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Author Topic: When a Parent Has a Mental Illness - Mental Health America  (Read 2005 times)
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« on: April 18, 2009, 09:36:13 AM »

Factsheet: When a Parent Has a Mental Illness:

From Risk to Resiliency--Protective Factors for Children


by Mental Health America (Alexandria, VA)


Funded through an unrestricted educational grant from The Education, Health, and the Arts Foundation.

The effect of parental mental illness on children is varied and unpredictable.[1] Although parental mental illness presents biological, psychosocial and environmental risks for children, not all children will be negatively affected, or in the same way. The parental diagnosis of mental illness alone is not sufficient to cause problems for the child and family. Rather, it is how the diagnosis affects the parent's behavior as well as familial relationships that may cause risk to a child. The age of onset, severity and duration of the parents' mental illness, the degree of stress in the family resulting from the parents' illness, and most importantly, the extent to which parents' symptoms interfere with positive parenting, such as their ability to show interest in their children, will determine the level of risk to a child.

  

The Prevention Perspective

Whether or not children of parents with mental illness will develop social, emotional, or behavioral problems depends on a number of factors. These include the child's genetic vulnerability, the parent's behavior, the child's understanding of the parent's illness, and the degree of family stability (e.g., number of parent-child separations). Preventive interventions aimed at addressing these risk factors and increasing children's protective factors increase the likelihood that they will be resilient, and grow and develop in positive ways. Effective prevention strategies help increase family stability, strengthen parents' ability to meet their children's needs, and minimize children's exposure to negative manifestations of their parent's illness.[2]

Risk Factors

Children whose parents have a mental illness are at risk for developing social, emotional and/or behavioral problems. An inconsistent and unpredictable family environment, often found in families in which a parent has mental illness, contributes to a child's risk. Other factors that place all children at risk, but particularly increase the vulnerability of children whose parents have a mental illness, include:

  • Poverty


  • Occupational or marital difficulties


  • Poor parent-child communication


  • Parent's co-occurring substance abuse disorder


  • Openly aggressive or hostile behavior by a parent


  • Single-parent families


Families at greatest risk are those in which mental illness, a child with a difficult temperament, and chronically stressful family environments are all present. Many of these factors, however, can be reduced through preventive interventions. For example, poor parent-child communication can be improved through skills training, and marital conflict can be reduced through couples therapy.

  

Protective Factors

Increasing a child's protective factors helps develop his or her resiliency. Resilient children understand that they are not responsible for their parent's difficulties, and are able to move forward in the face of life's challenges.



Protective factors for children include:


  • A sense of being loved by their parent


  • Positive self-esteem


  • Good coping skills


  • Positive peer relationships


  • Interest in and success at school


  • Healthy engagement with adults outside the home


  • An ability to articulate their feelings


  • Parents who are functioning well at home, at work, and in their social relationships


  • Parental employment


  • A parent's warm and supportive relationship with his or her children


  • Help and support from immediate and extended family members


References:

   1.Joanne Nicholson, Elaine Sweeny, and Jeffrey Geller. Mothers With Mental Illness: I. The Competing Demands of Parenting and Living With Mental Illness. Psychiatric Services. May 1998. Vol. 49. No. 5.

   2. Joanne Nicholson, Elaine Sweeny, and Jeffrey Geller. Mothers With Mental Illness: II. Family Relationships and the Context of Parenting. May 1998. Vol.49. No. 5.

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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2011, 12:01:22 PM »

Thank you, I would love to read more about how to be proactive in protecting our young son, especially once we are in separate homes. 

I've just begun the research to find out what I can do to negate the effects of the NPD/BPD parent... .and it looks as if validation, love, respect and listening are the first and foremost factors.  As I come across more information,  I will check back and post.

Thank you for taking the initiative on this, from one parent who is grateful to be able to help.

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« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2011, 08:56:44 PM »

I think the difference between diagnosed with a mental illness and not being diagnosed also plays a factor - I can only speak for my own situation, however if mom would actually receive an actual diagnosis of BPD, then I think different steps might be able to be taken for her own well being.  However, being undiagnosed only makes things difficult sometimes - the children don't understand her behaviour, they think they are at fault, and we can't talk openly about mom's 'mental illness' so there is a clearer understanding for them. 

