Having a child with social, behavior or academic issues is a challenge. What can make it even more challenging, as a parent, is feeling like the blame lies on you for your child's difficulties. It is not uncommon for parents of children with struggles to blame themselves for what their children go through, which can develop into a pattern of guilt, anxiety and hopelessness — especially when it seems like treatment or care isn't helping.
However, parents of children with behavioral issues or learning disabilities can greatly benefit from taking a step back, looking at the situation calmly, and realizing that there is much more at play than any parenting decision. Here are some ways you can disrupt the pattern of guilt — and start enjoying being a parent, no matter what your child struggles with.
A Day in the Life of a Parent With a Child Who Struggles
If your child has learning or behavioral issues, every day can be a struggle — and not just when the child is at school. Getting your child up and dressed for school might entail a fit, convincing him to eat a healthy breakfast might include a meltdown, and encouraging him to do homework when he comes home might provoke an extreme reaction. You may start to feel responsible for why your child misbehaves at school or feel guilty for not socializing your friendless child enough when he was younger.
While the outbursts of anger and sadness from your child may make you feel somehow responsible for the behavior, there is one thing you can do to make the situation better for everyone — and that is to stop internalizing the behavior and blaming yourself for it. We understand how difficult it can be to separate yourself from your child's reaction. However, it's important to take deep breaths and be gentle with yourself.
How to Handle a Child Who Struggles
Rather than try to punish a child who struggles, or punish yourself for her behavior, the first step to handling a child with issues is letting go of any guilt or blame. Although it is tempting to get angry and worked up in response to a child who is angry and worked up, the best thing a parent can do is remain extremely calm — taking deep breaths and meeting a child's high energy with calm, soothing energy. Tools that can help you accomplish this include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and developing mantras you repeat in your head to stay calm in tense situations.
The next step a parent can take is being gentle with kids — eschewing harsh punishments for more patient ones. After your child is finished having an episode, sit down and talk to him frankly about what he was feeling, what provoked the anger and sadness, and how you can both better handle triggers in the future. You can also remind him of the behavior that you like to see in your house and what is unacceptable. When an episode arises in the future, you can gently redirect him or remind him of the things he is allowed to express (and the way he is allowed to express them) — as well as the things he is not (and the ways he is not).
Another way to help work through the emotions of parenting a child who struggles is to get help and consult professionals. Knowledgeable experts, like those at Brain Balance Centers, can provide advice on how to work with your child and how to avoid putting more pressure on yourself. They can also provide insight into where your child's challenges originate...in the brain!...further affirming that it's not your fault.
One great bonus of a place like Brain Balance is that it is filled with other parents and families who have had a similar experience to yours — which means you can not only find support from people who understand what you're going through, but also get advice from other parents who have learned to make peace with their situation.