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Parenting in Difficult Situations

by Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D.

Photo by  Heshan Perera on Unsplash.

Parenting in Difficult Situations

by Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D.

Photo by  Heshan Perera on Unsplash.

Parenting in Difficult Situations

by Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D.

Photo by  Heshan Perera on Unsplash.

Being a parent in today's world is not easy. Parents often have too much to do and children often have unique challenges that require parents' time. There are no easy answers in parenting children through difficult situations. There are some guidelines that can help make things a little easier.

1. Keep communication open. Effective communication is very important for children ages 10 and older. Many parents want to communicate with their children, but sometimes lack the skills to do so effectively. Some encourage their children to talk to them, but when they do parents end up punishing their children or scolding them. Subsequently, communication becomes restricted or shut down. Below are some basic guidelines on keeping parent-child communication at a maximum.

A. Take time to talk. Sometimes you may have to schedule it in. Monthly interviews with each child is a good tool for open communication.

B. Be prepared to talk about whatever. The conversation may include sensitive topics.

C. No matter what, stay calm during the conversation. If you get angry, you may need to put the communication to an end and then resume the conversation when you have cooled down.

D. Repeat back to the child what you have heard the child say. Do not introject your own opinions. This proves to the child that you are listening and allows the child to feel comfortable about talking to you.

E. Do not get side tracked by the child's lack of respect or swearing. Disciplining can come later, now is the time to really listen.

F. Always have an attitude of unconditional love for your child. This will help you through the rough parts of the conversation.

G. When negotiating is part of the conversation, always look for a "win-win strategy". Your child should be able to get what he/she wants without sacrificing your concern for safety and well being. Let the child propose solutions that will bring peace of mind to both parties.

H. Don't worry if you can not come up with an agreement in the first period of conversation. Feel free to schedule another time to talk more. Often time helps resolve some seemingly unresolvable issues.

  • Keep looking for opportunities to talk about sensitive topics with your child. The more effective your communication, the easier it will be to deal with difficult situations.

To learn more on how to communicate with your children we suggest the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (ISBN 0-380-57000-9).

2. Knowledge is power. It is wise to invest in good parenting books to increase effective parenting skills. Parenting is a learned behavior and parents generally improve with time and experience. Many authors have written excellent books to help sharpen parenting skills. Below are a few books that we highly recommend.

It is important to teach children how to think clearly. Mind Coach: How to Teach Children & Teenagers to Think Positive & Feel Good by Daniel Amen, MD does just that. It will help your children think logically and avoid many of the common thinking problems that children have. We recommend that you review this book often with your children. It will teach them to think more positively and confront their negative thoughts.

There does not exist one parenting book that will cover every difficult situation. A book that comes close to this specification is a classic parenting book written in 1965 and the book remains valid today. It is entitled Children: the Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs and Vicki Soltz (ISBN: 0-425-26655-6).

For children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ages 2 to 12, we recommend Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser, Ph.D. For children ages 2 to 12 123 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan (ISBN: 1887424148) is helpful. It provides simple yet effective strategies for dealing with most children, especially ADHD children. Another great book is Scattered to Focused: Smart Strategies to Improve Your Child's Executive Functioning by Zac Grisham MS LPC-S ADHD-CCSP. For teenagers a great book is Get Out of My Life: But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf (ISBN: 0-374-52322-3). The book teaches how to deal with the teenage conflict that results from their drive for independence while being very much dependant.

Some children are very difficult to deal with and resolving their problems may take considerable time. One group of children like this are those who are explosive and oppositional and defiant. A book by Bob Green entitled The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, 'Chronically Inflexible' Children (ISBN: 0060175346) instructs how to handle these type of children. Another difficult group of children to parent are those diagnosed with Manic Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder. Normal parenting techniques are often ineffective with these children as well. A good book that discusses parenting techniques as well as explaining what Bipolar disorder looks like in children is The Bipolar Child : The Definitive and Reassuring Guide to Childhood's Most Misunderstood Disorder by Demitri Papolos, M.D. and Janice Papolos, (ISBN: 0767903161).

Youth drug and alcohol problems create major stress within the family. Often parents are the last to know that their child has a problem abusing chemicals. Two good books on this subject are Don't Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children by Charles Rubin (ISBN: 185230863X ) and Tough Love: How Parents Can Deal With Drug Abuse by Pauline Neff (ISBN: 0687018250).

3. Teach coping skills. Life is full of challenges and it is coping skills that help us get through these challenges. Families can learn coping skills together. Children with good coping skills handle difficulties better. Coping skills include learning how to have peace of mind, forgiving others, prayer, relaxation, imagery and problem solving skills. An excellent book for teaching the whole family how to obtain a peaceful mind is, Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampowsky (ISBN: 0-89087-246-5).

4. Keep a "success journal". When things get difficult, we often forget what has worked in the past. We have a tendency to repeat mistakes we made the last time. A success journal is a diary of techniques that worked with your child in the past. When you find that something has been helpful in getting through a difficult situation, write it down in a journal. When you learn new techniques from a book, write it down in the journal. If it works, let the journal know that it did.

Do not put negative events or things in your success journal. Limit your entries to things that work or should work for your child. The next time a difficult situation arises, do not do anything too quickly. Consult the success journal and choose an appropriate response.

If you follow these three guidelines consistently, you may be surprised at just how much better your life and your child's life is going. Some children are easy to raise. Others are difficult. Fortunately, there are tools to use that will make the difficult situation a little easier.

For more information on working with children with emotional or behavior problems, check out Your Family Clinic's Bookstore.

The photograph was from by Heshan Perera on Unsplash. We are grateful for Heshan's work.

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