I think the article is a good article for supporting our children though.  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)  Thanks B&W
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2011, 03:55:12 PM »

Excerpt
Protective factors for children include:


Positive self-esteem


Good coping skills


An ability to articulate their feelings

Can we get a discussion going on how to encourage these things? (The other factors seem to be things we can do ourselves as parents ~ showing love, support, employment, etc.)

Like examples of reinforcing good coping skills? How to assist the kiddos articulate their feelings? How to help with boosting their self esteem?

It's hard when the other parent can sometimes work against these ideas and some specific ways (and examples) might help in these areas. Smiling (click to insert in post)

~DreamGirl
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2011, 09:30:20 PM »

Interesting that you bring up those points, DG. SD13 has been working on "articulating her feelings" with her T. She's been doing this in the last several weeks. This has wreaked havoc on our house and moms.

The T has worked with her to get her to word her feelings with her mom in a way that mom can understand. Bad move. Everytime she does, mom lashes out incredibly at SD - in ways that actually lower SDs self esteem - name calling, swearing, etc... .

Mom then starts sending ME harrassing emails telling me to quit bad mouthing her to the kids.

I was very stunned by these emails to say the least - I am definitely not into badmouthing a parent to a child.

We figured out that SD has begun to use ME as her scapegoat to mom - telling mom what SHE thinks and feels but telling mom that it is ME who is saying them rather than owning it herself in order to save her hide.

This has posed some difficulties between households, and amongst us ourselves. I have attempted to speak to SD about it, and explained to her that I understand why she said what she said in the manner she said and assured her that I am not angry, just concerned - she denies it totally. (Of course)

But all of this certainly has lowered her self esteem a great deal as a child can only be told so many negative things before you believe them - especially as a 13 year old girl.

I would love to also get a discussion going about these topics as I feel like I'm running on the hamster wheel trying to navigate this new path!

Marlo
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 07:39:59 AM »

Marlo - I'm sorry you are all in such a difficult situation - that is just heartbreaking.  I truly hope things improve for all of you.

It seems we have many of the same questions and we are all seeking guidance to be both proactive and reactive in our situations with our children. 

Are there any psychologists on this board that may be able to shed some light on this for us?  Or other parents who have come up with coping skills or other ways to protect thier children?

Maybe start a new thread with a more specific subject line? 

I'm still relatively new, just thought I would throw out some suggestions... .
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 03:21:52 AM »

Resilient children are told the truth, IMO. They're given some words that even a child can grasp onto to understand that they didn't cause the problem. Too many adults with mental illness are blamers and when the world tries to sweep things under the rug, that leaves a kid thinking it's their fault. At least knowing, "My mom/dad/brother/sister has a thing called (BPD/bipolar/depression) and it's change inside of their brain but even though it's hard sometimes it's okay to love them anyway and I didn't make it happen" gives a certain sense of peace, from what I've seen.

(and I post on the "parenting" AND "child of" boards, btw)
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2011, 03:30:16 AM »

Interesting that you bring up those points, DG. SD13 has been working on "articulating her feelings" with her T. She's been doing this in the last several weeks. This has wreaked havoc on our house and moms.

The T has worked with her to get her to word her feelings with her mom in a way that mom can understand. Bad move. Everytime she does, mom lashes out incredibly at SD - in ways that actually lower SDs self esteem - name calling, swearing, etc... .

Mom then starts sending ME harrassing emails telling me to quit bad mouthing her to the kids.

I was very stunned by these emails to say the least - I am definitely not into badmouthing a parent to a child.

We figured out that SD has begun to use ME as her scapegoat to mom - telling mom what SHE thinks and feels but telling mom that it is ME who is saying them rather than owning it herself in order to save her hide.

This has posed some difficulties between households, and amongst us ourselves. I have attempted to speak to SD about it, and explained to her that I understand why she said what she said in the manner she said and assured her that I am not angry, just concerned - she denies it totally. (Of course)

But all of this certainly has lowered her self esteem a great deal as a child can only be told so many negative things before you believe them - especially as a 13 year old girl.

I would love to also get a discussion going about these topics as I feel like I'm running on the hamster wheel trying to navigate this new path!

