While parenting is one of the greatest joys in life, it is also one of the most challenging. Parents are responsible for not only meeting their child’s physical and emotional needs, but also teaching them life skills, social skills, and appropriate behaviors. For new parents, overwhelmed parents, or parents with a mental health condition, this can be an especially difficult endeavor.
In case parenting isn’t already hard enough, there are many factors that can further complicate parenting. By placing additional complications on parenting, these factors can change the way parents relate to their children, the way children relate to their parents, and the way the entire family functions.
Some possible hardships of parenting include having the ability to provide consistent care, financial difficulties, feeling rushed constantly, lack of sleep, constantly attending to the needs of an infant or toddler, scheduling and planning children’s days, and maintaining adult relationships. In addition, parenting has certain physical demands that may be mostly performed by the partner primarily responsible for childcare, making them feel overworked.
Parenting can also be excessively difficult when dealing with a child who has a physical or developmental disability and requires extra medical treatment and overall care. This can further be complicated by the presence of multiple children, and many parents experience feelings of guilt and stress over not being able to give equal amounts of attention to their multiple children if one child requires additional care.
Parenting therapy is a specialized form of therapy that works with parents to help them face difficult moments in parenting. Parenting therapy also helps parents identify, address, and manage their own past or present experiences that may be affecting the way they relate to their child. In some cases, parenting therapy may also help parents better communicate between each other to maintain a cohesive and structured parenting approach.
Parenting therapy provides a judgement-free zone for parents to discuss tough moments in parenting and learn how to better manage these tough moments moving forward. Overall, parenting therapy aims to provide parents with the necessary knowledge, tools, guidance, and support to take care of their children in the most ideal way possible.
Parents can obtain parenting therapy services by seeking help on their own or by referral from their doctor, psychologist, or a member of their child’s school. During the initial appointment, a NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy counselor will conduct an interview to determine the primary issue and concerns, develop a thorough understanding of the issue, and to evaluate the parent’s emotional state and behavior. Once the initial interview is complete, the counselor can make recommendations for therapy as needed.
Depending on the issue at hand, several different therapeutic programs may be recommended. These programs can include co-parenting counseling, couples counseling, divorce adjustment therapy, anger management, or substance abuse rehabilitation and counseling. In some cases, multiple approaches may be required.
Generally, parenting therapy will begin with only the parents and will focus on the main issue identified in the initial interview. Sometimes parenting support groups may also be recommended. Once the parents begin to make progress, the children may be asked to participate.
Parenting therapy can offer many benefits for both parents and their children. For parents, parenting therapy offers:
- Valuable education on how to respond to their children
- Support during tough parenting periods
- A safe place to process emotions
- Awareness of community resources
- Strategies to better address family functioning
For children, parenting therapy can offer:
- Practice with emotion regulation
- A safe place to express and process emotions
- An alternative way to communicate
- Support from their parents and counselor
- Education on how to verbalize feelings
- Feeling more involved in family functioning
While parenting therapy does offer many benefits, it is also important to note that there are times where it may be quite challenging. At times, parenting therapy may require that parents relive painful memories in order to properly process their emotions and move forward. This may cause some individuals to feel anxiety or depression during this process.
In addition, others may feel frustration when parenting therapy does not yield immediate results. Because of this, they may not take therapy seriously or may disregard the counselor’s recommendations. For parenting therapy to work well, both parents must be committed and involved, and must understand that parenting therapy is a process that may require temporary unpleasantness.
Who Needs Parenting Therapy
Every parent can benefit from parenting therapy, however there are some types of parents who may benefit more from parenting therapy. Parents who have additional circumstances that cause further difficulty to their everyday life may benefit more from parenting therapy. Such circumstances may include:
- Parents of past abuse: parents who have been abused themselves are more likely to be aggressive in their child-rearing. This can cause children to develop anger, indifference, hate, and aggression.
- Parents with marital issues: the most common marital issues are infidelity and finance troubles. Infidelity can leave children feeling inadequate or abandoned, and may confuse their perceptions of love and relationships.
- Parents undergoing divorce: divorce is hard for both parents and children. With divorce, parents are focused on their own individual feelings while trying to raise their children, which can be exceedingly difficult. Divorce changes the entire nature of the family structure and may result in several life changes, such as moving.
- Parents with health problems: any type of health issue can decrease the amount of time parents are able to spend with their children. Furthermore, mental health issues can complicate daily tasks and affect the way parents relate to their children.
- Parents with substance abuse problems: substance abuse poses many potential issues to the family and should be addressed immediately.
- Parents coping with loss: losing a person, pet, job, or marriage can affect a parent’s ability to care for their child. During this time, the child may feel abandoned or may act out.
- Parents dealing with their children’s issues: children can have their own individual issues, such as trauma, that can affect a parent’s relationship with them and parents may need support and guidance to manage these issues. The child may also need a specific parenting approach to help them deal with their issues.
If your family is going through some turmoil and you are interested to see what parenting therapy can do for you, schedule a consultation with one of our parenting therapists at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy today.