How to Mend a Relationship With an Estranged Child

Being estranged from your adult son or daughter can be extremely painful. Repairing a relationship is possible, but it takes time and will require patience. As the parent to your son or daughter, recognize that the first steps to repair the relationship fall on you to try to initiate contact, whether or not you believe you did anything wrong to cause the estrangement. Honor the boundaries your adult child has set with regards to your relationship and do not push back against them, but set your own boundaries as well. Learn to accept your adult child for who they are, and acknowledge their independence and ability to make their own choices.

Method 1

Reaching Out to Your Child

  1. Image titled Help Your Daughter Get Over a Bad Breakup Step 4
    1
    Be clear on what went wrong. Before you attempt to reconnect with your child, it may be helpful to find out why your adult child is upset or angry with you. You may be able to get the information directly from your child, or you may need to find out from someone else who knows the situation. In order to mend fences, find out the problem first.[1]

    • Once you have a sense of what has gone wrong, you will have some time to think through your next steps, and what you want to communicate to your son or daughter.
    • Reach out to your adult child and ask. You could say, “Renee, I know you aren’t speaking to me right now, and I would like to know what I have done to hurt you. Could you please let me know? It’s okay if you don’t want to talk to me, but please write or email. I can’t fix the problem if I don’t know what it is.”
    • If you do not hear a response from your son or daughter, you could get in touch with another family member or mutual friend who might know what’s going on. You could say, “Jack, have you talked to your sister lately? She’s not speaking to me, and I can’t find out what the problem is. Do you know what’s going on?”
    • While discovering the reason behind the estrangement would be optimal, be aware that you may not be able to find out what is going on. However, don’t let that stop you from pursuing reconnecting with your child.
  2. 2
    Do some self-reflection. Spend some time thinking about the reasons behind the estrangement. Was it triggered by something from the past? Has there recently been a huge change of life that caused the rift (such as a death in the family, or a birth of a child)? Perhaps you even refused to communicate with your child for a period of time, and now find your child unwilling to communicate with you.

    • Keep in mind that many adult children become estranged from their parents because of their parents’ broken marriage. Children from a broken marriage experienced their parents prioritizing their happiness over the needs of the child (even if the divorce was for the best). Often, in these types of situations parents may speak badly about the other parent not realizing that their children are absorbing everything that is being said. This can have a drastic negative effect on the type of relationship an adult child may have with their parents. Especially, if there was was one parent that had little to no contact during the child’s upbringing. Adult children of divorce may be dealing with the pain of feeling like a low priority to their parents.
  3. 3
    Put the ball in your own court. Whether you have done anything wrong or not, parents are generally the ones who have to take the first steps toward reconciling with their estranged children. Look past the unfairness of the issue and leave your ego behind. If you want to reconnect with your child, know that you will need to be the one to reach out…and continue reaching out.[2]

    • Whether your child is fourteen or forty, they still want to know that they are loved and valued by their parents. A way to show you love and value them is that you are willing to fight for your relationship. Keep this in mind if you struggle with the unfairness of the burden of work it takes to reconnect.
  4. 4
    Contact your child. While you may want to meet with them in person right away, it may feel less intrusive to your son or daughter if you reach out via phone call, email, or letter. Honor their need for distance and give them the opportunity to respond at the time of their choosing. Be patient and allow a few days for your child’s response.

    • Rehearse what you want to say before making a phone call. Be prepared to leave a voicemail, too. You could say, “Tommy, I would really like for us to get together to talk about how you’re feeling. Would you be willing to meet with me sometime?”
    • Send an email or text message. You could write something like, “I understand you’re dealing with a lot of pain right now, and I am so sorry that I have hurt you. When you are ready, I hope you would be willing to meet with me to talk about it. Please let me know when you are. I love and miss you.”
  5. 5
    Write a letter. Your child may be unwilling to meet with you. If that’s the case, you could decide to write them a letter. Apologize for the hurt you’ve caused, and acknowledge that you understand why they feel the way they do.

    • Writing a letter can be therapeutic for you, too. It clarifies your feelings and helps you regulate your emotions. Plus, you can take as much time as you need to get your words just the way you want them.[3]
    • Suggest that the two of you meet when they are ready. You could write, “I know you are upset right now, but I hope that, in the future, we can get together and talk about this. My door is always open.”
  6. 6
    Accept limits they set. Your adult child may be open to communicating with you, but not be ready for a face-to-face meeting (and may never be). They may only want to email you or talk on the phone. Avoid guilt-tripping your child while keeping the door open for future encounters down the road.

    • If you are in an email-only relationship with your adult child, you could write, “I’m very happy that we are communicating via email these days. I hope we can get to the point where we feel comfortable reconnecting in person, but no pressure.”
Method 2

Having a First Conversation

  1. 1
    Arrange for a meeting. If your adult child is willing to talk with you in person, get together in a public place for a meal. Sharing a meal in public is a good idea, as you will be more likely to hold your emotions in check, and sharing a meal with someone is an act of building community.[4]

    • Make sure it is just the two of you meeting. Do not bring your spouse or other supportive person along. It may give your son or daughter the sense that they are being ganged up on.
  2. 2
    Let your adult child lead the conversation. Listen to your child’s concerns without arguing against them or becoming defensive. They may also come to your meeting expecting an apology right away. If you sense that is the case, do so.[5]

    • It may be helpful to start off your meeting with an apology to let your adult child know that you understand that you caused them pain, and give them a sense of “leveling the playing field.” Once you apologize, you could ask your child to tell you more about what they have been feeling.
  3. 3
    Listen to your child without judgment. Remember that their point of view is valid, even if you disagree with it. Healing can occur when a person feels listened to and understood, and you remain open to their perspective.[6]

    • Listening without judgment and defensiveness allows a person to be honest in their responses. What you hear may be extremely hurtful to you, but understand that your child probably needs to say it and get their feelings out.
    • You could say, “I feel so terrible that I made you feel this way, and I want to understand. Can you tell me more?”
  4. 4
    Shoulder your share of the blame. Understand that you can’t get far in reconciliation without acknowledging how you may have contributed to problem. Adult children want their parents to take responsibility for their actions. Be willing to do so, whether or not you believe you are/were wrong.[7]

    • While you may not understand why your son or daughter is upset with you, recognize that they are. Don’t try to defend your behavior. Listen instead, and apologize for causing them pain.[8]
    • Try to understand where your child is coming from. Showing empathy doesn’t mean you agree with someone, just that you understand their perspective. Understanding their perspective is an important part of resolving conflict.[9]
    • You could say, “I know I pushed you a lot growing up. I wanted you to be successful. But I can understand how you thought that I was never happy with you. That is not at all what I intended, and it is not at all true. But I can see how my behavior made you think that.”
  5. 5
    Avoid discussing your feelings about the estrangement. While it may seem unfair, now is not the time to bring up your sadness and pain around not being able to communicate with your child. Recognize that they needed some space to deal with their emotions and sort some things out. Bringing up your feelings of sadness, anger, and resentment may make your adult child feel like they are being guilt-tripped, and they may feel less likely to re-enter into a relationship.

    • You could say something like, “I’ve missed talking to you, but I know sometimes you need to take some space.”
    • Do not say anything like, “I’ve been so depressed that you haven’t called me” or “Do you know the agony that I have been through, not hearing from you?”
  6. 6
    Apologize. A good apology must clearly name what you did wrong (so that the listener knows you understand), express remorse, and offer to make amends in some way. Offer your son or daughter a heartfelt apology that acknowledges the pain you have caused them. Remember, apologize even if you believe your actions to be correct. The point is now about your child’s pain, not whether someone is right or wrong.[10]

    • You could say, “Tina, I’m so sorry I hurt you so badly. I know you had to deal with a lot when I was drinking. I feel terrible that I made so many mistakes in your childhood. I understand you wanting to keep your distance from me, but I hope we can work through it.”
    • Do not make any attempts to justify your action when apologizing, even if you believe you have a legitimate excuse for the action you took. For example, “I’m sorry I slapped you five years ago, but I did it because you talked back to me,” is not an apology and puts the other person on the defensive.
    • Remember that an effective, genuine apology apologizes for your action rather than someone else’s reaction. For example, “I’m sorry that my behavior hurt you,” is an effective apology. “I’m sorry if you got hurt,” is not. Never use “if” in an apology.[11]
  7. 7
    Consider family therapy. If your adult child is willing, you may wish to seek out family therapy together in order to discuss your feelings in the presence of a trained professional. A marriage and family therapist will guide family members to identify dysfunctional family behaviors and develop their own solutions to a problem. Family therapy also works to acknowledge and enhance the connections family members have with each other.[12]

    • Family therapy is generally short-term and focuses on one problem plaguing the family. You or your child may be encouraged to see a therapist separately to focus on individual concerns.
    • To find a marriage and family therapist, you could ask your family doctor for recommendations, ask your community resource center or health department, or look online for a therapist near you.
Method 3

Respecting and Establishing Boundaries

  1. 1
    Start slowly. Resist the urge to jump back into a relationship. In most cases, a broken relationship won’t mend overnight. Depending on whether the root cause of the estrangement is mild or severe, it could take weeks, months, or even years to return to “normal.” You may also find a new normal.[13]

    • Keep in mind that you may need to have several hard conversations about the estrangement as both of you process your feelings. It is unlikely that you will have just one conversation, and then everything will be back the way it was.
    • Increase contact slowly. Meet your child alone in public places at first. Don’t invite them to loaded family events, like holiday parties, unless they seem ready and willing to attend.
    • You could say, “We’d love to have you join us at Thanksgiving, but I completely understand if you don’t want to. No hard feelings if you don’t, I know you need to take your time.”
  2. 2
    Recognize that your child is an adult. Your child is now an adult, capable of making their own decisions. You may not agree with some of their decisions, but you need to let your adult child be independent and live their own life. Meddling in your adult child’s life may have caused your child to put some distance between the two of you.[14]

    • Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Resist the urge to fix your child’s life and let them make their own mistakes.
  3. 3
    Avoid giving parenting advice. Parents can be easily upset by outside parenting advice, however well-intentioned it was meant to be. Do not offer your opinion unless asked. You’ve already raised your children, now give the next generation a chance to raise theirs.[15]

    • Let your child know that you will respect and defer to their parenting values and wishes. For example, if your grandchildren are limited to an hour of TV a day, let their parents know that you will abide by that rule in your house as well, or ask them first if it the rule needs to be broken.
  4. 4
    Seek counseling for yourself. Dealing with an estranged child can be a very stressful, painful event in your life. It may be worth seeking out a qualified mental health professional to help you deal with your emotions and develop effective communication and coping strategies.[16]

    • You may wish to find a therapist who specializes in family issues. Keep in mind, however, that your individual therapist may refer you to a different therapist if you would like to have you and your child work out your issues with a counselor present. This is so the counselor can remain objective.
    • You may also be able to find assistance in online support group forums. You will be able find other people dealing with similar issues, and can talk through your problems and share success stories.
  5. 5
    Be persistent, but not overbearing. If your son or daughter is refusing to respond to your attempts to communicate, keep trying. Send cards, write emails, or leave voicemails, letting them know you are thinking about them and want to talk.[17]

    • Make sure you give the person some space, however, and respect their need for privacy and distance. Contact them no more frequently than once a week, and reduce contact if you find out that your adult child finds this intrusive. But continue to stay in touch.
    • You could say, “Hi, Marisa, just wanted to say a quick hello and let you know I was thinking about you. I hope you’re doing well. I miss you. You know you can come to me whenever you want to talk. I love you.”
    • Don’t try to visit them. Acknowledge their boundaries and keep up with less intrusive forms of contact.
  6. 6
    Let go if necessary. Your adult child may see even your less intrusive attempts at getting in touch as overstepping boundaries and being too much. They may still not want to have anything to do with you, even if you have apologized and acknowledged your actions. In that case, it may be best to come to a place of acceptance for the sake of your own mental health, and step back from pursuing a relationship.

    • Put the ball in your child’s court. Send a note or leave a voicemail that says something like, “Peter, I understand that you want me to stop contacting you. Though it upsets me, I will respect that and will not contact you after this. If you ever want to reconnect, I will be here, but I will honor your wishes and not be in touch again. I love you.”
    • Keep in mind that reconciliation may be difficult in cases of substance abuse, mental illness, or an unhealthy relationship in your child’s marriage/partnership (for example, your child is married to a controlling spouse). Your estrangement may only be the result of these problems, but you may not be able to do anything about it until your child addresses these underlying issues.
    • If your child requests no contact at all, consider finding a therapist to help you work through your grief. This is difficult terrain to navigate, and you may find yourself needing additional support.
Method 4

Accepting Who They Are

  1. 1
    Accept that your child sees life from a different perspective. You all may have lived in the same house and spent most of your days together, but one person’s perception of a situation could still be completely different than another’s. Acknowledge that your adult child’s recollection or perspective is just as valid as yours.