Marlo

Marlo, you need to switch therapists. Your SD's therapist may be empowering, but telling a true BPD the truth is often the worst thing possible, and you're seeing the fallout. BPDs are capable of soul murder without shedding a tear. Your SD needs to be taught to preserve her spirit while she's a prisoner of war, not how to entice her mother into abusing her!
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 08:32:14 AM »

Aluna, I agree with your thoughts on this, when the child is old enough to understand.  Any advice on how to explain this situation to a 2 yo?  I've been struggling to find the right words to help my son through this separation and also how to explain to him that it is ok to feel whatever he is feeling and I will love him no matter what. 

Does anyone have any experience in teaching a child that young that they are allowed to feel whatever they feel and that it is ok to feel something different than someone else?  I'm sure someone who doesn't understand NPD/BPD will understand what I'm asking, but I'm hoping some of you will - since I know it isn't very clear. 
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2011, 09:58:54 PM »

For Marlo... .

Just a thought... .when you say you "figured out" that your SD is expressing her own feelings as if they were things said to her by you, is this a deduction, or do you have clear evidence beyond the behavior of your BPDx?

I ask this because this is the kind of assumption I might have made until very recently when my SD16 lifted the veil on all of this.  Maybe my SD's mom is unusual in this, but I can tell you with certainty that SD16 could have very easily had a conversation with her mom like this:

SD16: Mom, it really upsets me when you accuse me of things I didn't do.

BPDM: Oh, so your father has been spinning his web of lies again!  He's telling you that mommy accuses you of things you didn't do.  He is trying to turn you against me!  He doesn't think you should have a mommy! 

Or, alternately,

SD16: Mom, it really upsets me when you accuse me of things I didn't do.

BPDM: What are you talking about?  That's ridiculous.  Why would you say something like that.

(Later, sends emails to us about how we are clearly poisoning SD's mind.)

All I'm saying is that we often wrongly assumed there was even a seed of truth or rationality in the communications we got from SD's mom.  Now that I hear the whole story of so many of these incidents, as SD16 has gone NC with her mom for the time being, I realize this is us trying to apply reason to the irrational.  Certainly, SD might have chosen to present her feelings as if they came from her father.  But just as easily, BPDM could completely ignore SD telling her her feelings as directly as humanly possible and turn it into anything else she wanted.

It's funny, I realize that as much as we were scared about the effects of BPDM's behaviors on SD, we truly didn't know the half of what she was wiling to make up out of thin air.  Since SD never talked about anything that happened with her mom until now, I think we ironically managed to underestimate BPDMs irrationality, and overestimate SD's, despite being pretty clear on how dysfunctional BPDM was.  Sometimes applying logic in the absence of information can steer you way wrong in BPD world.
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« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2011, 10:37:43 AM »

For Marlo... .

Just a thought... .when you say you "figured out" that your SD is expressing her own feelings as if they were things said to her by you, is this a deduction, or do you have clear evidence beyond the behavior of your BPDx?

Sideliner -

The convos that happened were like this:

Kids telling me that mom is taking them to disney (for the 4th yr in a row). I say "That's great news!"

One child chimes in with "Ya but mom said that before"

I say "This is also true"

Another child chimes in "Ya but this is different this time"

I say "Okay, maybe you are right. Why do you think that? It is very possible that you are going. Do you know when?"

Then the kids start telling me that it's going to be after Christmas. And I say "Okay, so like March break probably."

Then they say "No, mommy told us that it will be during school and we will get to miss a whole week of school and there is nothing you can do about it."

So I say, "Okay, that sounds like fun"  That led to another part of the convo where they also stated that they have to take all their money that they receive from our house for allowances, chores, bday gifts, etc... .and give to mom directly and she will keep all their money to pay for their tickets to go to Florida.

Then I say "Well, keep in mind that you will also need to save some of your money for any vacations that we might go on or things that you might want to do or buy - like if you want to go to the movies with your friends or you want to buy something for yourself"

Then SD says - well mom has no money and you and dad both work so mom says that you can afford to pay for our things and you need to make sure you give our allowance because mom needs the money to take us to Florida.

Okay - well what you choose to do with your money is up to you, but if you want something extra, then that is something you are going to have to figure out how to save for.

Then comes the kid who says - ya but she probably wont' even take us. She keeps saying that and she never does. Then they begin to list off all the things that she says she was going to do and has not.

