Parenting the tough stuff

 

 

If the small stuff like bad test grades, periodic fights with siblings, friendships that come and go, or occasional defiance with food does not faze you as a parent, the tough stuff will.  Sometimes it is a gradual progression, sometimes it comes in waves, and sometimes it hits you all at once.  Whatever the method, the tough stuff of parenting can catch you off guard and leave you questioning yourself, your family and your child.

Perhaps you are dealing with a child who has uncontrollable anger with outbursts so intense that they say hateful things, are uncharacteristically mean, threaten to harm themselves or others, or physically take their anger out on others.  Perhaps you are dealing with a child who stays out all night, comes home acting differently, has questionable friends, lies frequently or displays other signs of potential substance abuse.  Perhaps you are dealing with a child who has withdrawn from most social engagements, has no desire to be with any friends, whose grades are slipping, spend most of their time sleeping or has no interest in things they enjoyed before.  Or perhaps you are dealing with a child who threatens to commit suicide, has marks on their arms and legs indicating cutting, has lost extreme amounts of weight, or seems to do things to gain excessive amounts of attention.  Whichever situation you are dealing with, this is the tough stuff.  So what do you do?

 Don’t deny.  A common philosophy is to blame yourself for your child’s behavior.  This is encouraged in psychology with Freudian beliefs, in society where to admit your child has a problem means that there is something wrong with you, and in our own internal thoughts when we rather blame ourselves than to be honest with the situation.  While your child’s behavior is at some point their responsibility and choice and not yours, there is something to be said for a little self-reflection.  What is your child’s behavior telling you?  Are they acting angry because you are suppressing anger?  Are they demanding attention because they don’t feel loved?  Are they withdrawing because they have been hurt by someone they trusted?  Be honest with the situation and listen to the clues from your child’s behavior.

Deal with yourself first.  Remember the instructions on an airplane, put your own mask first and then help your child.  If your teenage child’s two year old temper tantrum is because they feel overwhelmed with all of the expectations placed on them, then look at the expectations that you have placed unnecessarily on them.  More importantly, look at why those expectations have been placed.  Are you placing expectations on your child that were placed on you?  How do you feel about that?  Or are you placing expectations that are inconsistent with your child’s talents and abilities just because others do the same to you?  Again, be honest with yourself and see your child’s behavior as a reflection of the things you need to address that perhaps you have not addressed.

Do get help.  More often than not, parents bring in their child to therapy to deal with their behavior but do not go to therapy to deal with their own behavior.  It is so much easier to point the finger at your child and drag them into therapy instead of the dealing with your own issues.  Therapy is most effective when the entire family admits that there is a problem and each person deals with their own issues separately and together.  Your child will do far better in therapy when they see you doing better because of therapy.  Be the example that your child needs and get help for your issues.

Many parents will admit that they need help parenting but few will actually take the first step of getting help.  Even fewer will go into therapy for themselves before they send their child however; this is the best method for healing.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How to know when your child needs therapy

When your child struggles for a period of time, has difficulty in school, seems different at home than at school, or acts inconsistently with their personality, therapy designed specifically for children can help them overcome these challenges.  Most children experience difficulties from time to time while growing up.  Some of these challenges are physical (their changing bodies), some are mental (their school work), some are social (their friendships), some are environmental (their home life) and some are spiritual (their religious affiliations).  For some children, these challenges are easily faced and they continue to have a positive outlook on their future.  For other children, these challenges become road blocks and they seem to be stuck in a negative cycle.

As a parent, understanding your child’s challenge and how to best motivate and encourage them is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with them.  Children take their cues from their parents so if a challenge is overwhelming for the parent, the child is likely to respond similarly.  However, if a parent is understanding, concerned and empathetic the child is likely to respond positively.  Sometimes just becoming aware of your child’s challenges and how best to deal with them will make all the difference in your relationship.

If your child has been dealing with abuse, developmental issues, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorderoppositional defiant disorder, mood disorders, or post traumatic stress disorder then therapy is beneficial for both the parent and the child.  Other struggles include social pressure, divorce, depression, anger, eating disorders, addictions, self harm, and grief.  Some of the indications that your child may need therapy are:

  • change in appetite
  • nervous more than usual
  • difficulty concentrating
  • problems at school
  • aggressive or angry
  • nightmares
  • trouble sleeping
  • mood swings
  • seems depressed
  • loud noises are bothersome
  • regressing to younger behavior
  • refusing to talk
  • fears separation from parents
  • change in friends
  • socially withdrawn
  • personality change
  • problem with life transition (death in the family, divorce, move, new school)

Most of the time, therapy is not a long process for a child as they adjust and adapt more quickly than adults.  The combination of therapy for the parents and the child is doubly beneficial as it helps the entire family unit to be on the same page.  If therapy is not timely, some of the challenges can be so overwhelming for a child that they feel defeated and this belief can last a lifetime.  It is never too late to begin the therapy process with your child; it is only too late if never started.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.