    • A person’s view of the situation may be totally different based on age, the power dynamic, or closeness of relationships. For example, moving to a new city may have been great for you, but your children may have struggled because they had no choice but to tag along.[18]
    • Separate realities are a part of family life. For example, when you were a child, your parents may have taken you to a museum. Their memory of the day may be of interesting exhibits and a fun family outing. You may remember being too hot in your coat and that the dinosaur skeletons scared you. Neither your or your parents’ recollection is invalid, they are just different points of view.[19]
  2. 2
    Accept each other’s differences. You may be estranged because one, the other, or both of you do not approve of the other’s life choices. While you may not be able to do much about your child’s attitude toward you, you can show your child that you accept them for who they are, no matter what.[20]

    • Take steps to show your child your change of heart. For example, if your child is gay, and you belong to a conservative congregation, find a congregation that is more liberal and accepting.
    • You could let your child know that you are reading a certain book to try to understand their point of view.
    • If your child is not speaking to you because they disapprove of your life choices, it will be more difficult. Be firm and confident in who you are, and keep showing them you love them. Do your best to keep communicating with them and looking for opportunities to see them.
  3. 3
    Respect their right to disagree with you. You don’t have to change your opinions or beliefs, just refrain from showing disrespect for theirs. You can disagree with someone and still respect and love them. Not everyone’s opinion needs to be the same.[21]

    • Honor their differences of opinion as best you can. If you are religious and your adult child is an atheist, for example, you could decide to skip church the weekend they are visiting.
    • Find different topics of conversation than your contentious issues. If your adult child starts to engage you in conversation on topics that have made you argue in the past, you could say, “Will, let’s agree to disagree on this for right now. I think the only thing we do when we talk about this is upset each other.”

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How to Connect With Your Spouse After a Long Workday

https://www.verywellmind.com/is-work-affecting-how-well-you-connect-with-your-spouse-4138231

Once you’re finally home from work, you might flop down next to your spouse and ask, “How was your day?” They’ll likely reply, “Good.” They may go into detail or they may not. You may forget that you even asked the question while zoning out.

This person that you’re building a life with is pretty important. You know that. But after a long workday, possibly getting the kids bathed and in bed, plus cleaning up the house a bit, you have little energy left to connect with your spouse. The same goes for them, too. You love each other, but you’re exhausted.

Regardless of your energy levels, you’re in this life together and failing to make time to truly connect with each other can erode your relationship. So, here are six ways you can strengthen your bond that work even when you’re feeling wiped out.1

1

Ask Open-Ended Questions to Invoke Conversation

Ask open-ended questions to jump start your conversation

Getty Images / Gary John Norman

A close-ended question will result in a one-word response like “Okay” or “Fine”. We may use it as a warm-up for an in-depth conversation we’d like to start but instead, skip it. Get straight to the point and don’t waste your time and energy.

First, get your spouse’s attention, especially if they’ve already zoned out with electronics. Look them in the eyes, say hi, and then use the language of love. Go in for the kiss! Ah, now we’re talking! Contact has been made.2

Now, hook them into the conversation and ask a question like, “What was the best part of your day today?” to get them talking about something that excited instead of what stressed them out. Another question you could as is “What was your most important encounter today?” to learn who they connected with and what that was like.

Then, the most important part, listen with all your heart. Resist the urge to pick up your phone and mute the T.V. if you must. Leave the spotlight on them for as long as possible so that you can give each other your full attention.

Use the Language of Love

Use the language of love to connect with your spouse after a long work day

Pexels / Unsplash.com

Words are not the only way to connect with your spouse after a long day. If you don’t have the energy for a love-fest there are alternatives. You could have a long hug when you first see each other. When you feel like letting go, hug for a few more seconds and feel the connection between your hearts. Feels good, doesn’t it? Or give your spouse some really good kisses all night when they least expect it! You haven’t seen each other in over eight hours. Show them some love!

If this public display of affection bothers the kids physically make contact in discreet ways. You could hold hands while watching T.V. or walk hand in hand while taking the kids out for a walk. If your spouse is doing the dishes (yippee!), go up behind them and put your arms around them. This might feel funny, but that’s part of the game of love, right? Another idea is while on your tablets or laptops, touch their feet or legs with yours.

Reminisce About the Good Old Days

Take a trip down memory lane to connect with your spouse

Getty Images / Chris Ryan

If you don’t feel like hashing out your day talk about a specific funny or loving memory you shared. 3For example, you can ask, “Do you remember that time in Hawaii when we took our first helicopter ride and saw all those amazing waterfalls?” Then, enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Reminiscing takes you away from the stress of the daily grind. It sends you back to a happier time and thus gives you a burst of energy when you need it most, at the end of your day. You’ll feel grateful you were able to have that experience with your spouse. Your past has helped bring you both to where you are today.

Go to Bed Early – Together

Go to bed early with your spouse to connect after a long day

Getty Images / Lilly Bloom

Recoup from a tiring day by getting into bed early and at the same time. So, get ready for the next day together, like making coffee, putting out breakfast, or packing lunches together. Then, brush your teeth and get frisky or cuddle. Or, be silly—humor is a great way to bond! 3Then, jump under the covers and snuggle.

Snuggle time makes you feel secure and love. At the end of the day, a bit of affection tends to make us feel better, right? No words need, just getting warm and comfortable to prepare for a good night sleep.2

Smile at Each Other Often

Smile at each other, even if you don't feel happy, to connect with your spouse

Getty Images / SCC

Let’s say you come home in a bad mood. Although your spouse had nothing to do with that we tend to take out our frustrations on those we care about the most. With this perspective in mind, if you want to get over this bad mood and be able to connect with your spouse in a positive way, smile at them.

Psychologist and facial coding expert, Paul Ekman, discovered that if you smile with both your lips and eyes, even if it’s fake, it’ll put you in a better mood. Also, since we are wired to be social if your spouse sees you smiling, they can’t resist by smile back.4 Put this in your toolkit when you want to get your spouse out of their bad mood!

Start a Bucket List Together

Make a bucket list together to connect with yoru spouse

Getty Images / ZoneCreative

What do you want to do before you die? What does your spouse what to do before they die? After the kids are asleep start your bucket list. How many similar things do you want to accomplish?

This conversation connects you by dreaming about possibilities. These things don’t have to be done this weekend. They are goals you’d like to accomplish within your lifetime. This perspective takes the pressure off checking off the list and instead you dream together. Making plans this way can excite you both and give you another burst of energy at the end of a long day.

A Word From Verywell

At the end of the day, your marriage needs your attention. Not your undivided attention, and perhaps not every day. But making an effort, even a small one, will pay off in a closer connection and healthier marriage. Taking the time to nurture this relationship lets your partner know you care and that they (and your marriage) are a top priority—and helps keep your relationship strong.

Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

A poet and residential school survivor is releasing her latest collections of poems, and she says they have been instrumental in healing from the scars of residential schools.

Source: Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

Louise Bernice Halfe was was born in Two Hills, Alta., and completed programs at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan. She attended the Blue Quills Residential School, near St. Paul, Alta., for six years.

While the recently finished Truth and Reconciliation Commission was intended to help survivors heal, Bernice Halfe said the process opened old wounds. This collection of poetry, Burning in this Midnight Dream, helped heal those wounds.

Traditional ceremonies, psychology needed to help others

“It’s been extremely challenging and frightening as well,” she said of the process of walking backward, and retracing her past through the poetry. “What scared me was the feeling of being exposed and vlunerable.”

She said she needed to press ahead as a process of “accepting responsibility of my own actions and behaviours,” but the poetry is “also for the people who don’t have the vocabulary to articulate the shame and the pain and the anger that goes within their own stories.”

Bernice Halfe has training in drug and alcohol counseling, and in social work. She also emphasized the importance of psychotherapy and talking as tools for healing.

‘How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know; I hope it’s possible. It’s very very hard.’– Louise Bernice Halfe

When asked how she wants to contribute to conversations on the legacy around residential schools, she described a photograph that showed her parents’ wedding and all of her relatives connected to her parents.

“There’s been a generational impact on whole communities. How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know. I hope it’s possible. It’s very, very hard,” she said.

Bernice Halfe said she wants to see more aboriginal therapists and psychologists. “Not the kind that just prescribe pills,” she said.

Part of that responsibility is shared by the government, which she said has been insufficient in providing deep healing for aboriginal communities to recover from the legacy of residential schools.

“I would like to see more people trained in psychotherapy, along with their [traditional] ceremonial practices,” she said. “We needing funding for education in our communities. We also need mental health services closer to the communities.

“I’m talking about talk therapy. I’m talking about psychologists,” she emphasized.

Louise Bernice Halfe launches her latest collection of poems on Thursday at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon at 7 p.m. CST.

Challenge 1: Deep Listening — Empathy in Action

Challenge 1: Deep Listening — Empathy in Action.

 This is a great resource to learn some communication skills.
Creative Commons copyright.
 
Enjoy,
Rory

Connect More Deeply by Listening More Attentively and Responsively


A chapter in The Seven Challenges Workbook
A Guide to Cooperative Communication Skills for Success at Home and at Work
by Dennis Rivers, MA — 2012 Edition

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SUMMARY (repeated from Introduction) Listen first and acknowledge what you hear, even if you don’t agree with it, before expressing your experience or point of view . In order to get more of your conversation partner’s attention in tense situations, pay attention first: listen and give a brief restatement of what you have heard (especially feelings) before you express your own needs or position. The kind of listening recommended here separates acknowledging from approving or agreeing . Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings does not have to mean that youapprove of or agree with that person’s actions or way of experiencing, or that you will do whatever someone asks.

Challenge One -- Listening More Carefully and ResponsivelyBy listening and then repeating back in your own words the essence and feeling of what you have just heard, from the speaker’s point of view, you allow the speaker to feel the satisfaction of being understood, (a major human need). Listening responsively is always worthwhile as a way of letting people know that you care about them. Our conversation partners do not automatically know how well we have understood them, and they may not be very good at asking for confirmation. When a conversation is tense or difficult it is even more important to listen first and acknowledge what you hear . Otherwise, your chances of being heard by the other person may be very poor.

Listening to others helps others to listen. In learning to better coordinate our life activities with the life activities of others, we would do well to resist two very popular (but terrible) models of communication: arguing a case in court and debating.  In courts and debates, each side tries to make its own points and listens to the other side only to tear down the other side’s points. Since the debaters and attorneys rarely have to reach agreement or get anything done together, it doesn’t seem to matter how much ill will their conversational style generates. But most of us are in a very different situation . We probably spend most of our lives trying to arrange agreement and cooperative action, so we need to be concerned about engaging people, not defeating them. In business (and in family life, too) the person we defeat today will probably be the person whose cooperation we need tomorrow!

As Marshall Rosenberg reported in his book, Nonviolent Communication ,  “studies in labor-management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to repeat what the previous speaker had said.”  (my emphasis)

When people are upset about something and want to talk about it their capacity to listen is greatly diminished. Trying to get your point across to a person who is trying to express a strong feeling will usually cause the other person to try even harder to get that emotion recognized. On the other hand, once people feel that their messages and feelings have been heard, they start to relax and they have more attention available for listening. For example, in a hospital a nurse might say, after listening to a patient: “I hear that you are very uncomfortable right now, Susan, and you would really like to get out of that bed and move around. But your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.”  The patient in this example is much more likely to listen to the nurse than if the nurse simply said: “I’m really sorry, Susan, but you have to stay in bed. Your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.”   What is missing in this second version is any acknowledgment of the patient’s present experience.

The power of simple acknowledging. The practice of responsive listening described here separates acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that a person expresses from approving, agreeing, advising, or persuading. Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings…

…still leaves you the option of agreeing or disagreeing with that person’s point of view, actions or way of experiencing.

…still leaves you with the option of saying yes or no to a request.

…still leaves you with the option of saying more about the matter being discussed.

One recurring problem in conflict situations is that many people don’tseparate acknowledging from agreeing. They are joined together in people’s minds, somewhat like a two-boxes-of-soap “package deal” in a supermarket. The effect of this is, let us say, that John feels that any acknowledgment of Fred’s experience implies agreement and approval, therefore John will not acknowledge any of Fred’s experience. Fred tries harder to be heard and John tries harder not to hear. Of course, this is a recipe for stalemate (if not disaster).

