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Blending the Family of an Challenging Adolescent (Phase I)
Many parents today are struggling to meet the demands and needs of their challenging adolescent. Difficulties with adolescents are not an uncommon experience, therefore it is not surprising that this phase of development coupled with behavioral difficulties, tend to push the stress level of parenting beyond anticipated boundaries. Defiance and relentless negativity from a child with a behavioral disorder can send the goal for a healthy functioning family spiraling out of control. For single parents of a challenging adolescent who found their ideal companion and are considering reframing their relationship into one of a blended family unit, this presents an even more unique obstacle.
If you are struggling with an adolescent who is challenged with the difficulties of ADHD, ODD, or other behavioral difficulties and are pondering starting a blended family, consider the following:
- Don’t expect the process of blending to be easy
Creating a blended family unit is a long-term process. The complications of a behavioral disorder in a blended family can cause frustration and push stress levels beyond manageable bonds. Each family is unique and techniques designed to change attitudes and behaviors within the family will be challenging to all members involved. As a parent you have control over many of the things that can positively influence the symptoms of your child’s behavioral disorder. Be Patient!
- Getting off to a great start
YOU must be able to accept your child for their uniqueness, strengths, behavioral challenges, and potential for improvement, before you can expect anyone else to. Acceptance of your child begins with seeing beyond their behavioral limitations and becoming knowledgeable about the nature of their problems. Researching and identifying resources from various support groups and organizations related to your child’s needs would be a beneficial starting point. Knowledge of your child’s special needs will be an important part of creating realistic expectations and a supportive climate of shared understanding between you and your blending partner. Before you can successfully parent a child with a behavioral disorder, it is important to understand the impact of your child’s symptoms on them and those around them.
- Seeing the world as your child does
Rather it’s an oppositional, disruptive, or impulsive disorder, understanding the way your child feels, senses, and interprets the world around them is crucial. Often so much energy is placed in demanding the child to conform to behavioral expectation, that the gift of being able to see the world the way your child does is missed. Children with behavioral difficulties often become stigmatized and isolated. As a child, having a behavioral disorder can be just as exasperating as dealing with someone who has it. Understanding the way your child experiences the world allows you to take an active role in translating their behaviors as strengths. For example, children with ADHD often have an increased level of creativity, emotional sensitivity, and exuberance. Keep an active list of strengths and positive qualities about your child.
- Developing a parenting philosophy
It is important for rules and structure to be present in the home prior to the addition of the blending partner. A loving environment that provides structure, consistent routines, and clear communication is essential in effectively parenting children with behavioral difficulties. As the primary parent you are ultimately responsible for determining which strategies are effective and least effective in promoting positive behavioral growth within your child. Often children want to control their emotions and behaviors but they don’t know how to make these things happen. Your child can only learn what he or she is being taught through verbal and nonverbal messages. Consequences alone are often a short-term fix that do not teach the skills necessary for continued success.
This is not an easy process and will require you to get into the mind of your child and explore with one another why the behavior makes sense to them. Through a cycle of failure and success you will be able to develop a parenting philosophy that is aligned with the needs of your child. Through this experience the child would become use to your parenting style and you would have gained primary control over your child’s behavior prior to blending.
© Copyright 2013 by R. A. Stewart, therapist in Deptford, New Jersey . All rights reserved.