Q. My wife and I didn't circumcise our 10-year-old. He has noticed his anatomy is different from his friends and is asking why. How should we handle this?
A. As for your son, listen before you talk, advises Wendi Fischer, a psychologist in the Elwood School District and in private practice in West Islip. "The key is to assess where the child is coming from, what his concerns or worries are," Fischer says.
Once you know why it's bothering him -- Is he just curious? Does he feel different and doesn't like that feeling? -- you can appropriately respond.
Explain the cultural, health or religious beliefs that led to the choice. Many parents make the same decision for their sons.
"If he's old enough to notice, he's old enough to know what the reasons were," Fischer says.
If the decision was cultural, for instance, discuss other beliefs your family holds and show how different doesn't mean wrong or bad.
You could let your son know he can be circumcised in the future when he's old enough to make that decision. The child will know, "We hear you, we know you want this done, but we're not doing it now."
My wife and I disagreed about the decision to circumcise. How do I deal with my frustration that what I feared has come to pass?
Most important, you and your wife need to have a united front when speaking with your son, says Wendi Fischer, a psychologist in the Elwood School District and in private practice in West Islip. "You could say you discussed it and went back and forth and that ultimately this is what you decided together," she says.
The fact is, you did discuss this with your wife when your son was a baby and, even though you had reservations, you ultimately did agree, Fischer says. "Whether or not you agreed under protest, you agreed," Fischer says.
Try to have an open conversation with your wife in private about how you're feeling, and she will validate your thoughts and work with you about how to proceed. "I told you so" is never productive, Fischer says.
In a healthy relationship, there should be a balance of when one person acquiesces to the other's desires, Fischer says. If you believe you are always deferring to your partner, then it's a relationship pattern and you should seek couples therapy, she says.