People want both: to be understood and acknowledged on the one hand, and to be approved and agreed with, on the other. With practice, you can learn to respond first with a simple acknowledgment. As you do this, you may find that, figuratively speaking, you can give your conversation partners half of what they want, even if you can’t give them all of what they want. In many conflict situations that will be a giant step forward. Your conversation partners will also be more likely to acknowledge your position and experience, even if they don’t sympathize with you. This mutual acknowledgment can create an emotional atmosphere in which it is easier to work toward agreement or more gracefully accommodate disagreements. Here are three examples of acknowledgments that do not imply agreement:

  • Counselor to a drug abuse client:
    “I hear that you are feeling terrible right now and that you really want some drugs. And I want you to know that I’m still concerned this stuff you’re taking is going to kill you.”
  • Mother to seven-year-old: 
    “I know that you want some more cake and ice cream, Jimmy, because it tastes so good, but you’ve already had three pieces and I’m really worried that you’ll get an upset tummy. That’s why I don’t want you to have any more.”
  • Union representative to company owner’s representative: 
    “I understand from your presentation that you see XYZ Company as short of cash, threatened by foreign competition, and not in a position to agree to any wage increases. Now I would like us to explore contract arrangements that would allow my union members to get a wage increase and XYZ Company to advance its organizational goals.”   

In each case a person’s listening to and acknowledgment of his or her conversation partner’s experience or position increases the chance that the conversation partner will be willing to listen in turn. The examples given above are all a bit long and include a declaration of the listener’s position or decision. In many conversations you may simply want to reassure your conversation partner with a word or two that you have heard and understood whatever they are experiencing. For example, saying, “You sound really happy [or sad] about that,” etc.

As you listen to the important people in your life, give very brief summaries of the experiences they are talking about and name the want or feeling that appears to be at the heart of the experience. For example:

“So you were really happy about that…”

“So you drove all the way over there and they didn’t have the part they promised you on the phone. What a let-down…

“Sounds like you wanted a big change in that situation…”

“Wow. Your dog got run over. You must be feeling really terrible…”

The point here is to empathize, not to advise. If you added to that last statement, “That total SLOB!!! You should sue that person who ran over your dog. People need to pay for their mistakes, etc.”, you would be taking over the conversation and also leading the person away from her or his feelings and toward your own.

Other suggestions about listening more responsively:

As a general rule, do not just repeat another person’s exact words.Summarize their experience in your own words . But in cases where people actually scream or shout something, sometimes you may want to repeat a few of their exact words in a quiet tone of voice to let them know that you have heard it just as they said it.

If the emotion is unclear, make a tentative guess, as in “So it sounds like maybe you were a little unhappy about all that…”   The speaker will usually correct your guess if it needs correcting.

Listening is an art and there are very few fixed rules. Pay attention to whether the person speaking accepts your summary by saying things such as “yeah!”, “you got it,” “that’s right,” and similar responses.

If you can identify with what the other person is experiencing, then in your tone of voice (as you summarize what another person is going through), express a little of the feeling that your conversation partner is expressing. (Emotionally flat summaries feel strange and distant.)

Such compassionate listening is a powerful resource for navigating through life, and it also makes significant demands on us as listeners. We may need to learn how to hold our own ground while we restate someone else’s position. That takes practice. We also have to be able to listen to people’s criticisms or complaints without becoming disoriented or totally losing our sense of self worth. That requires cultivating a deeper sense of self worth, which is no small project. In spite of these difficulties, the results of compassion-ate, responsive listening have been so rewarding in my life that I have found it to be worth all the effort required.

Real life examples. Here are two brief, true stories about listening. The first is about listening going well and the second is about the heavy price people sometimes pay for not listening in an empathic way.


John Gottman describes his discovery that listening really works: “I remember the day I first discovered how Emotion Coaching [the author’s approach to empathic listening] might work with my own daughter, Moriah. She was two at the time and we were on a cross-country flight home after visiting with relatives. Bored, tired, and cranky, Moriah asked me for Zebra, her favorite stuffed animal and comfort object. Unfortunately, we had absentmindedly packed the well-worn critter in a suitcase that was checked at the baggage counter.

“I’m sorry, honey, but we can’t get Zebra right now. He’s in the big suitcase in another part of the airplane,” I explained.”I want Zebra,” she whined pitifully.

“I know, sweetheart. But Zebra isn’t here. He’s in the baggage compartment under-neath the plane and Daddy can’t get him until we get off the plane. I’m sorry.”

“I want Zebra! I want Zebra!” she moaned again. Then she started to cry, twisting in her safety seat and reaching futilely toward a bag on the floor where she’d seen me go for snacks.

“I know you want Zebra,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rise. “But he’s not in that bag. He’s not here and I can’t do anything about it. Look, why don’t we read about Ernie,” I said, fumbling for one of her favorite picture books.

“Not Ernie!” she wailed, angry now. “I want Zebra. I want him NOW!”

By now, I was getting “do something” looks from the passengers, from the airline attendants, from my wife, seated across the aisle. I looked at Moriah’s face, red with anger, and imagined how frustrated she must feel. After all, wasn’t I the guy who could whip up a peanut butter sandwich on demand? Make huge purple dinosaurs appear with the flip of a TV switch? Why was I withholding her favorite toy from her? Didn’t I understand how much she wanted it?

I felt bad. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t get Zebra, but I could offer her the next best thing — a father’s comfort. “You wish you had Zebra now,” I said to her. “Yeah,” she said sadly.

“And you’re angry because we can’t get him for you.”

“Yeah.”

“You wish you could have Zebra right now,” I repeated, as she stared at me, looking rather curious, almost surprised. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I want him now.”

“You’re tired now, and smelling Zebra and cuddling with him would feel real good. I wish we had Zebra here so you could hold him. Even better, I wish we could get out of these seats and find a big, soft bed full of all your animals and pillows where we could just lie down.” “Yeah,” she agreed.

“We can’t get Zebra because he’s in another part of the airplane,” I said. “That makes you feel frustrated.” “Yeah,” she said with a sigh.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, watching the tension leave her face. She rested her head against the back of her safety seat. She continued to complain softly a few more times, but she was growing calmer. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.

Although Moriah was just two years old, she clearly knew what she wanted — her Zebra. Once she began to realize that getting it wasn’t possible, she wasn’t interested in my excuses, my arguments, or my diversions. My validation, however, was another matter. Finding out that I understood how she felt seemed to make her feel better. For me, it was a memorable testament to the power of empathy.”


Sam Keen describes a friend’s lament about the consequences of not listening deeply: “Long ago and far away, I expected love to be light and easy and without failure.

“Before we moved in together, we negotiated a prenuptial agreement. Neither of us had been married before, and we were both involved in our separate careers. So our agreement not to have children suited us both. Until… on the night she announced that her period was late and she was probably pregnant, we both treated the matter as an embarrassing accident with which we would have to deal. Why us? Why now? Without much discussion, we assumed we would do the rational thing — get an abortion. As the time approached, she began to play with hypothetical alternatives, to ask in a plaintive voice with half misty eyes: `Maybe we should keep the baby. Maybe we could get a live-in helper, and it wouldn’t interrupt our lives too much. Maybe I could even quit my job and be a full-time mother for a few years.`  ”

“Maybe . . .“ To each maybe I answered: “Be realistic. Neither of us is willing to make the sacrifices to raise a child.“ She allowed herself to be convinced, silenced the voice of her irrational hopes and dreams, and terminated the pregnancy.

“It has been many years now since our `decision,` and we are still together and busy with our careers and our relationship. Still no children, even though we have recently been trying to get pregnant. I can’t help noticing that she suffers from spells of regret and guilt, and a certain mood of sadness settles over her. At times I know she longs for her missing child and imagines what he or she would be doing now. I reassure her that we did the right thing. But when I see her lingering guilt and pain and her worry that she missed her one chance to become a mother, I feel that I failed an important test of love. Because my mind had been closed to anything that would interrupt my plans for the future, I had listened to her without deep empathy or compassion. I’m no longer sure we made the right decision. I am sure that in refusing to enter into her agony, to share the pain of her ambivalence, I betrayed her.”

“I have asked for and, I think, received forgiveness, but there remains a scar that was caused by my insensitivity and self-absorption.”

Workbook editor’s note: I have not included this real life excerpt to make a point for or against abortion. The lesson I draw from this story is thatwhatever decision this couple made, they would have been able to live with that decision better if the husband had listened in a way that acknowledged all his wife’s feelings rather than listening only to argue her out of her feelings. What lesson do you draw from this story? ]


First exercise for Challenge 1: Active Listening. Find a practice partner. Take turns telling events from your lives. As you listen to your practice partner, sum up your practice partner’s overall experience and feelings in brief responses during the telling:

Your notes on this exercise:











Second exercise for Challenge 1: Learning from the past with the tools of the present. Think of one or more conversations in your life that went badly. Imagine how the conversations might have gone better with more responsive listening. Write down your alternative version of the conversation.











Suggestions for reading on the topic of listening.

The Power of Listening – An Ancient Practice for Our Future: Leon Berg

Free Article:   Tell Me More an essay by Brenda Ueland, explores the transformative power of listening to friends and familiy members:

“I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all — which is so important too — to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.”

Free Article:   Positive Deviant  is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam.  It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help.

Free Collection of Articles:   Compassionate Listening: An Exploratory Sourcebook About Conflict Transformation.

[from the editor] Forms of compassionate listening have been practiced among Quakers and Buddhists for centuries, and among psychotherapists for decades. The late Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 – 2010) was both a Quaker peace activist and a pastoral counselor, and in my view she achieved two great things over the course of her life. First, she took the practice of compassionate listening out of the quiet environs of the Quaker meeting house, out from behind the closed doors of therapy session, and on to the stage of the world’s greatest conflicts. Her many trips to Russia and the Middle East have made her a legend in the peacemaking community. Second, she popularized compassionate listening in a generous way that invites and encourages other people to take up this practice, develop it and apply it in new areas. This small book is an expression of that generosity. Available for free around the world as an e-book, it includes both her lesson plans for Compassionate Listening Workshops and reports from Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe, two of her co-pioneers and creative colleagues.


Books: The following books can be found around the world, new and used, via the links below provided by the Global Find-A-Book service of Human Development Books, the publsher of this Seven Challenges Workbook. Click on the book titles below to bring up a Global Find-A-Book page for each title.

Are You Really Listening?: Keys to Successful Communication 
By Paul J. Donoghue, PhD, and Mary E. Siegel, PhD.

Listening is an essential skill worth every effort to learn and to master. Listening takes us out of our tendency toward self-absorption and self-protection. It opens us to the world around us and to the persons who matter most to us. When we listen, we learn, we grow, and we are nourished.

Why do we often feel cut off when speaking to the people closest to us? What is it that keeps so many of us from really listening? Practicing psychotherapists, Donoghue and Siegel answer these questions and more in this thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons why people don’t listen. Filled with vivid examples that clearly demonstrate easy-to-learn listening techniques, Are You Really Listening? is a guide to the secrets and joys of listening and being listened to. [From the publisher, Sorin Books] List price new, appx. $16.  ISBN: 1893732886.

The Zen of Listening:
Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction 

By Rebecca Z. Shafir.

What do family members, coworkers, and friends want most but seldom get? Your undivided attention. Poor listening can be a cause of divorce, depression, customer dissatisfaction, low grades, and other ills. This Zen-based, practical guide will help you build relationships, sharpen concentration, create loyal clients, strengthen negotiating skills, hear what others miss, and get them to hear.[From the publisher, Quest Books] List price new, appx. $16.  ISBN: 0835608263.

The Wisdom of Listening 
Edited by Mark Brady.

In this thoughtful anthology, eighteen contemporary spiritual teachers explore the transformative effects, and the difficulties, of skillful listening and suggest ways in which becoming a ‘listening warrior’ — someone who listens mindfully with focused attention — can improve relationships.  Free of religious dogma and self-help clichés, the essays are inspiring, intelligent and accessible. [from the back cover]  List price new, appx $17. ISBN: 0861713559.


Permission to make copies granted by author. May be included in course readers.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis | Psych Central.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

By MARIE HARTWELL-WALKER, ED.D.

 

The following are criteria for Aspergers that have been excerpted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    • Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment inchildhood.

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless.

You’ve probably known quite a few. Maybe they are even in your family. There’s that brilliant professor you had in college who looked at his desk the entire time he was talking to you and whose office was so overflowing with stuff there was nowhere for a visitor to sit. How about your brother-in-law the mechanic, whose work is superb but who insists on describing in minute detail exactly what he did to fix your car — and doesn’t seem to notice all your hints that you’re trying to leave already! What about your uncle or cousin or the sister of your best friend who is so socially awkward that you squirm with discomfort whenever they show up at an event, wondering what they’ll do next to embarrass themselves?

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless. They seem to be perfectionists but often live in chaos. They know more about some obscure or highly technical subject than seems possible — and go on and on about it. They may seem to lack empathy, and are often accused of being stubborn, selfish, or even mean. They can also be extremely loyal, sometimes painfully honest, highly disciplined and productive in their chosen field, and expert at whatever they decide to be expert at. They are the Aspies, adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The number of adults with Aspergers is still difficult to determine. The syndrome wasn’t even officially acknowledged in the DSM until 1994, even though it was described by Hans Asperger in 1944. The result? Many older adults weren’t diagnosed — or helped — as children. Teachers found them exasperating because they were so disorganized and uneven in their academic performance despite often being clearly bright. Other kids considered them weird and either bullied them or ignored them. As adults, they are only now discovering that there is a reason they’ve had difficulties with relationships their entire lives.

