Psychotherapy for Parenting

Psychotherapy for Parenting

We, as parents, too often fall into the stereotype belief that parents are superheroes. After all, parenting is indeed the most important job in the world and requires us to simultaneously be the proverbial traffic controller, social worker, chef, doctor, psychologist, chauffeur, mediator, teacher, politician, bank, tooth fairy, police officer, emergency medic, cleaning service, and even coat rack, to name a few. In other words, with parenting comes an extraordinary amount of responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that parents are sometimes perceived as being “perfect” or possessing more power than we really have. So, when one (or more) of our children is diagnosed with ADHD, it is only natural for us to incorrectly assume it is caused by a dysfunction in our parenting.

Parenting a child with ADHD presents tremendous challenges. Infinite energy is propelled into getting from the breakfast table to the bus stop, or from dinner to bedtime. Your child may misbehave with other children, fail to listen to adults, struggle with emotional regulation, or experience academic challenges at school. Parents may need to intensely supervise schoolwork or hover over every social interaction. Family and friends may not understand what is going on and why these things are happening, and you may begin to feel socially alienated. Despite the love we have for our child, ADHD symptoms may push parents to be more punitive or inconsistent in our discipline than we might have otherwise chosen. At times, it is difficult to imagine that easy times are even possible. At home, we might feel like we are doing no more than simply putting out fires. Parenting a child with ADHD challenges even the best of parents, because of the level of effort required to watch over our child’s behavior and performance. The attempt to maintain consistent routines in the midst of the chaos on a daily basis is exponentially exhausting. Children with ADHD learn new behaviors slowly, which can compel parents to doubt their own ability to manage their child.

While most parents acknowledge the value of setting limits, or have read about it in parenting books, ADHD itself pushes us towards inconsistency, further magnifying the behavioral patterns. We may set limits when we feel strong enough or possess enough energy to do so but skip them when we are tired or in public, both situations in which the stakes seem too high. Juggling all of these ADHD-related challenges over the years, parents report feeling less in control of our lives than other families. Even so, the catalyst for change is parents, not our child with ADHD. We have the broader perspective, and our child benefits when we regain control. Parents are at the center of most interventions, whether we are addressing our influence on behavior, collaborating with schools, or making decisions regarding treatment.

Effective parenting requires both patience and vigilance. To teach a child with ADHD life skills and change behaviors, we must retain our resolve over far longer stretches of time than we would with other children. Under stress or with incorrect information, decision making is difficult. Still, our child flourishes when we remain open-minded about expectations and discovering new solutions.

The parent therapy sessions I offer provide parents of children with ADHD with related information, parenting tips, strategies conducive to the ADHD brain, and a safe place to ask questions, explore options, or even just vent. The parenting boundaries, rewards, and consequences effective for non-ADHD children are not effective for kids with ADHD. My professional approach is focused around the family as a system with circular interactional patterns that affect all members of the family. In other words, conflict is not caused by one person, but through interactional patterns by all members in the family. Each member of the family may have individual and unique issues, but I believe problematic interaction is not caused by a single member of the family. Therefore, one of the aspects of a family on which I focus are the various relationship dynamics, such as the parent-child relationship, the couple dyad, the relationship among siblings, and/or the relationships with extended family members. I also examine the various roles and rules within the family, as well as power and alliances within the family structure.