By Nicole Schwarz, MA, LMFT
The slamming doors.
The random meltdowns.
The screaming for hours.
This is not the stuff you post on social media.
Living with a child who struggles with aggression, anxiety, sensitivity, or impulsivity can be physically and mentally exhausting for everyone involved.
There are no easy solutions. No quick fixes.
The good days are good. The bad days are really bad.
If you are not living this in your own home, chances are, you have a friend, a co-worker, a family member, who can relate to these struggles.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Since most parents don’t share their experiences publicly (because, really, what’s the fun in that?), I wanted to offer you a glimpse into what these parents may be experiencing:
- I Feel Guilty: Looking back, I see my mistakes in full view. As I read and learn more about my child, their brain, and their behavior, I realize that I could have done things differently. The guilt hangs heavy on my heart, as I wonder if that technique or that strategy would have prevented or altered the challenges we are experiencing now.
- I’m Lonely: I wish more than anything that I could open up about my struggles, but in certain situations, that conversation seems extremely vulnerable. It’s easier to put on a facade and pretend like everything is fine. Of course, this puts me at an arm’s length from other parents…people like you who could be my friend!
- I Need Friendship Not Advice: Research is my life. I’m constantly seeking solutions to ease the challenges we have in our home. I know you mean well when you make suggestions, it comes from a place of caring. However, more than anything, I just need you to be an emotional support to me as our family sorts through strategies, therapies, and techniques.
- I Want You to Ask About It: My child’s behavior is like the elephant in the room. It’s a constant for me. It’s something I’m always thinking about. When you bring it up with genuine empathy and curiosity, I feel relief. I can come out of hiding and talk honestly. Of course, I don’t want to consume our conversation or our friendship, but a check-in every once in awhile would give me permission to share openly (and maybe shed some tears too!).
- Play Dates are Difficult: Sometimes, it’s hard to predict how the day will go. Please understand that there may be times when I cancel at the last minute. Or, when I have to abruptly walk out, carrying my screaming child. Being out of the routine, overstimulated, or in new social situations can be a bit much for them sometimes. Please give us another chance to try again in the future!
- Nights Out are Stressful: I know I should take time for myself. I should go out with my spouse. Hang out with my friends. Unfortunately, at this point, we have very few people who we trust to watch our child. When we are out, I’m constantly wondering how things are going and waiting for the phone call telling me I need to come home.
- I Love My Child Fiercely: We have our moments. Long hours and stressful days, but I’m in this for the long haul. I’m committed to providing the resources, support, connection, encouragement and love that my child needs. My frustrated tears and moments of dark desperation do not change the fact that I am my child’s parent, and I will be there through the ups and downs.
Many parents struggling through the ramifications of their child’s mental health diagnosis live parts of this list on a daily basis.
But all parents feel these things to some extent.
Parenting is challenging. Some days are easier than others. And some things are easier to share than others.
If you know someone who is struggling, don’t assume they agree with these statements. Every parent is different. Instead, use them as a guide, an opportunity to open up the conversation and learn how you can support them in a way that meets a need.
Or, simply give an understanding smile to a parent who looks like they are about to lose it.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you can relate to anything on this list, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
You do not have to live in isolation.
This article originally appeared on Imperfect Families blog. You can view the original post here. If you are dealing with an intense child and need support, please attend our PEP Parent Support Meeting on the 3rd Wednesday from 6-8 pm. More information can be found here.