For many, having a diagnosis is a relief.

“I never could figure out what other people want,” says Jerome, one of my Aspie clients. “People seem to have some kind of code for getting along that is a mystery to me.”

Jerome is a brilliant chemist. He has the respect of his colleagues but he knows that he’s not well-liked. The finely tuned intuition he uses to do research breaks down completely in relationships.

“I know I’m well-regarded in my work. As long as we’re talking about a research problem, everything is fine. But as soon as people start doing that small talk stuff, I’m lost. It’s good to have a name for it. At least I know there’s a reason.”

Jerome is now starting to put the same intelligence he uses in his lab to learning better social skills. For him, it’s an academic problem to solve. Like many other Aspies, he wants to get along and have friends. He’s highly motivated to learn the “rules” most people take for granted. He just never understood what those rules were. Having the diagnosis has given him new energy for the project.

The press coverage of the syndrome of the last several years has been very helpful as well.

“I was working on a highly technical engineering project with a new guy last week. In the middle the morning, he put down his pencil, looked at me and said, “You have Aspergers, don’t you.”

Ted was explaining a recent encounter to me. “I got real nervous, thinking he was going to leave.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Well. I know now that’s my problem so I just said he was right. And you know what he said? He said, ‘I thought so’ and told me I could relax because he works with another guy who has the same thing. We had a great morning solving the problem. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. I would have upset him somehow without understanding why. He would have gone back to his company thinking I was some kind of jerk. Things are just better now that there’s some understanding out there.”

Having the diagnosis has also saved more than a few marriages. Now that the kids are grown, Judy was ready to separate from her husband of 27 years when she first came to therapy.

“If Al and Tipper Gore could do it after 40 years of marriage, I figured I could manage it too. I don’t know what their problems were but I was just exhausted. I felt like I’d been single-parentingour two kids forever. Actually, I felt like I had three kids. Most of my friends couldn’t figure out what I saw in a guy who could only talk about one thing and who would rudely disappear in the middle of a social evening. He never seemed to be able to understand any of our feelings. Our finances were always a mess because he would lose track of bills. Yes, he was really sweet to me in our private life and he’s always been great about doing things like building the kids a tree house — that was really, really cool. But it became harder and harder to see that as a fair exchange for all the times I had to smooth things over because of something he did or didn’t do that bothered someone.

Then my daughter emailed me an article about Aspergers. It changed everything. I realized he wasn’t deliberately making life so hard. He couldn’t help it. As soon as he took an Aspie quiz online, he saw it was true. He does love us. He didn’t want the family to fall apart. He went right out and found a therapist who works with adults with Aspergers. He’s far from perfect but he’s honestly trying. He’s even apologized to the kids for not being more involved while they were growing up. I can’t ask for more than that.”

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinical people to communicate with each other. But in cases like these, it can also be an enormous comfort to the individual and their families. As long as someone with Aspergers feels like they are being blamed or criticized for something they don’t even understand, they can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around them feel offended or disrespected, they can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

Parents’ Toolkit | TVO Parents

Parents’ Toolkit | TVO Parents.


    • Homework Zone – Parents’ ultimate homework coach

    • Milestones: Is Your Child Developing Normally?

    • Instructional Videos for Newcomer Parents

    • Is Your Child Reading at the Right Level?

    • How Do Teachers Grade Your Children’s Writing?

    • Gisele’s Get Ready to Learn Activity Book

    • TVOParents Bookclub – Great reads for kids

    • Are You an Overprotective Parent? Take our quiz. And read our tips.

  • The Ontario Curriculum – what your kids are learning

  • Newcomers’ Guide to Elementary School

  • The Storytime Checklist – Reading with Your Preschooler

  • The EQAO Toolkit for Parents – What You Need to Know

  • What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Hearing and Vision

  • Everything You Need to Know About Bullying

  • Homework Help for the Whole Family

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents.

Young children need to have a secure relationship with at least one parent or caregiver in order to develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively. In a nutshell, that is the premise of attachment theory.

This should not be confused with attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is a philosophy born out of attachment theory but it is a parenting style, involving baby wearing and co-sleeping.

Instead, attachment theory focuses on child development and how good early experiences with caregivers help children learn, meet developmental milestones, and become secure, independent people. All parents need to do is give love, attention, and protection.

“We know from the newest science that in fact the early experiences that babies have and the quality of those experiences actually has the potential to change the architecture of the brain,” says Chaya Kulkarni, the director of Infant Mental Health Promotion at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “This is groundbreaking for this field because it really means that those first two years in a child’s life can influence and impact their long-term development. It literally does influence who they become as an adult.”

What does a secure attachment relationship give to a child?

  • The ability to regulate their emotions, behaviour, and attention
  • A sense of self
  • Curiosity and exploration
  • Cognitive development and language development
  • Social skills
  • The ability to parent in the future

So what does a secure attachment relationship look like? According to child psychologist and attachment expert Sonya Vellett, from the Calgary Urban Project Society, a healthy attachment relationship involves:

  • The parent understanding and accurately interpreting what the child is trying to communicate through cues like crying, babbling, gesturing, or behaviour.
  • The parent providing what the child needs, whether that be safety, security, or supporting the child’s exploration.
  • The parent watching over the child, helping when necessary, and providing comfort and empathy when the child is upset.
  • The caregiver taking over when needed and setting appropriate limits.
  • The caregiver coming back later and fixing “ruptures” in the relationship. For instance, if you were rushed making dinner and didn’t allow your child to help, you should go back later on and acknowledge that maybe you didn’t handle the situation well and you will let them help next time.

A lot of what is listed above sounds pretty intuitive and many parents just do those things naturally. But sometimes it doesn’t come easily for parents. Some babies don’t give clear cues so parents don’t know what they want or misinterpret what they want.

“Temperament can play a role in this as well,” says Kulkarni. “If a parent and a child have different temperaments and can’t find a common or comfortable meeting place, that can play a role. And so in those situations, intuition doesn’t always work because you’re doing what you think is intuitively right and that baby is still crying.”

Things like mental illness, postpartum depression, and addiction can also interfere with the establishment of a good attachment relationship. For an example of how important the parent-baby bond is, and what happens when that connection is broken, watch the Still Face Experiment. This experiment, conducted by Dr. Edward Tronic ofHarvard University, is a dramatic example of how things like parental depression can impact a child’s well-being.

“[The purpose] of the Still Face Experiment is to give us information about what happens to children when they have a caregiver who is suffering from significant depression and is unavailable and unresponsive,” says Vellett. “And to see how quickly that is upsetting for the child, often to the point where the child starts to lose postural control and lose the ability to regulate their internal state. Kids will start hiccupping; spitting up… the impact on them is dramatic.”

Postpartum depression affects up to 20 percent of new moms, and severe depression can cause a rupture in the attachment relationship. But, a father or grandparent can fill in and have a nurturing and responsive relationship with the child.

And if a bond isn’t established at the beginning, it isn’t too late. “I know some parents worry if I don’t get it right in the first year or the first three years, it’s all over,” says Nancy Cohen, Director of Research at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. “In fact, that’s not the case. Children can benefit from their later experiences. But optimally it’s best for a child to have a good secure attachment relationship from the get-go.”

The following videos will give you more about attachment relationships and tips on bonding with baby

Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids to educate parents about the importance of healthy brain development in the early years of a child’s life.

Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness: The American Spectator :

The American Spectator : Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness.

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THE MALE SPECTATOR

Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness

Suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun?

All the employees of school districts on a witch hunt to expel and otherwise permanently punish young boys for shooting toy guns or forming their fists into the shape of a gun need to read Back to Normal.

The purpose of psychologist Enrico Gnaulati’s 2013 book is to argue how ordinary childhood behavior is often misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, depression and autism — frequently with life-long, disturbing consequences. But along the way he raises the taboo question of whether we “label boys as mentally unstable, behaviorally unmanageable, academically underachieving, in need of special-education services, or displaying behavior warranting school suspension just because their behavior deviates noticeably from that of the average girl?”

He adds, “In a sense, girl behavior has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

He cites numerous studies showing that typical boy behavior – wrestling, rough games of tag, good guy/bad guy imaginative play that involves “shooting” — are condemned by preschool and elementary school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women,  without the behavior being redirected appropriately to release boys’ “natural aggression.” Boys who play in the way noted above are not on a path to mass murder, contrary to what zero tolerance school policies suggest. For the vast majority of them, they are simply on the path to manhood. I wonder how many of us who recognize that truth still stifle our boys’ rough play or cowboy shoot outs out of fear of the new rules – reinforcing the capriciousness of regulations in young minds who will one day asked to make them.

Without changes to rigid policies and attitudes about what constitutes good behavior, we will be on a path as a society to generating mass confusion and depression in boys whose natural tendencies are being relabeled as criminal traits or medical problems that need to be treated.

This is not just an existential threat. As unorthodox feminist Camille Paglia said recently in remarks at American University:

Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany.  Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits.  Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force.  I close with this question:  is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?

If that sounds crazy, is it wrong to worry how the massive increase in the number of children taking anti-depressants and other drugs as a result of skyrocketing diagnoses of ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder will impact their lives?

Many drugs used to treat the above disorders cause serious problems, including mood swings, sleeplessness, weight gain, weight loss and slower growth. And then there is the long-term impact of a mental health diagnosis, which can create a sense that the child is not in control of his actions because it is purely a chemical imbalance in the brain.

As Gnaulati writes, however, in many cases it’s “causes — plural, not singular — that explain why a child behaves the way he or she does.”

“On any number of occasions in my practice over the years,” he writes, “I have seen how a mildly depressed or ADHD-like kid can be transformed by a change of teacher, a change of school, signing up for a sport, a reduced homework load, a summer abroad, a front-of-the-class seating arrangement, a month living away from home with an even-tempered aunt, or any of a host of other everyday steps.”

Many forces conspire to push a mental health diagnosis, from rules on health insurance to schools achieving certain goals under federal No Child Left Behind law. Gnaulati’s book should give parents struggling with a difficult child hope that their child may not be permanently mentally ill, but going through a difficult stage that can be treated without medication. And it should give school administrators perspective on how best to handle unruly boys and channel their energy without condemning their nature. At the very least, we don’t need any more boys suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun.

The Official Positive Discipline Website – Positive Solutions for Parents and Teachers

The Official Positive Discipline Website by Founder Dr. Jane Nelsen – Positive Solutions for Parents and Teachers.

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House Rules and Boundaries for Older Children Still Living at Home

House Rules and Boundaries for Older Children and Teens Still Living at Home.

Rules, Boundaries and Older Children

by James Lehman, MSW

Do you have a child between the ages of 17 and 23 living with you? If you’re in constant conflict with an older child over everything from curfews (should they have one or shouldn’t they?) to getting a job to alcohol use, James Lehman offers advice on how to set reasonable limits, and how to coach your child to responsibility and independence.(Part 1 of a 3 part series.)

“I want you to think of your adult children as guests. Not as children. How would you let a guest act? When would you draw the line with a guest?”

Parents feel they have to take care of their kids, whether they are 9 or 19 years old. But as kids get older, they engage in more risky behavior, and “taking care of them” becomes more challenging.  When they’re five, they’re climbing the monkey bars and you’re worried they’re going to break their arm.  At eleven they’re starting to play football or baseball and you’re afraid they might get hurt with a piece of equipment.  At 16, they’re starting to drive, they’re often getting money on their own, and they’re around people with drugs.  On the surface, they may seem much more independent, but actually they are simply much more able to put their parents off and hide what’s really going on with them.

Related: Fighting with your adult child?

Kids between the ages of 17 and 23 have a lot of thinking errors.  Just like you can have a spelling error, and misspell a word, you can have a thinking error in which you misread life’s problems and come out with the wrong solutions.  When kids start hitting their late teens, you’ll hear them saying things that indicate they see themselves as victims.  “It’s not my fault.” “I couldn’t help it.” “I only stayed out an hour late and you want to punish me?” They become much more adept at manipulating their parents by blaming them for being too rigid and strict. You’ll hear kids say, “I’m getting older now. You should trust me more.”  But the fact is, they’re not getting that much older.  Teenage mentality lasts from early adolescence until 22 or 23 years of age.  Most of the research shows kids are still using the same parts of their brain at 22 that they were using at 15.  Their brain is still developing in their early 20’s.  So they are not that much more prepared for adult situations.  But parents can get sucked into the thinking error that “You owe me. You owe me a place to live. You shouldn’t be too rigid.”  When parents hear this enough, they start to feel guilty for the rules by which they have chosen to live.  They begin to think they’re too strict just for trying to implement the rules they’ve always had since their kids were young.

