It is no secret that children do not come with an instruction manual. To make things even more confusing, every child is different and what works for one may not work for another. For these reasons, parenting is one of the toughest tasks mothers and fathers face.
Despite being a challenge all on its own, parenting can become even more challenging when your child has been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder or other mental health condition. Additionally, the experiences of your own childhood can affect your parenting style and can negatively impact your children.
To essentially provide help with your child, parenting therapy was first developed in the 1960s when child psychologists found that children’s behavior was directly affected by their parent’s behavior. Using concepts of operant conditioning and applied behavioral analysis, child psychologists found that altering parent behaviors could have positive effects on the child’s behavior.
Modern parenting therapy aims to promote positive parent and child behaviors, familial support, and the tools necessary to be the best parent you can be. For more information on parenting therapy, see “What is Parenting Therapy?” Parenting therapy offers many benefits to the individual and the family as a whole. Here are four signs that you may benefit from parenting therapy:
Your Stress Levels are High
Parenting is stressful and there are going to be times when you feel more stressed out than others. However, if you are constantly feeling like your stress levels are escalated to the point where you’re in a constant state of stress, can’t sleep, or it has begun to alter your parenting habits, then parenting therapy may benefit you. Stress can be caused by events such as money problems, a death in the family, children struggling in school, relocation, job loss, family members with serious health conditions, or marital problems. Whatever the source, stress can cause unhealthy coping mechanisms which can negatively affect the family and lead to angst or behavioral issues.
You Want to Maintain Your Mental Health
Part of being the best parent you can be is to be mindful about the state of your mental health. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition in the past or are currently being treated for one. The most common mental health condition associated with parenting is postpartum depression, however any mental health condition can hinder your ability to provide proper parenting.
Your Child Has Recently Been Diagnosed With a Mental Health Condition
Learning how to manage your child’s mental health is an important part of being the best parent possible. Managing certain mental health conditions can be more challenging than others. Having support and guidance from a licensed family psychologist can help modify behavioral patterns so that they have more positive outcomes. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or Conduct Disorder (CD), you may especially benefit from parenting therapy. For more information on childhood mental health conditions, see our article on Children’s Mental Health Awareness.
You Suffered Childhood Trauma
Our childhood experiences continue to affect us well into adulthood. In fact, our childhood experiences play a large role in the development of our personality. Because of this, parents who experienced childhood trauma may have a hard time with parenting. Some may not have had the model of a good parent to follow or others may respond to their children based on how they were forced to respond as a child. Parents who have been affected by childhood trauma may also find parenting to be isolating because their children will, luckily, never understand the trauma they went through. If childhood trauma is a part of your past, parenting therapy can help you process your thoughts and provide your children with the best childhood possible. For more information, see “Is Your Childhood PTSD Affecting Your Adult Life?”
At the end of the day, parenting therapy is simply a way to improve the family structure as a whole by altering the behaviors of both the parents and children. By identifying the behavior, parenting therapists can help their clients to first be aware of the behavior and then to eventually change the behavior. Because children respond to their parent’s behaviors, this will indirectly help the child to practice more favorable behaviors as well. If you feel like you are struggling with your child, give parenting therapy a try.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.