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Dear Annie: Being there helps son greatly

Dear Annie: I am a single mother of a 7-year-old son who has a lot of anger problems. When “Ryan” was 3, his dad and I split up. My ex just left in the middle of the night. It was a month before Ryan saw him again, and when he did, Dad was sporting a new girlfriend. When Ryan was 6, my father died unexpectedly, and I allowed my son to go to the funeral, but not the graveside.

Then Ryan and I moved in with my mom to help her out, but shortly after, my younger sister and her two girls moved in, too. That was a difficult time, and it’s when I started to notice a change in Ryan’s attitude. My son is very aggressive and violent with everyone. (He hits, kicks and punches.) Ryan was diagnosed with ADHD when he was young, and now the doctor thinks he may be bipolar. He is seeing a home-based counselor and is on medication for ADHD.

I’m wondering if this has anything to do with the loss of the men in his life. Should I have let him go to the graveside to say goodbye to his grandfather? Is there something else I should be doing? – Worried Mother in Florida

Dear Mother: There has been a lot of upheaval in Ryan’s young life. Grandpa’s death was a loss, but it is not the source of all this anger. His father leaving was likely the most damaging event, especially if Dad hasn’t been particularly active in Ryan’s life since the divorce. The next would be having cousins move into his home, disrupting whatever fragile stability he had. Good for you for putting him in counseling. It should help. Right now, your job is to be a source of total security, utter dependability and loving reassurance. Be his rock.

Dear Annie: My ex-wife has been seeing the same therapist for a long time. Is it OK to give gifts to your therapist, and should your therapist accept them? I feel it crosses a line. And is it common to go to the same person forever? Isn’t it time to switch to someone new? I am out of the relationship but feel something is wrong here. – Questions from Rochester, N.Y.

Dear Rochester: It’s OK to give a therapist a gift for a special occasion – a holiday or, say, reaching a milestone in treatment. And she can go to the same therapist as long as she feels it is helping. But this is SO not your business. Why are you keeping tabs on what your ex-wife does with her doctor? It borders on stalking. Stop it right now.

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar are longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, visit
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