How to Enforce the Rules of the House with Older Kids

I think parents should have two levels of rules with their older children who are still living at home. The first are the rules of your household that reflect your values, structure and moral authority.  For example: People don’t abuse people around here.  That doesn’t change at 18 or 19. That rule never changes.  No drugs and alcohol, especially if you’re under age.  That doesn’t change at 18 or 19.  That’s the rule.  No stealing. No lying.  I would keep those rules very clear, because you don’t want to start having double standards with older kids, especially if you have other younger kids in the home.

The second level of rules is the one that enables parents to live with young adults.  Certainly, young adults should get more responsibility and independence, but they have to earn it.  If you’ve got a job, you get more independence.  Should kids be able to stay out all night because they’re over 18?  Absolutely not.  If they’re living in your house, they have to let you know that they’re okay.  That may mean calling in if they decide to sleep over at someone’s house.  You have a right as a parent to expect this.

Related: Learn how to restore peace in your home today

The most important part of having rules with older children is the discussion that establishes those rules. When a child is about to turn 18,  parents need to have a serious discussion about what the rules are going to be in order for everyone to live together. It should be a sit down, and you should write everything down that you agree to so that everything is clear. What can you do?  What can’t you do?  How will we support you in what you can do?  What’s going to happen if you do what you’re not supposed to do?  What is forbidden?  These things should be clearly spelled out.

There’s a thin line between carrying your kids and being supportive of them.  I think when someone is 18, if they finish high school, they should be supporting themselves financially.  There should be no job too menial that they can’t take it until they find something better.  Many kids don’t give a darn in high school, aren’t ready for a better job, and they resent the fact that they have to work at McDonald’s, 7-11 or some other starting out position. So they avoid doing it and  think they’re better than that. This is a thinking error—a complete cognitive distortion that you shouldn’t accept as a parent. Parents need to say to older kids, “You made your choices in high school, and now if you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to go to school at night.  If you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to start out in a junior college. If we can’t pay for  college full time, you’re going to have to work and go to school part time.”

Everyone in the home should know what the rules are, and it’s important to lay it all out before the child turns 18.  For example, the rule on drinking: “If you come home drunk, you will not be allowed to live in our house.”  It can be you’re out of the house for a few days, a few weeks or forever.  Just establish the rule, write it down and explain to the child that he is over 18, and this is how we have to live with this issue. If kids get belligerent and violent after 18 (or at any time, in my opinion) the police should be called. 

Think of Your Adult Children as a Guests—Not as Children

If you feel compromised and taken advantage of by an older child, you need to realize this: the child is an adult now.  He may not act it, but he is an adult. He’s living under your roof.  He has to follow your laws.  I want you to think of your adult children as guests.  Not as children.  That’s the most important thing to do.  They’re done with high school; they are now guests in your home.  How would you let a guest act?  When would you draw the line with a guest?  When would you feel you have to call the police with a guest?

When my son went to college, one of the biggest shocks he had was when we started to refer to his room as the guest room. I remember him saying, “But that’s my room.” We said, “No, that’s the guest room. You can stay there anytime you want, for as long as you want, as long as you live our way.” We said it with love and kindness, but we wanted him to see his role in a different way—as an adult.

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

For parents who are very anxious and have a lot of fears about their kids, this sounds like a difficult thing to say. I know that. But it’s really the best thing to say because you need to let these kids know that they have to start to make it on your own.   In effect, you are saying, “You’ve had 18 years to learn how to make it on your own. Now’s the time to put it into practice. Whatever you’ve chosen not to learn or chosen not to do over those 18 years, you’re going to have to pay a price for that now.”

The bottom line is, sometimes kids have to start out small. There’s no shame in that, and you have to make that very clear.  Even if it doesn’t match up with what you had hoped for your child. Many young adult children often have a false sense of entitlement.  I met many kids in my practice who refused to go to school, and could only read and write at a seventh or eighth grade level at best.  They told me they were going to be video game programmers, basketball players or rap singers.  That’s how they were putting off their anxiety.  If you’re talking to a kid who says, “I’m not making it in school, but I’m gonna be a rap singer. I wrote a few songs tonight,” that’s the way that that kid is postponing his anxiety.  What he’s really saying is, “I’m so scared about the future, I have to make up this fantasy, and then I’m gonna cling to it.”  Then, if you challenge that fantasy and say, “Wait a minute. There’s 20 million kids out there. What makes you think you can do it?”  the kid says, “You don’t believe in me. You don’t have any faith in me.” He turns it right around on you until you’re the problem.  His not studying is not the problem.  You’re not believing in his fantasy becomes the problem.

When you have these different currents coming together in a home where parents are living with an older child, it can get very uncomfortable for everyone, if not hostile.  The way to keep that hostility at bay is to have clarity beforehand.   Get the expectations and the consequences down on paper–literally.  Write them down and expect the child to live by them.

I have known many parents who couldn’t get their adult children out of bed. They think that they’re helping their adult children by giving them a roof over their head and not making them be responsible because they’re afraid for their kids.  But what they’re afraid of can only be cured by that kid getting out of bed and doing something for himself.  The parent is afraid the child is not going to amount to anything, that he’s not going to find a good job, that he’s not going to make it in school, that he’s going to get into trouble socially.  But the thing that addresses those fears is to get him up at eight o’clock in the morning and get him out there looking for a job.  Tell him to leave with his lunch, a cell phone and the internet want ads and don’t come back.

This may sound harsh.  You’re pushing someone out into a world that they have to deal with.  But you’re not pushing them out of a plane without a parachute.  You’re pushing them out into the street without any money.  The solution to that problem is getting a job.  Many times parents use their own fears, anxieties and sense of guilt and remorse to justify not doing what they would do to a guest.  Out of fear, they choose not to expect out of their child what they expect out of themselves and each other every day. (Part 1 of a 3 part series. Please also see “In Response to Parents of Older Children” and “Rules, Boundaries and Older Children: Is it Ever too Late to set up a Living Agreement?” .

There has been overwhelming response and interest in last month’s article on adult children. It was viewed over 10,000 times, was our second most emailed article ever, and has received the most reader comments of any article we’ve ever published. I must say I’m not surprised about this, since in my private practice I dealt with many parents who had terrible problems with children who were over 18 and still living at home. I believe this phenomenon has become a national problem. As the cost of living goes up, adult children who are not really prepared for the workforce have to make some sacrifices. Unfortunately today, kids don’t like making sacrifices and parents don’t want to enforce sacrifices.

“Be specific. ‘I want you to put in three applications a day. I want you making three follow up phone calls a day. And if you verbally abuse me, you’re out of the house for 24 hours.’ Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

A few notes before we begin. In this forum, I will not address individual cases or parents. The reason is that this forum is not counseling or therapy and should never be misconstrued as such. Rather, this is a place where I can offer you my personal opinion from 30 years of professional experience. What I will do here (and what I believe will be helpful for the most readers) is respond to the important themes that recurred within many of your responses. This will be a long article, because I see so many issues that call for discussion. If you posted a question after Part One of “Rules, Boundaries and Older Children” last month, or if you are struggling with an adult child, I hope you’ll take the time to read my response to readers here, and that it will help you and your family.

For Readers Whose Adult Children are Verbally Abusing them and Destroying Property
The theme that stood out most is the tremendous amount of verbal abuse that adult children are laying on their parents. Along with verbal abuse and cursing, I saw many of you writing about destruction of property and your adult child’s refusal to communicate and respond. This may sound harsh, but I think it’s amazing how people will make excuses for that type of behavior. It’s understandable that parents make excuses for younger kids who are abusive, hoping they’ll grow out of it. But I think once these kids are adolescents and adults, their behavior patterns are very set, and you need to know that adult children won’t take the time and trouble to learn new behavior patterns unless they’re forced to.

Adult children who use verbal abuse, aggression and destruction of property to deal with their parents are still using intimidation and force to solve complex problems. When you’re 18, 19, or 20 and all the things your parents told you are coming true—that you’re not prepared for the work force, that you should have studied harder, that you need to push yourself—it is easy to get resentful and blame and intimidate your parents. Because that’s easier than getting a job and working your way up. That’s easier than learning how to live with a roommate because you can’t afford your own apartment and a car at the same time. One thing we know about human beings is that they will, by their nature, take the easy way out. In this case, the easy way out is being oppressive to your parents so that you don’t feel any stress.

Related: Fighting with your adult child?

I think that parents also have to take some of the responsibility for this behavior. In the last twenty years, so many parents did everything they could to ensure that their kids didn’t feel discomfort because letting your kids feel discomfort was considered a bad thing. I know because I’ve dealt with so many of these parents. They fought with the schools. They protected their kids from consequences. In many cases they let things slide that they knew were wrong. They made excuses for the kids. And what they ended up with is a kid who is not prepared to deal with the injustice, stress and discomfort of life. Making a transition from adolescence to adulthood is very stressful, uncomfortable and difficult. It involves solving some very complex problems about how you’re going to live, where you’re going to live, who you’re going to live with, and what you’re going to do with your life. Although many kids solve those problems in a non-destructive way, there is a sub-group of kids who still make it their parent’s problem and society’s problem and everybody else’s problem. If you’re dealing with one of these adult children, it will take all the strength and commitment you can muster to force this child to become independent.

I noticed in one of the responses that the parents thought I was telling them to throw their kids out. I am not saying that at all. But I am saying that your kids won’t change until you do something drastic. Making them leave the home is one of those things that may have to be done.

As a parent, I understand the difficulty, fear and anxiety of sending your child out into the world. But also as a parent, I know that the best personality characteristic that you can give a child is independence. The best knowledge you can give them is how to solve life’s problems. If they’re still at home cursing at you, abusing you, not getting a job, sleeping until noon and playing video games all day, they are not independent and they are not solving life’s problems. There’s no gray area there. Parents have to be very strong in demanding that their kids start to face their situation in life before it gets worse.

Let’s be clear: from an adult child’s point of view, this is a great life. Somebody’s paying the rent, there’s food in the refrigerator, they get to party with their friends, they don’t have to be anywhere at any time. They get to avoid all stress, and if their parents give them a hard time, they bully them. Nice life. If parents are willing to live that way, you don’t have to read any more of my articles. You’ve found the solution that works for you. But if you’re determined not to live that way, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have a lot of choices. You need to make a drastic change.

Here is my recommendation on what that drastic change looks like. Number one, you set some simple structure and some rules for your child. Rules like: You need to get up at a certain time. You need to go out and look for jobs. You can’t sit around and play video games all day. Be specific. “I want you to put in three applications a day. I want you making three follow-up phone calls a day. And if you verbally abuse me, you’re out of the house for 24 hours.” You don’t care where they go. Let them go to their aunt’s house or their friend’s house. Let them figure out where they’ll stay. They’re out of the house for 24 hours.

I want to make a distinction here. What I just suggested is a consequence. It’s not preparation for life. If they’re verbally abusive a second time or destroy property, they’re out of the house for three days or a week. You don’t care where they go. They’ll tell you they’re partying at their friend’s house. Let them party. All you know is that they can’t stay in your house. This is a consequence for disrespecting your home and your values. This is not a preparation for independence. (See the discussion below and in part two of my article on “Rules, Boundaries and Older Children”, which will be featured in Empowering Parents in a few weeks, for suggestions on how to prepare kids for independence.) This is used strictly to get some control in your house. If you have adult children who are verbally abusing you and breaking things, your house is out of control. I don’t know how you can live there.

Use the police. Put his bags out on the sidewalk, call the cops and say, “He doesn’t live here anymore.” Don’t play games or you’re not going to own your own home.

I’ve worked with plenty of parents who had to do this. They were all afraid to do it. I understood that. They got into their situation because they were mortally afraid their kid would face discomfort. But when all other efforts failed, they had to call the cops to get the kid to change.

Let me be straight with you and offer you some empowerment. You’ve raised this kid. You’ve invested everything in him and now you have to tiptoe around the house? That is unacceptable. To the parents who are willing to live this way, I tip my hat to you. But I personally could not live with that, and I’m not willing to.

Kids learn best when parents use parenting roles such as teaching, problem-solving, limit setting. On the other hand, parents who are martyrs and excuse-makers wind up with children who won’t and don’t know how to respond to the demands of young adult life. And nothing changes if nothing changes. For your sake and the sake of your child, demand change now.

