Debra Haverson Psychotherapy Services LLC

Helping you find clarity, harmony
and greater contentment in your life
When Parenting Becomes Difficult

I doubt that anyone ever feels that parenting is an easy job. We all expect the sleepless nights during the first months, the typical childhood illnesses and all of those colds parents seems to catch. We may expect the messy laundry and hectic juggling of family and work and difficulty finding reliable babysitters. What we often don’t expect, however, is to reach a point when we just don’t know why our child is so unhappy or having problems getting along with others. You may wonder: Why is this child – who is supposed to be a source of joy – creating so much tension and stress for the family?  And you may worry: What did I do and what can I do to put everything right again?

In confusion, the parents bring the child to therapy. Children – even teenagers – can and do benefit enormously from going to therapy; however, there are obstacles. The biggest one is that the parents (and often teachers) have identified this child as the problem and therefore the one who needs to be the patient or therapy client. The child probably doesn’t agree that there’s something wrong with him or her and feels forced into going. Therapists view children’s difficult behaviors as communications to alert grownups that something is not going right in their lives. Most likely this exists either in their current environment of family, friends and school or was present in earlier childhood years, leading them to develop maladaptive styles of coping with life.

This is the human condition. As a therapist, I’m not here to place blame on anyone’s parenting abilities -- just to help you and your child find a way through the difficulty. Even if each and every person had the skill and wisdom to be the perfect parent in every moment (and who among us does?), there would still be illness, accidents, grief and the physical absence of caregivers due to work or other responsibilities. The child would still come into contact with teasing peers, other adults and messages and images from the media. But here is what many therapists would like you to realize: Healing the child works best when the parents actively and willingly participate in therapy. For the child to change and become happier, the family system also needs to change and adapt – even if the child’s difficulties stem from a tangible physiological issue like a disability, ADHD or chemically-based depression. Family participation also helps even if you are raising someone else’s biological child, perhaps one who experienced intrauterine drug exposure, fetal alcohol syndrome or childhood neglect or trauma prior to coming into your home. These statements don’t just reflect my own personal point-of-view; they are well-established truths in the field of family therapy.
You cannot change the past, but as a parent, you can change the way in which the family responds and interacts with the reality of what is occurring now in the relationship with the child. When skillful response occurs more often than reactivity, the cycle of tension eventually weakens; the family becomes a more loving environment where healing can occur, not only for the child, but for the entire family. What families find when they have the openness and honesty to examine their own lives more deeply is that their children’s behaviors sometimes reflect difficulties within the parents, between the parents, or even a more multi-generational grief or dysfunction within the extended family. Often, despite our best efforts to create our own ideal parenting philosophy and style, we find it hard to let go of the first parenting models we observed as children. By working in this family-focused way to help your children, you might also succeed in re-parenting yourself to become a genuinely happier person.

© 2008 Debra Haverson


In the Presbyterian Church of Madison, 19 Green Avenue 2nd floor, Madison, NJ   07940
Free parking behind building    <->    Handicap accessible    <->    Short walk from train station
Phone: 973-476-4503
Mailing address:  P.O. Box 416, Madison, NJ 07940