arenting has the unique characteristic of being a combination of pure bliss and simultaneous frustration and difficulty, that’s why we specialize in Therapy for Parents. Parents are saddled with the responsibility of tending to the overwhelming needs of their infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents, and assume the responsibility of teaching them social and life skills as well as instilling in them a moral sense of right and wrong. All the while, parents are still expected to maintain the same level of excellence in their own life as they did when they only cared for themselves.
Parents may find a benefit from clinical counseling if they are struggling with any of the following issues:
• Welcoming a new baby into the home
• Adopting a child
• Children with special needs
• Children with academic challenges
• Shared custody
• Single parenting
• Children with addiction issues, and
• So many other issues related to children and the child/parent relationship
What Is Good Parenting?
Most parents will, from the moment that a pregnancy is announced, receive multiple suggestions and pieces of advice on how to raise their child. Pediatricians provide information to new mothers regarding the health and safety of infants, various media sources offer extensive and often conflicting advice on childrearing, and one’s family members may have widely varied opinions on what is best for a child.
New parents may often be overwhelmed by this advice and, unsure of what is best for their child, turn to a pediatrician, therapist, or other health professional for advice. Experts in the field of child psychology and development generally agree that there is no one method of parenting that is “best” and that parents may wish to try different styles of parenting to see what works for their family. While extensive research and studies generally back the advice that is given by pediatricians and other health professionals–such as that encouraging parents to place infants to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS–other advice may be less valid. Regardless of where the advice came from, parents may wish to speak to a health care professional before following any advice that makes them uncomfortable in any way.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, parents are generally responsible for:
• Keeping children safe.
• Listening to children and spending time with them.
• Providing affection, order, and consistency.
• Setting and enforcing limits for children.
• Monitoring friendships children make.
• Seeking help for any medical or behavioral concerns.
Understanding the Challenges of Parenting through Therapy for Parents
Raising a child can be difficult for many reasons. Caring for a child, especially an infant or toddler, can take up a significant amount of time, and it may be challenging to maintain strong relationships with one’s spouse or romantic partner, or with friends, while raising a young child. Many parents face financial challenges or find it difficult to coordinate schedules and arrange child care. A parent who stays home with a child or children may feel overworked in the home and resent the other parent for working outside the home, which may put strain on a partnership. Parenting is also often physically demanding: Some parents with young children spend a significant part of their day cleaning, doing laundry, and performing other household tasks, and many report insufficient sleep.
Parenting may become even more difficult when a child exhibits signs of a behavioral challenge, physical or intellectual disability, or mental or physical illness. It may be especially difficult to cope when a child who requires extensive medical treatment or other extra care is not the only child in the home, and parents may find it difficult to give all children equal amounts of attention. This may lead some parents to experience guilt along with greater levels of stress.
Research has shown that when parents are not united, do not communicate well, or otherwise send confusing messages to children, it may be difficult for children to understand what is expected of them. The child may react to this inconsistency with misbehavior, creating further challenges for parents. Thus, child psychologists and other specialists emphasize the importance of presenting a cohesive parenting team.
The Influence and Limitation of Parents
A parent is often the most influential person in a child’s life, even after the child becomes an adult, and children will often look to their parents for guidance on ethical and moral topics as well as the typical concerns of daily life. Because a parent’s behavior, ideas, and beliefs will often largely influence those of their children, especially in a child’s early years, the biases and prejudices of a parent are often learned by the child.
Children who overhear parents using language that implies a certain group of people is somehow lesser than other groups, making disparaging remarks about other individuals, or giving voice to negative and stigmatizing beliefs about other people may adopt these attitudes as part of their own beliefs. Similarly, a parent’s religious and political views often become the child’s views, at least until the child is of an age to question belief systems. This may only be concerning when a parent strongly encourages a child to support the parent’s beliefs and discourages the child from seeking out other ideas, as this can lead a child to develop a limited worldview and be less likely to seek out other viewpoints in adulthood.
A child will typically also learn attitudes of acceptance from parents. When a child is raised in a household that embraces equality and diversity, by parents who do not discount the ideas and viewpoints of others, it is likely that the child will grow up to be accepting of all people and experiences.
A parent’s influence is often limited, however. Children learn new ideas from friends, from the media, and at school. A traumatic event may also impact a child’s development or behavior, and peer pressure can lead a child to develop a problematic behavior in spite of a parent’s efforts to keep the child safe. Many parents choose to use their own parents’ style or method of parenting, believing that what worked for them will work for their own children. However, each child and family is different, and a particular method of parenting may not work for all children.
Many parents continue to offer support and guidance to children who have reached adulthood, especially in the case of a child who is coping with a chronic or temporary issue. However, some adult children may resent what they see as continued parental influence and refuse assistance. Some children may engage in risky or destructive behaviors, and parents may be unable to reach them or be unsuccessful when encouraging them to seek help. This powerlessness is likely to be difficult and distressing for parents, but a therapist or other mental health professional can help parents explore ways to cope with these circumstances or reach out to their children, when possible.
Parents coping with issues outside the home, in their personal relationships, or with finances or health may find the challenges of parenting especially stressful and difficult to cope with at times, especially when a child is also facing an issue.
The number of single-parent households in the United States is increasing. Some parents are single by choice, while others may lose a spouse or partner through death or separation. A single parent often experiences increased stress due to an increased amount of parenting responsibility. When a parent suddenly becomes single, children may be traumatized and have difficulty coping with the loss of the other parent, which can often lead to behavioral difficulties. When divorced parents share custody of children, the children may find that rules and routines differ from one house to the next, and this inconsistency may be difficult for them to adapt to. Single parents might find it difficult to enforce rules and discipline children without support, and they may also experience the added stress of financial difficulties.
Single parents, especially those with small children in the home, may find it challenging to meet potential romantic partners and go out on dates. This may lead to isolation and loneliness, and conditions such as depression and anxiety may develop, causing further stress in a person’s life. Staying connected with relatives and friends, creating a support system, and making time for self-care as well as child care are all ways that single parents may be able to cope with challenges and reduce stress in their lives. When specific challenges arise, a therapist may be able to help an individual address those concerns.
Therapy for Parents
Therapy for Parents can help families in various ways. Some parents may become stressed by a particular parenting challenge, be it a one-time event or recurring situation. When a child faces a mental health concern or behavioral issue, a parent may find help for the child but leave their own emotions and feelings unaddressed. This can be harmful in some cases, as stress may accumulate and leave the parent overwhelmed. In therapy, a parent can address his or her feelings about a certain issue, find support and guidance, and seek professional help for parenting issues and concerns.
Individual psychotherapy can be helpful, and some parents may find that couples counseling can also strengthen their parenting skills, as strengthening their partnership may help couples become better able to resolve disagreements about childrearing or family life.
When parenting issues lead to stress, this stress may manifest itself through worry, depression, irritability, or anger. Some situations, such as the loss of a child or partner, may lead to grief, depression, or post-traumatic stress. When these conditions go untreated, the well-being of any other children may be affected. Therapy can help address and treat these issues. A therapist or other mental health professional is also likely to encourage parents to make time for themselves whenever possible and maintain a self-care routine.
Some parents have mental or emotional issues of their own that make parenting particularly challenging. For example, parents with conditions such depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia may find that the normal stresses of parenting are difficult to handle without help, and they may worry that the well-being of their children will be negatively impacted as they attempt to cope with their condition. Individual therapy that reduces the symptoms of an individual’s condition can reduce worry in this area as parents work to achieve wellness.