For Readers who are Struggling with Getting their Adult Child to be Independent and Move Out
Once you’ve established that they can’t abuse and intimidate you and train you to give into them, then you have to help them prepare themselves for adulthood, even though they’re young adults. First, you have to force them to find work, no matter how menial they think that work is. The way that you force them to do that is you establish a time when they get up in the morning. Then they read the want ads, they go out, they put in job applications. On weeknights, they can’t stay out past a certain time. They have to live as if they have a job. If they’re not willing to do that, you fall back on the consequence structure that I outlined for you earlier. Number two, once they get that job, they have to pay room and board—not to add to the money of the household, but so you can put it away and have enough money for them to talk about moving out. They have to sit down once they have a job and work with you on doing a budget. The kid should have so much money for recreation, so much money for room and board, so much money for his savings, even if it’s only ten dollars a week. If he can’t open up a savings account yet, he gives the money to the parents to hold. He doesn’t put it in his drawer. And he has to live on that budget. You should not rescue him. You’re already providing a safe place to live. These mundane, basic skills make the difference between the kids who learn how to survive out there and the kids who can’t seem to make it.

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

Again, if this seems harsh to you, think about it this way. If this kid gets a job and spends all his money and can live at home, why would he ever move out? If you have a job at $12 an hour and you’re living at home for free, that’s like having a job for $25 an hour. Kids are going to want to live that way if you don’t make them uncomfortable. If you don’t demand change.

I want parents to think of the future. Not what are you doing for your child today. But what are you doing for your child tomorrow? If you’re supporting him today and making excuses for him today and buying his excuses, what you’re doing to your child of tomorrow is continuing his crippled attitude toward life. I can’t do it because…then fill in the blank. Because they don’t pay enough. Because they don’t like me. Because I don’t like doing that kind of work. Because I won’t work in fast food. Just fill in the blank. By not demanding change, what you’re doing to your child of tomorrow is not forcing him to prepare to learn how to live independently. He has to solve the problem of learning how to support himself. Make no mistake about it: If you tell a kid he has to work and he doesn’t, and you tolerate that and just continue to fight about it, you’re saying to him, in a non- verbal way, that he’s a cripple and you know it. You’re saying to him he’s not as good as the other kids, and you know it. You’re saying you’re willing to put up with this because you know that there’s something wrong with him. That’s the message he’s getting. So, he thinks there’s something wrong with him because he doesn’t know how to deal with discomfort and stress.

So, to push him, make demands of him, hold him accountable and give him consequences, are all really ways of saying, “You can do it and I expect you to. In fact, I demand you to.” It’s never too late to deal with children in a teaching, limit-setting and coaching way. If you don’t know how to do that specifically, we offer a program that can help you here on the Empowering Parents web site. Parents can start anytime, as long as they’re willing to deal with the discomfort of demanding that their kids change and holding them responsible. It may feel like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But it could save your kid’s life.

As a parent, I’ve had my ups and downs with my son. He’s self-supporting now, but that situation has been on and off for many years. He’s 31 years old, and he’s a real nice guy. I love him. But if he lost his job and he moved back home, he’d have to pay rent, come up with a budget and get a job. And I’d help him in any way I could. But if he verbally abused me or his mother, he’d have to go. It’s just that simple. I’ve worked all my life. I’m not going to take abuse now. So when I urge you to push your kid, understand that it’s exactly the way I pushed mine. If you don’t want to do it, that’s your choice. But, once I offer you a solution, if you come back and say you can’t do it, I don’t have another solution. Forget all the razzle-dazzle and the hype talk of the 80’s and 90’s. If you don’t work hard, you fall behind. If you don’t learn how to solve problems, you get stuck. If you don’t know how to deal with discomfort and stress, you’re going to have a hard time making it until you learn how to deal with these things. That’s the reality for adult children.

What to Do If Your Adult Child Is Stealing from You
Many parents wrote in and told of their struggles with an adult child who steals from them, be it credit card theft, stealing money from the house or forging checks. Stealing is absolutely intolerable. Whether it’s stealing from parents or siblings, it’s a crime. Know this: the laws don’t change inside the walls of your house. If I steal $20 from you on the street, that’s stealing. And if somebody steals $20 from you in your home, that’s stealing. And if it’s an adult, it’s a crime. It’s called larceny.

If your adult child steals from you, first of all, you should tell him, “Go upstairs, pack a bag and come back downstairs in five minutes.” When he comes back downstairs with a bag, say, “Here are your choices. You’re out of here for a week, and if you don’t stop stealing, you’re not coming back.” And I would call the police. I would pack a bag, put it on the curb, call the police and say, “He doesn’t live here anymore. He stole from us.” I’ve worked with many parents whose kids broke back into the house and they pressed charges for burglary. You have to be really clear with the police and tell them that he doesn’t live there anymore and you have to put his stuff out on the sidewalk. It’s going to cause a scene. You’re going to be embarrassed. But you can live in a little prison where you’re being abused and where there’s a predator stealing from you, or you can break out of that prison. It will take some noise, but you can break out of that and not be a victim.

Parents need support and help, and I understand what they’re going through because I came from this kind of family and I’ve worked with these families for three decades. But you also need to understand, you didn’t work like a dog all your life just to be in prison now. Ask yourself: is this what we worked for all our lives? We dealt with discomfort. We dealt with stress. We dealt with unhappiness. We had to come up with humility. Is this what we worked for now? That our adult son is going to live with us, steal from us, abuse us and make our lives miserable? If the answer is yes, I say go to it. I’m not here to contradict that. But if your answer is no, then you need to make some changes, and you need to make them now. It begins with getting him out of bed tomorrow morning and calling in the authorities if he gets abusive.

Parents are supposed to have a certain amount of power in our society just by virtue of being a parent. Sadly, in many cases, that is not the story. If you’re living with an abusive adult child who is committing crimes against you and your home, he obviously does not respect your power as a parent. So, you need civil power. You need the civil authorities. Don’t hesitate to use them. Everybody else is going to use them. Why shouldn’t you? Let me tell you one more thing that’s going to sound cold. If your kid does ten days in jail, good. Because he’s not going to curse at people and intimidate them in there. If success is having a job and being productive, then failure is sitting in a county jail. Ten days in jail can teach your child that it’s time for him to reach for something in between.

Let him share some of your pain and discomfort and see how he likes it. Because this is important: if you’re willing to do something about it, he will become willing to do something about it. He will not become willing to do something about it as long as you remain unwilling.

Fear of Responsibility: Adult Children Who Hide out Playing Video Games and Sleeping
In adolescence, kids want to be independent and free. They can’t wait to get out of their parent’s house and tell them what a pain in the neck they are. But the fact is that many kids, before they graduate from high school, do some acting out and show some anxiety or depression because they’re terrified of what’s on the other side of that. They’ve been safe in grade school, middle school, high school and in their families all their lives. Many kids are able to deal with these problems and they prepare to grow into the next stage of life. But there are those kids who, for whatever reason, are not prepared to grow into the next stage, and it shows in their behavior. The kids who are not prepared to take responsibility in their lives become angry, resentful and do irresponsible things. They’re terrified of change, and they’ll do anything to avoid it, including partying all night, sleeping until 2 pm and doing nothing but playing video games when they are awake. But these are the kids who have to be pushed the most.

I’ve dealt with many adult children in my office who had this fear, and I empathize with them. I do tell them that it’s a part of the process and that they have to face it. How do you face a fear of making it in the adult world? You get a job. And you do that job. You take a job for three months and you say, “I won’t quit. I’ll deal with all the craziness and I won’t quit. And at the end of three months, I’ll have some experience and then I’ll decide what I want to do next. And what I want to do next may be stay at McDonald’s or go someplace else. I won’t leave my job until I have a new one.” Eight months out of high school that kid is going to have some skills, experience and independence. He’s at work dealing with adult stress and mommy’s not holding his hand. That will prepare him for the next stage of growth. Maybe a more responsible job or going back to school. A lot of the work that I did in my office was coaching and teaching these kids on what they had to do. I literally had kids fill out three job applications a day then call me in my office to say that they had done it. And they would, because I gave them the clear message that accountability matters. While I empathized with them, I didn’t accept their excuses as to “why” they were stuck in life. Because “why” didn’t matter. Everyone has to be independent, no matter how afraid they are and what challenges they have in their lives.

I worked with mildly mentally retarded adults in my practice who lived in group homes with staff. They had to learn how to have a job if they wanted money because the state paid for their group home but did not give them any spending money. They had to learn how to have a supervised job if they wanted money. They had to learn how to talk nicely to people if they wanted to go out and do things and have privileges. They had to clean their rooms and make their beds every single day. They took turns cooking at night with staff support. They did these things because they had to acquire independence. So don’t tell me kids can’t do it. Not only can a kid do it, he has to do it.

Yes, these kids are afraid. They have a false sense of entitlement that they should have all of life’s niceties without having to work for them. They don’t know how to be independent. They haven’t learned how to solve social problems. But if they don’t start learning to solve them today, it’s not going to happen. So parents have to draw the line because the adult child will not draw the line. They’re having too much fun and they’re too afraid. If the parents can’t draw the line and the kid pushes it, then the police have to draw the line. It’s that simple.

Adult Children with Children: When You Have to Parent Both
I’ve worked with quite a few families who were living with 17, 18, 19 and 20 year olds who had their own children. The adult child can’t make it or the marriage falls apart and they move back in with their parents. This is a really tough situation, and I don’t want to minimize the emotional pressure everyone is under. These are innocent grandchildren. The role of parents and grandparents is very different. A parent sets limits, goals, and gets the kid to meet objectives and be productive. A grandparent is benign and indulging. They also set limits, but not in a full-time, around-the-clock manner. It’s a very difficult situation and I just want to make some observations that may be helpful.

Grandparents should do what they can to help out with child care. But only with the goal that the adult child pays room and board and that the money is put away until the adult child can move out. The adult child has to have a job and needs to look into daycare or public daycare. Parents everywhere go back to work when their kids are six months old. So you have to demand that your adult child do something to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in, and not just jump into the hole with them. Too many grandparents jump into the hole that their adult child has dug and stay there. And that doesn’t make any sense. You have to help or get out of the hole. The first way to get out of the hole is to stop digging.

Related: Having trouble getting on the same page with your spouse?

So, your adult daughter who has a toddler can’t run around all night. She has to live a work schedule. If she wants to go out at night, she has to get her own babysitter. Grandparents should not be babysitters for adult children living in their home. Let them pay for that. Have them live on a budget and let them pay for that. The adult child is not going to like that, but that’s where you draw the line. We’re not here to parent. We’ll help out while you work if we can. But you’re going to have to pay for that. If the adult child becomes explosive, call the police.

And there’s one more very hard thing that grandparents have to do. If the adult child is not taking responsibility for their own child and putting that child at risk, you have to call the state. Call the Department of Children and Family Services or whatever it’s called in your state. If the state comes in and does an investigation and finds the mother is not fit, they’ll first turn to the grandparents to see if they’ll take custody, or a family member. They will offer the mother supportive training and help. They don’t remove kids that easily. They don’t want your adult child’s child. Grandparents are terrified that the state will take their grandchildren. They don’t want your grandchild unless the mother’s strung out on drugs or committing crimes. They want the child with the mother. Because that’s where the child should be by nature and that’s the least expensive way to deal with the situation. The state does not want to take on the cost of raising your child’s child. Don’t fear that.

I’ve worked in states where state agencies have taken kids and they’ve needed to take those kids because they were in danger. But as soon as they take the child, they come up with a plan on how the parent can get the child back, whether it’s substance abuse treatment, career counseling or parent training. Just as you need to turn to a greater authority if your adult child is abusing you, you need to turn to a greater authority if your adult child is not caring for his or her own child. Understand this: you’re doing it for the welfare of your grandchild.

You may read my suggestions here and call it “tough love.” But that’s not what this is. There’s nothing tough about love. This is responsible love. It’s saying to your adult child, “I love you, and I’m going to be responsible. You can love me, but you have to be responsible.” Responsible love means demanding that your adult child learn how to solve his problems. Responsible love means demanding change. Now.

This is the third and final installment in a three part series of articles by James Lehman, MSW.

For those parents who haven’t set up a structured agreement when their child turns 18, it’s never too late to set one up. Even if your child is 23, living under your roof and staying out until the wee hours, it’s never too late to sit down with that kid and say, “We’re going to have to have a talk about our rules here and what parts fit you and what parts don’t fit you.” If a kid is 23 years old and he’s not working, he can’t be up until two o’clock in the morning with friends in the house, keeping other people awake. You may feel obligated to provide that child with a roof over his head. But you have the right to let him know that “This is not your home for that anymore. We’re going to bed, we’re tired, we worked all day. If you’re going to live here, you have to live within our rules.” If he tries to put you down for it, you need to put your foot down. If that means taking the car keys, then that’s what it means.

“Young adult children who don’t feel competent will resist taking responsibility for anything, and they’ll keep doing it as long as you let them.”

When parents lay out these rules with kids after the age of 18, they should expect the kid to be resentful, resistant and to blame them. The older child will try to make them feel like the parents are jerks because he still has a lot of thinking errors, is hiding from responsibility and postponing the anxiety of accepting it. Parents should simply disregard the child’s thinking errors, and not give in and tell the child that everything is okay.

