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By Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.

Children today are caught in the crosshairs of modern media. Technology has become their babysitter – reality TV, nude photos on the Internet, bizarre videos on YouTube, seductive text messages. It’s time for these young people to be exposed instead to role models who have the potential to inspire them to do the right thing. But instead of symbols of stability, they‘re finding other adolescents living through their own crises.  

On the day of the Grammys, R&B singer Chris Brown allegedly beat up his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, after an altercation over text messages that Brown received from another woman. Pundits, bloggers and reporters are weighing in. Some support Rihanna and are intent on not blaming the victim. Others want her to face the situation head-on and take a strong stand.

Rihanna is young, talented, and at the top of the musical charts. She’s also a potential example for our youth. But first she has to heal herself. Oprah Winfrey suggested that Rihanna give it some time and get counseling. What follows are ideas that she could take to heart for herself - and as a prototype for all of the young women and men who look up to her.

1.Take a step back and take care of yourself. You deserve some time alone. And the chance to be safe, both physically and emotionally. This will help you see the details of your situation from a different angle. Listening to your inner voice can provide comfort and reassurance as you recognize your basic character strengths. Focus on what’s important, as you try to integrate core values and personal ideals into how you want to live your life.  

2.Explore your negative emotions. When trust is broken, if you or your partner have made bad decisions, there can be a buildup of frustration, anger or disappointment, even despair as you make efforts to adapt to the new reality. It may become apparent how much you’ve changed and how far apart the two of you have grown. And you’ll see what steps to take next, for your own good.

3.Get the help you need now. Find an individual therapist or life coach who will guide your healing as you decide how to move forward. It’s important to develop positive self-regard, confidence and the life skills for this. The therapy should focus on areas such as cognitive behavioral change, communication, anger management, stress reduction and control strategies. Stay in treatment as long as you need in order to figure out what to do.

4.Recognize the value of support from others. Talking to friends and family can clarify your needs as you work through your feelings. Listening to a second or third objective opinion will provide you with further insight, direction and encouragement.  

5.Find perspective in order to grow. Whether you‘re hit in the face with a crisis, adjusting to changes in your identity or making a slow transition into the next chapter of your life, expect a cascade of feelings - anxiety, the desire to hold on, resentment, sadness, fear, eventually a sense of freedom. The emotional roller coaster ride is normal. If you have the fortitude to step back, take a deep breath and face the situation squarely, you can’t help but grow from the challenges.

6.Search for deeper meaning in your life. As you redefine your self, it can lead to your gradually feeling more powerful. By accepting the person you are becoming, you will be able to go from being afraid of being alone to feeling excited about what's ahead in your future.

Rihanna’s situation has been tried in the court of public opinion. And it doesn’t seem as if anyone is in favor of her taking Chris back. It must be hard for her to be a public face in private pain. But she is dealing with a reality that all teenagers need to be informed about – that physical and emotional abuse are dangerous. Rihanna has the platform to demonstrate the benefits of making smart choices. And she can act in her own best interests, for herself and all the young fans who admire her and continue to watch her every move.  

© 2009, Her Mentor Center

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are co-founders of www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com, a blog for the sandwich generation. They are co-authors of a forthcoming book about family relationships and publishe a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website. As psychotherapists, they have over 40 years combined of private practice experience.



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