Goodness! The responses to my last post triggered so much compassion for all my mom friends. Some of the comments were so raw and personal that I struggled with whether or not to post them. Your responses also brought up four related topics that I feel must be addressed. Today, I’ll tackle the first.
One mom referenced having her child in therapy as they try to figure out how to navigate life with their son. As moms, we can struggle with shame or maybe we don’t want our child labeled… usually both. So we remain silent. I’m compelled to not contribute to the silence. Allow me to elaborate on our journey.
It wasn’t mildly challenging. It was a journey that included two stretches of extensive counseling. We would look at ourselves as two good parents who were happily married and loved Jesus and wonder why we were having such trouble. Anyone? (Side note to avoid the way the enemy likes to work: If you read this and you aren’t happily married and walking with the Lord, don’t let that defeat you, either! God cares about all His children and, regardless of the dynamics, we need to know there’s help and hope in the parenting journey.)
Here are 7 reflections…
- If this is you, you are not alone.
- Some of our greatest help has come from counselors. But like any profession, there’s a wide spectrum of quality and fit. Be selective. We went to one counselor who wanted to give a diagnosis that we knew was wrong. A psychiatrist later confirmed how completely irresponsible the diagnosis was. It was only by God’s grace that we didn’t take the word of the first professional. There are certainly times when diagnoses are true and needed. But trust your instincts and be cautious. Being strong willed is not an illness.
I wish I could’ve stepped back and not projected my fears on my child. I had too much of my identity tied to my child’s behavior. I tried to control everything, which is the oil to water for a strong-willed child. Pick your hills to die on carefully.
- As you breathe, let me save you some money. The biggest successes we had in counseling were changes that we made as parents. There was not a problem with our child so much as it was a normal developmental stage they were growing through. We simply needed tools to navigate.
- Remove yourself from the verbal tennis match. Part of what created the dynamics that necessitated us needing help was the fact that I kept the verbal tennis match going. I thought I could reason with my child. I thought the root problem had to be a lack of understanding, so I kept trying to educate and convince him. The moment I refused to keep responding to the lawyer-like exchange, the issue was no longer “us” and the real problem could be addressed. That was a huge game changer in the elementary and middle school years.
- A united front with reasonable boundaries and a priority on relationship is worth exploring. When there’s tension in raising a child, it’s easy for parents to become divided. Additionally, if your personality is more legalistic, it’s easy to think that more rules are the answer. But if I could go back and do it again, I’d remember that the relationship wins over time. While there would be age-appropriate boundaries and rules, I’d be sure that I didn’t make it impossible for a non-compliant child to have more wins. I needed to relax. I’ll never forget when I was told, “If you continue down this path, you might get the external behavior you want, but you will lose your child.”
- If you do find yourself in a place where your child is involved in counseling, I’d encourage you to frame the situation in a way that gives the counselor the right perspective. I regret that we projected there was something wrong. Instead, I wish we had explained that we all want to be the best version of ourselves and that sometimes a coach can help bring the best out of us.
There’s a huge range of situations from learning disorders to medical conditions, underlying emotional issues, and trauma. This blog certainly can’t speak to all of those variables. There is no shame in getting help. There is no shame in medicine. Sometimes, it’s needed. Sometimes, realizing that you’re not the only one struggling can also give you some needed perspective that you will get through this.