Likewise, parents shouldn’t get into making a lot of excuses for themselves. They should say, “This is our expectation. We’re sorry we didn’t do it before now, but we’re here today and this is what we’re going to have to do. And we can’t go any further until this agreement gets made.” The expectations should include what time the kid gets up in the morning if he’s not working. Older kids who are avoiding responsibility will stay up all night and sleep until noon. When you ask them why they sleep until noon, they’ll say, “Well, I’m not working.” As the parent, you have to make it clear: “That’s why you’re not working. Because you sleep until noon. Get up at seven o’clock like everybody else and find a job.” It’s never too late to be this direct with your child.

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

Remember: do not take the kid’s accusations and blaming as fact. Expect to hear plenty of accusations and excuses. You’re going to be compared to his friend’s parents. You’re going to be told you’re hateful and uncaring. But don’t forget, this kid is fighting taking responsibility, and he will fight it fiercely. Young adult children who don’t feel competent will resist taking responsibility for anything, and they’ll keep doing it as long as you let them. Parents should be prepared to deal with this, not through yelling and screaming. Not through making excuses for themselves. Just by calmly saying, “This is the time we’re meeting. We need to talk.” If you have to, take the kid’s car keys until he is ready to talk.

The agreement you develop with the child should allow for adult privileges. Specifically, if the kid is working and being responsible, then your agreement with him should be very flexible. On his day off, he can sleep all day for all you care. But he can’t stay out all night without calling you because you’re going to worry, and it’s his responsibility to let you know he’s safe. If he doesn’t want to do that, then he should move into a more independent living situation. You don’t get complete freedom and the support of living at home at the same time.

How to Handle Rent, Household Chores and Rules about Alcohol

Paying rent is a very good habit for an older child to get into. I think there are two ways to look at the issue of when and if your child should pay rent in order to continue living at home. If the family needs the money and the kid is working, he needs to contribute. It’s just that simple.

If you don’t need the money, charge him room-and-board anyway, and then put the money aside and save it up until you’ve saved enough for a security deposit on an apartment and the first month’s rent. Then when he’s ready to move out, you’ve already got his money. Hold onto that money. That way, he pays for himself, and he gets into the habit of paying rent and being responsible while money is being accumulated, so that both he and the family are prepared for his next step.

When you come up with the agreement on living arrangements, I think it has to be really clear that the child is here to contribute, not just take. So, parents need to be clear about specific chores the older child will be responsible for. Parents can offer their ideas, and the young adult child can come up with his own ideas. Maybe he offers to take the younger kids to school in the morning, and you ask him to be responsible for bringing in wood and taking out the trash and recyclables each week. Write it down and be clear about consequences if he doesn’t follow through, because everyone who lives in the house has to help out.

Related: Learn how to restore peace in your home today.

The understanding should be very clear about alcohol and drugs, and it’s simple because the law makes it simple. In most states, it’s illegal to drink under the age of 21. You don’t have to say, “I know it’s illegal, but…” and wink your eye. The best thing that you can do for your young adult child is follow the letter of the law and say “No drinking under 21. If we catch you drinking and driving, we’re taking the car keys. If you fight us, we’re calling the cops.” He’s going to say you’re rigid and unreasonable. But it’s better that your kid lose his license for 90 days than die or kill somebody else.

When Is It Time to Ask Your Child to Leave Home?

The decision on when to ask an older child to leave the home has more to do with a family’s morals and values. First of all, if he violates a cardinal rule, he should leave. If he’s insulting you, abusive with a family member or breaking things, he should leave. He should go stay with a friend. The kids who are going to be most likely to be asked to leave are the kids who are going to tell you they have nowhere to go. Because the abusive behavior won’t be an unexpected anomaly in their life. It’s not like their whole life is great, but they hit their brother. The abusive older child will most likely show a pattern of this behavior and demonstrate a host of thinking errors. So when you ask him to leave, he won’t know where he can go, because he is unable to solve that problem.

Secondly, if things are going well with the living arrangement, the child should be told to think about leaving once he has the means. Once the first and last month’s rent and a deposit are set aside and he has a car and he’s driving, he should be told to start looking for a place with a roommate. I’ve worked with many college graduates at agencies who were not able to own a car or have their own apartment at the same time. They had to make a choice because they didn’t make that much money. They had to accept either having their own car and living with a roommate and learning how to live with other people, or not having a car and living close to their job and just having their own apartment. But they can’t have it both ways, and parents should not take responsibility for that.

Independence is a decision you can make as a family. If a young adult child is doing well, living at home and meeting the family’s expectations, then there’s no problem. But someday he will want to be independent. The way you get there is to sit down and have the child set some goals. Where do you plan to live? When do you plan to move out? How much does the child need to pay for rent or room and board while living at home? Measure progress toward the goal by the objectives. If the child has a goal to move out and he’s not meeting any of the objectives, it’s a joke.The greatest gift you can give your child is knowing how to be independent and take responsibility. If a child fears independence and responsibility, you can solve that problem by having a written agreement that shows the child how to live by your rules, and have ongoing discussions about the goal of independence and how to meet it.

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Rules-Boundaries-and-Older-Children-Late-To-Set-Up-Living-Agreement.php#ixzz2ZMNfIfzJ

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/In-Response-to-Questions-about-Older-Children-Living-at-Home-by-James-Lehman.php#ixzz2ZMNGp7ak

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Rules-Boundaries-and-Older-Children.php#ixzz2ZMMkhZx1

Love and Mental Illness | GeekMom | Wired.com

Love and Mental Illness | GeekMom | Wired.com

Reaching the Skies by ThisWolfWalksAlone on deviantART. (CC-BY-3.0)

I haven’t publicly dwelled on my personal life of the past year, but to say it’s been eventful is an understatement. After 14 1/2 years of marriage, last spring my husband and I decided, together, amicably, to separate. Our divorce is now pending. Fast forward to the autumn, and I found love again. I found a Rory.

And here’s where I’ll out myself. In an attempt to meet interesting, geeky people, and other kids for my kids to play with, I joined the SCA. To those not in the know, SCA stands for The Society for Creative Anachronism. Sort of like medieval re-creation, but it feels closer to a living museum type activity. I had known one, count it, one person from the SCA before, when I lived in Colorado. (Hi Karl!) But even with that one data point, I knew I’d find some interesting people that I’d enjoy spending time with. I was right. So right, that now I have a slew of people who would go to the mat for me if anything big ever came up. (And I do seem to be testing that…)

I met Rory on my first day with the SCA. We got along really well, but he was dating someone else at the time, and so I thought nothing more of it. But they eventually broke up, and we quickly got closer. At that point, he filled me in on some important things about him. He is bipolar. He had once tried to commit suicide. And he told me a lot of other details about his background. At that point I wasn’t sure where this relationship was going, or where either one of us wanted it to go. But his openness about everything said a lot.

Very quickly after that we became inseparable. He shared his ups and downs, what it was like for him to have these moods, and enough other glimpses into his mind for me to see his actions in context.

I’ve had enough experience of my own with mental illness to be able to see his condition for what it is, and to not take things personally. I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life, sometimes debilitatingly so, and have had panic attacks upon occasion. I’ve also had at least two bouts with depression. But most of the time I function fairly normally.

But for the past couple of weeks, Rory had been extra low. In retrospect, this might have been a sign of things to come. But starting last weekend, his usually transitory thoughts of suicide settled in for a good long while. Finally, Tuesday afternoon we decided to take him to the hospital. He needed help, and I was exhausted from lack of sleep.

It was pretty obvious to the people who evaluated him that he needed to be admitted to the mental health facility. I was relieved, because he really needed a complete evaluation, official diagnosis, and a better medication regimen. So after many hours at the emergency room, we went to the mental health facility, and there he resides until they decide he can leave. For the first two days, I had no idea how he was, what he’d been spending his time doing, how they were helping him. Before I left him there, he said he was both excited and terrified. He’d been in there once before, after he tried to commit suicide. But this time was slightly different, because he hadn’t taken any action.

Thursday afternoon I finally heard from him. He wanted to make sure I was coming to visit that night, because he wanted his book, which he was finally allowed to have. Thursday night our visit was a good one, and we caught each other up on the preceding two days. He’s on all new meds, so we’ll see how well those do. I’m still not sure when he will be back with me, but it will likely be next week because of the med changes.

So now the mental illness of the man I love is front and center in my life. This is a new experience for me. If you’d like to follow along on our journey together, visit Rory’s blog, Terminally Intelligent. It started out being only a blog of his words, thoughts, experiences, and poetry, but I’ve written several posts on there now, and it may be evolving into how together as a team we navigate the difficult and continual ebb and flow of mental illness. I am hoping that our struggles and successes are helpful to some of you.

How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids – Doc Zone

how to divorce and not wreck the kidsCelia. Photo credit: Roland Rickus

HOW TO DIVORCE & NOT WRECK THE KIDS

Watch the full episode online.

43:47 minutes 

 

How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids takes viewers inside one of life’s most devastating transitions as three Canadian couples, determined to keep the needs of their children first, work through their separations on camera.

The “divorce from hell” stories grab headlines: couples who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars destroying each other and, incidentally, their children. But in this country, there is another reality. Grassroots Canadians are at the heart of a quiet revolution – couples working on “good” divorces, which acknowledge that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of a family. Because research says: separating parents who co-operate can raise children who are as emotionally healthy as kids from intact families.

familyLionel and Sally with children Rhys and and Gareth

As filming begins, the split between Sally and Lionel is still fresh and raw. And cooperating will be a challenge for Sally since she didn’t want the marriage to end. Sally and Lionel were married for 17 years and are parents to three boys, from 11 to 4 years old. They agree to a new and controversial process called Collaborative Divorce, because they believe it will help them focus on what’s best for their children. If only anger and bitterness don’t derail the process.

Roland and Carolye were married for 13 years and have two kids. They transitioned out of their marriage into something of a friendship — but that friendship will be tested as Roland seeks 50-50 custody of their children. Carolye and Roland will try to hammer out an agreement without professional help, using a do-it-yourself divorce kit.

mike and melissaMike and Melissa with their twins.

After five years of marriage and three-year-old twins, Mike and Melissa split shortly after Christmas, the busiest time in the divorce world. They’re each passionate about being there for all the important moments in the children’s lives, even though it’s uncomfortable being in the same room together. When they reach an impasse in their separation negotiations, Mike and Melissa turn to a mediator to break the deadlock.

Three courageous Canadian couples invite you to witness the end of their marriages…as they struggle to overcome their anger and fear and stay focused on How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids.

How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids is produced by Bountiful Films Inc. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Doc Zone

Take a journey every Thursday night as DOC ZONE explores the major stories of our time. Around the corner, around the world, our cameras bring viewers a sweeping panoramic view of what matters most to Canadians.

Episode Features

NEW: Information for Kids

Want to help your child understand what’s happening as you separate or divorce? 

Take them on a tour of “Changeville,” a pioneering on-line resource for children 6 to 11 – whose families are breaking up. 
It’s fun and it’s FREE. 
Enter here.

Discussion

Talk about this film online with other viewers. Visit our discussion board.

Listen Online

The Current interview a couple trying colloborative divorce and the director of How To Divorce and Not Wreck The Kids. Listen to the interview online.

Facts about Divorce in Canada

  • According to lawyers in Canada and the U.S., January is the busiest month in the divorce business. And in Britain, January 8th is actually called “D Day” because that’s the day when most divorces are initiated.
  • In Canada, one in two unions fails, most before the 14-year mark.
  • Only 5 percent of couples actually sit down and tell their children they are separating, and what it will mean to them.
  • Women initiate approximately two-thirds of separations and divorces.
  • Joint Custody, when there are two loving and interested parents, works best for children.

Problems Divorced Kids Face

  • More problems with authority figures, their peers and their parents.
  • Two times more likely to develop psychological problems like anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues.
  • More marijuana and alcohol use, compared to married family children.
  • Lack of parental monitoring.
  • Divorced kids drop out of school two to three times the rate of married family children.

For suggestions in avoiding these problems read: Dr. Joan Kelly’s Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Kid’s from the Fallout of a High Conflict Break-up

Divorce Toolkit

Find out what a collaborative divorce participation agreement looks like. This is the document couples and their lawyers sign which sets the tone for collaborating, not litigating.

On the night that Sally and Lionel decided they were going to separate, they sat down together and drafted this statement, which became their guide for their own behavior as they worked through their separation. It’s a very good example for other parents.

Download a copy of Dr. Joan Kelly’s Tipsheet and hersuggestions for talking to kids about divorce.

Shared Parenting Calendar Software

Visit our resource section for more links.

About the Producers

 

HOW TO DIVORCE & NOT WRECK THE KIDS

Watch the full episode online.

