It may seem like a truism to say that warm, supportive and loving co parenting is helpful for all children, including those with behavior problems, such as ADHD and that this type of parenting has positive effects lasting for generations.
Nevertheless, there are many factors that cause parents to be a lot less than warm and loving parents, let alone co-parents. Co parenting stands for husband and wife working together, mutually, to be warm and supportive parents along with asserting reasonable and important limits on their children.
What are some of the factors that mitigate against this ideal type of parenting? There are many but the four most important are probably:
1. Constant quarreling and conflict between husband and wife.
2. Drug and alcohol abuse that causes impulsiveness and enables rageful reaction against children and spouse.
3. A history of either constantly witnessing domestic violence or being the recipient of abuse during childhood.
4. Maternal Post Partum Depression with or without Paternal depression.
5. A childhood behavioral disorder such as ADHD, brain damage, childhood rage disorder, oppositional or defiant disorder or any number of possible childhood neurological disorders.
Even with the healthiest and easiest of babies, raising a baby is a challenging and exhausting task. Babies cannot tell their care takers what is wrong. Their mechanism of communication is to cry. They cry if they are hungry, or if they are in pain, or if they have reflux or what parents refer to as "gas." Sometimes they cry if they have "colic." Colic is ill defined but some infants are very fussy. It is easy for parents to feel overwhelmed with a crying baby about which they do not know what to do. This is a situation that can set the stage for some people to become abusive. Infant brain injury is one of the leading causes of death among infants and is usually the result of shaking the baby out of frustration.
The average person is able to tolerate the difficult and exhausting task of caring for and nurturing a baby. However, if that baby becomes a child with one of the disorders mentioned above, parents are in for extremely trying times ahead.
For example, young children who suffer from severe forms of ADHD with Hyperactivity a particularly outstanding feature, parenting can and does turn into a nightmare. The reason is that now that the ADHD child is able to speak they are still not able to control impulses. Consequently, they not only demand from parents but very rapidly descend into violent temper tantrums that ignite a spectrum of emotions in the parent from rage against the child, to guilt, hopelessness and fear of being blamed by family, friends and spouse for the child's behavior.
What can Moms and Dad's Do?
This is the question that perplexed and exhausted moms and dads have asked me over the years when they have this type of child. Here are some things that work:
1. If you have a child who is uncontrollable both at home, school and in public, that child needs to be evaluated by a Pediatric Psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment will probably include medication to help control behavior.
2. a. You, your husband and your child will also need psychotherapy with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker expert in treating children with severe behavioral disorders. This should include family sessions for Mom and Dad devoted to strategies for coping with the child and stress.
2. b. If there are other siblings in the household they too will need help because parents tend to become distracted by a troubled child resulting in the unintended neglect of the other children.
3. Additional outside help is needed especially in these situations where friends, neighbors, and baby sitters provide opportunity for parent and parents to get out and enjoy time away from the child and away from home.
4. For school aged children, special classes and special attention is needed for these children and from teachers trained to help them learn and control themselves. This might entail the necessity of having the child attend a special education private school specialized in helping this type of child.
5. It is important for harassed parents to remain sober. Resorting to alcohol and drugs will solve nothing and could further complicate the picture by making the adults dangerously impulsive.
6. Regardless of how provocative a child becomes it is important for the adults to remember that this is not there is no deliberate attempt to cause problems because this is a troubled child. If a parent feels as though they are losing control of their own impulses, it is important to immediately call upon the help of neighbors, friends, family and spouse to come over immediately and take over the situation.
7. Husbands and wives need to be mutually supportive and helpful and getting through a difficult period of time.
Children most definitely improve with the correct diagnosis and treatment. The aging process and increasing maturity helps many children calm down and catch up with peers. Other children may continue to need therapy and medication. Even then, by adulthood, it is possible for much of the impulsiveness to settle and the medicine, therapy, parental love and support and maturity take over.
Children are wonderfully resilient and are able to overcome much adversity as long as they have the love, acceptance and help of two parents who love and support one another and the child.
Your thoughts, experiences and questions are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.