam K. Hanks, volunteered to rescue a group of the Mormon Pioneers who were starving and stranded in a bitter winter storm. When he heard about the plight of the Willie and Martin handcart companies he was ready to risk his own life to help bring them to the Salt Lake Valley.

5) Be a Hero

The best way to inspire and teach your child to cultivate the hero inside of them is to be a hero, to cultivate your own heroic nature. I often hear children and teens in my clinical practice complain about how their parents lecture too much. We can do better at living heroic qualities instead of simply talking about those qualities.

As an adolescent, I remember going with my dad on Sunday’s to visit widows in my church community and neighborhood. We took them food and sat and talked with them. As a young child, I thought it was a boring and a waste of time, but looking back now it was a powerful lesson on the ability to make a difference for someone else.

Get more information on Dr. Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project