43:47 minutes 

 

Maureen Palmer and Helen SlingerProducers, Maureen Palmer and Helen Slinger

Writer/Director/Producer:Maureen Palmer has spent the last eight years in the world of independent documentaries and factual entertainment, after two decades in news and current affairs at CBC Radio and Television. As an independent filmmaker she has produced several documentaries alongside How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids producer Helen Slinger for their Vancouver-based company,Bountiful Films including – Leaving BountifulPolygamy’s Lost Boys and the Bully’s Mark. Maureen has worked as a story editor, story producer, and series producer for a wide variety of North American broadcasters, including — Making It Big for the Life Network, Glutton For Punishment for the Food Network and The Week the Women Went for CBC. Her work has won several awards, from Bronze and Silver at the New York Festivals, a Jack Webster Award, the B’nai B’rith League of Human Rights Award for Best Documentary, and the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for Best Documentary.

Maureen Palmer & Divorce: Raised in Sudbury, Maureen has lived in Toronto, Edmonton and now Vancouver. She has been divorced for more than a decade. For most of that decade, Maureen flew every 2nd week or so from Vancouver to Edmonton to spend a long weekend in the basement of her old matrimonial home, where she could do the “mom” thing for her two daughters. Ex-husband, journalist Graham Thomson, made many jokes about having the “ex-wife in the basement,” but the reality was: this unorthodox relationship allowed their children to grow up with both parents in their lives as much as possible. Maureen admits to stumbling, making mistakes and acting like an adolescent at times, but her daughters Erin, 27, and Heather, 22, think mistakes were few and far between. They actually suggested this documentary, when they thanked her and their father for allowing them to grow up in a home free of conflict.

Read an interview with Maureen Palmer.

Writer/Producer: Helen Slinger is a master storyteller whose work spans three decades. Recent documentary writer/director credits include the Bully’s MarkEmbracing Bob’s Killer, and Leaving Bountiful. Helen’s written a legion of documentaries for other directors, and is a highly-respected story editor and script doctor. Various projects have won Gemini nominations, Finalist New York festivals, Platinum Award Worldfest Houston, Jury Award Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, selection Montreal World Film Festival, selection Vancouver International Film Festival, selection Girlfest Hawaii, a Gracie Allen (Foundation of American Women In Radio & TV), RTNDA (Radio & Television News Directors) awards, and several Columbus International Film & Television Awards including the Edgar Dale Award for excellence in non-fiction screenwriting .

Helen Slinger & Divorce: Raised in Saskatoon, Helen Slinger has lived in Toronto, Victoria BC and now North Vancouver. She’s been happily divorced for more than 20 years and is the mother of one bio-daughter from that marriage. Since the divorce, Helen and her daughter’s dad have celebrated together every Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday (hers, his, their daughter’s and his son’s from an earlier marriage). Knowing her not to be a saint, Helen’s friends initially thought she was nuts. At the time, this was not a fashionable way to divorce … and, to be clear, the divorce was not all lovey-dovey amicable. So this small c collaborative divorce was an active choice to go against the tide. Today Helen’s daughter and step-son express gratitude for the family that remained after the marriage ended and Helen feels very proud of herself and of her daughter’s dad. Tucked in with the old greetings cards around the house is a Mother’s Day card from her then 14-year-old daughter in which she lists the things she appreciates about Mom. High up on the list: “the way you get along with my dad”.

Producer: Sue Ridout chose the life of an independent producer after twenty award-winning years in network news and current affairs at both CTV and CBC Television. During her tenure as the Executive Producer of News & Current Affairs for CBC Television in Vancouver, her team won more than 100 awards. Now Sue produces and directs documentaries for broadcasters including CBC, CTV, History Channel and Knowledge Network. She has produced two other documentaries for CBC’s Doc Zone series: Embracing Bob’s Killer, about a woman who forgives the man who killed her husband; and Desperately Seeking Doctors, about the lack of family physicians in Canada. Sue uses her considerable management skills to coordinate business affairs on documentaries for other companies, like Bountiful Films.

Types of Childhood Abuse

Reposted from the blog of Darlene Barriere.

http://www.child-abuse-effects.com/types-of-emotional-abuse.html

There are six types of emotional abuse:

    »  rejecting
    »  isolating
    »  ignoring
    »  corrupting
    »  exploiting
    »  terrorizing

One type of emotional abuse that warrants a section of its own is witnessing family violence. Due to the ever-increasing statistics of family violence, I’ve treated this topic separately. You’ll find it below underterrorizing.

  Types of emotional abuse #1: Rejecting

Putting down a child or youth’s worth or putting down their needs.

    »  constant criticism
    »  name-calling
    »  telling child he/she is ugly
    »  yelling or swearing at the child
    »  frequent belittling-use of labels such as “stupid”, “idiot”
    »  constant demeaning jokes
    »  verbal humiliation
    »  constant teasing about child’s body type and/or weight
    »  expressing regret the child wasn’t born the opposite sex
    »  refusing hugs and loving gestures
    »  physical abandonment
    »  excluding child from family activities
    »  treating an adolescent like she/he is a child
    »  expelling child from family
    »  not allowing youth to make own reasonable choices

  Types of emotional abuse #2: Isolating

Keeping a child away from family and friends.

    »  leaving child in room unattended for long periods
    »  keeping child away from family
    »  not allowing child to have friends
    »  not permitting child interaction with other children
    »  keeping child away from other caregiver if separated
    »  rewarding child for withdrawing from social contact
    »  ensuring child looks and acts differently than peers
    »  isolating child in closet
    »  insisting on excessive studying and/or chores
    »  preventing youth participating in activities outside the home
    »  punishing youth for engaging in normal social experiences

FACT:  Isolated emotional child abuse has had the lowest rate of substantiation of any of the types of emotional abuse (Kairys, 20022).

  Types of emotional abuse #3: Ignoring

Failing to give any response to or interact with a child or youth at all.

    »  no response to infant’s spontaneous social behaviours
    »  not accepting the child as an offspring
    »  denying required health care
    »  denying required dental care
    »  failure to engage child in day to day activities
    »  failure to protect child
    »  not paying attention to significant events in child’s life
    »  lack of attention to schooling, etc.
    »  refusing to discuss youth’s activities and interests
    »  planning activities/vacations without adolescent

  Types of emotional abuse #4: Corrupting

Encouraging a child or youth to do things that are illegal or harmful to themselves.

    »  rewarding child for bullying and harassing behaviour
    »  teaching racism and ethnic biases
    »  encouraging violence in sporting activities
    »  inappropriate reinforcement of sexual activity
    »  rewarding child for lying and stealing
    »  rewarding child for substance abuse and sexual activity
    »  supplying child with drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances
    »  promoting illegal activities such as selling drugs
    »  teaching and promoting prostitution

  Types of emotional abuse #5: Exploiting

Giving a child or youth responsibilities that are far greater than a child/youth that age can handle. It is also using a child for profit.

    »  infants expected not to cry
    »  anger when infant fails to meet a developmental stage
    »  child expected to be ‘caregiver’ to the parent
    »  young child expected to take care of younger siblings
    »  blaming child or youth for misbehaviour of siblings
    »  unreasonable responsibilities for jobs around the house
    »  expecting youth to support family financially
    »  encouraging participation in pornography
    »  sexually abusing child or youth
    »  requiring child or youth to participate in sexual exploitation

  Types of emotional abuse #6: Terrorizing

Causing a child or youth to be terrified by the constant use of threats and/or intimidating behaviour. This includes witnessing, which is when a child or youth observes violence, hears violence, or knows that violence is taking place in the home.

    »  with infants and children, excessive teasing
    »  yelling and scaring
    »  unpredictable and extreme responses to child’s behaviour
    »  extreme verbal threats
    »  raging, alternating with periods of artificial warmth
    »  threatening abandonment
    »  beating family members in front of or in ear range of child
    »  threatening to destroy a favourite object
    »  threatening to harm a beloved pet
    »  forcing child to watch inhumane acts against animals
    »  inconsistent demands on the child
    »  displaying inconsistent emotions
    »  changing the ‘rules of the game’
    »  threatening that the child is adopted and doesn’t belong
    »  ridiculing youth in public
    »  threats to reveal intensely embarrassing traits to peers
    »  threatening to kick adolescent out of the house

FACT:  Children and youth who witness family violence experience all sixtypes of emotional abuse.

FACT:  A 1995 telephone survey identifying types of emotional abuse suggested that by the time a child was 2 years old, 90% of families had used one or more forms of psychological aggression in the previous 12 months (Straus, 20003).

Many people including parents, members of the law enforcement community and journalists, think that infants and young children who witness violence are too young to know what happened. They don’t take it in. “They won’t remember.” In fact, infants and young children can be overwhelmed by their exposure to violence, especially–as it is likely to be the case with very young children–when both victims and perpetrators are well known and emotionally important to the child and the violence occurs in or near the child’s own home.

Osofsky, 1996

The Powerful Influence of Parents

by Jerry Lopper, Personal Growth Coach  on June 13, 2011 »

Image By Colin Brough

The influence of our parents is on my mind right now. Even as we become fully functioning adults and parents ourselves, it’s intriguing to consider how much of who we are is directly attributable to beliefs and experiences we encountered as children of our parents.

I’m reminded of this in reading Into My Father’s Wake, by journalist and author Eric Best. Best leaves his job, buys a sailboat, and sails solo from San Francisco to Hawaii and return in an attempt to resolve his relationship with his parents, especially his father.

A respected journalist, Best’s marriage is failing, he feels dead-ended in his job, and he struggles with alcohol and anger. The 50 day, 5,000 mile solo journey is his attempt to find himself and correct the path of his life.

Adult Children of Abusive Parents

Interspersed with fascinating descriptions of his sailing adventures, Best shares pleasant childhood memories of long sailing voyages with his father and disturbing memories of brutal beatings with a rubber hose at his father’s hands. He recalls his mother’s silent support of her husbands discipline, and struggles to come to terms with both parents’ treatments.

Most children are raised without the abusive behaviors demonstrated in Best’s book, yet don’t we all grow up carrying mixed images of our parents’ behaviors?

Psychologists offer an explanation that makes sense. Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. is a psychologist in private counseling practice who has authored several parenting books exploring the various phases of parent/child relationships as a child moves from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

Pickhardt explains that the child idolizes and worships her parents, the adolescent criticizes and blames her parents as she begins the process of independence, and the adult rationalizes parental behaviors as she begins to understand the complexities of parental behavior.

Parental Behaviors

The children of abusive parents experience conflicting and inconsistent adult behavior, at times nurturing and caring, at other times abusive and hurtful. Given the child’s total dependence and natural tendency to look up to her parents, the abused child is confused, ceases to trust, and may even assume she’s part of the problem. Best demonstrates how these conflicts carry into adulthood.

Children of non-abusive parents also experience conflicts. We see behaviors that are loving and caring as well as darker behaviors such as anger. We see our parents’ faults, tend to focus on those in adolescence, and may even carry their faults into adulthood as the reasons for our own failures.

Life Purpose and Our Parents

Looking at more pThe Celestine Prophecyositive aspects of parental influence, in The Celestine Prophecy, author James Redfield suggests that each person’s life purpose evolves from and extends the life purpose of their parents. Intrigued by this, I followed the suggested process of examining what each of my parents stood for (their strong beliefs and values) and where they fell short (weaknesses and limitations).

Sure enough, I could clearly see how my own life extended what each of my parent’s stood for and how I’ve developed interests and strengths which they lacked.

Since this analysis was valuable and informational to me, I added the process to my Purpose in Life Workshop content, expecting that others would also find valuable insights.

I was surprised by the responses of workshop participants. Though some found the process positive and helpful, a majority reacted strongly against the hypothesis, even resisting my encouragement to keep an open mind and explore the possibilities. It seemed a large number of people attribute their life’s problems directly to their parents.

Coming to Terms with Parents

What does this all mean? To me it simply means that parents are human beings, with the full range of human strengths and weaknesses. Parenting is tough work. Our parents made some mistakes along the way, as we have in our parenting roles.

On the road to adulthood, we’re exposed to many examples of behaviors, including the very influential examples of our parents. Whether they were outstanding parents or lacking in many ways, as adults our behaviors are ours alone. We can chose whether to copy behaviors of our parents or discard them. We can chose whether to cherish their parental talents or denounce them.

Personal growth involves insightful—sometimes painful—self-reflection. Personal growthInto My Father's Wake also involves accepting the accountability and responsibility of personal choice for our behaviors.

Eric Best reaches this conclusion near the end of his solitary 50 day voyage, deciding to cherish the love and care his father displayed in teaching him to sail, while forgiving his brutal discipline as a terrible weakness of his father’s own personal struggles.

Into My Father’s Wake is a good story of a man’s journey of self-discovery. Those without sailing knowledge may struggle a bit with the sailor’s terminology, but all will appreciate the vivid imagery Best conveys as he describes the beauty and danger of solo-oceanic travel. I found that sharing Best’s struggles with the human frailties of his parents stimulated useful self-reflection on the influence of my own parents on my adult life.