So I simply state that maybe she won't be able to take them or maybe she will. She is working now which is different than other years and it is possible, but I cannot tell them that they are or are not. It's not up to me.

SD has a session with T - T explains that SD talked about how mom is telling them again that they are going to FL to Disney and she doesn't think that mom is going to take them because she doesn't follow through on her promises. T told us that SD is very angry with her mom and accused her mom of being a liar (in therapy). So T asked her how she can talk to her mom to help her understand better the circumstances and they worked out that SD would just ask mom more details of the trip and when it would happen, etc... .Then SD can decide for herself.

SD subsequently got on the phone with mom from our house and I could hear SD on the phone (sort of) as she was talking about FL with her.  Then I hear SD say "Marlo even said that you never do what you say you will and you aren't going to do it because you never take us after you say you will and it's been 4 years!"

So SDs convo went from her asking questions to telling her mother that I said she would never take them.

When I approached SD about this, I told her that I understood her disappointment in past years, but wondered why she would tell her mother that I said such things when I simply just sat and listened to the 3 kids discuss it.  That is when she told me that she would NEVER have the conversation with her mother face to face and she did it over the phone and when she started asking questions, her mother started to get mad at her so she told her that I said it so she wouldn't get into any more trouble because she was supposed to see her mother that weekend and she didn't want to be in trouble all weekend.

SD has been doing this regularly with other things as well - she is tired of the lies that her mother has told them, she is tired of the inconsistencies and she was trying to simply tell her mom what she was thinking, but even the slightest hit of challenge presented sends mom into rage and so the only escape route that SD can think of is to tell her mother that I said it because the kids understand that I am not someone who will ever take their mother's verbal assaults.  I stand up for myself when I've been faced with her wrath face to face and unfortunately, the children have witnessed it when she came into my house and began accusing me of all kinds of things (in the past) and I simply told her that if she comes to into my house, she will need to be respectful of me and the people and things in it or she needs to leave my house.  Failure to adhere to these boundaries will result in me calling the police and I will have her removed. 

So the kids know that I will not tolerate her rages in my house or towards me or the kids or my husband.  So SD was simply trying to one up her mom in telling her that I said so and/or agreed with her point of view to stop her mother's rage.

This led to her mother sending me nasty emails because she would never do it face to face with me. 
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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 12:59:46 PM »

Hey marlo.  Hi!

I feel like maybe your SD is practicing a cool divorce technique [for the kiddos involved]called "triangulating".  Those suffering from BPD also use it sometimes too.

It's how they get what they want and escape responsibility. Smiling (click to insert in post)

Perhaps?

~DG
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 02:05:34 PM »

Good point, I just recently read about that in "The Dance of Anger" by Harriet Lerner (sp?)- great book to help understand the dynamics of how triangulation effects all of your relationships - among other very interesting concepts.  My T recommended it as one of the best self-help books she has ever read... .it was worth reading! 
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2011, 09:20:35 PM »

Hey marlo.  Hi!

I feel like maybe your SD is practicing a cool divorce technique [for the kiddos involved]called "triangulating".  Those suffering from BPD also use it sometimes too.

DG

She absolutely does it to get what she wants.  But I also genuinely think that when the heat is on and she's feeling pretty scared about possibly repercussions, this acts as an escape route to shift blame for her thoughts on me.  I think it works both ways. 
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2011, 06:19:22 PM »

Hey marlo.  Hi!

I feel like maybe your SD is practicing a cool divorce technique [for the kiddos involved]called "triangulating".  Those suffering from BPD also use it sometimes too.

DG

She absolutely does it to get what she wants.  But I also genuinely think that when the heat is on and she's feeling pretty scared about possibly repercussions, this acts as an escape route to shift blame for her thoughts on me.  I think it works both ways. 

I hate to admit that I've done this in the past and got called out on it.  It is totally what you say, she's blaming you because she's afraid of her mom getting upset at her and it's better if her mom's upset at someone else.  Or not really better, just that it doesn't leave you panicky and feeling anxious.  I did this with one of my mom's old friends who over heard the conversation and confronted me in a nice way about what I had just said to my mom.  She told me that she didn't appreciate me lying (I honestly didn't see it as lying, honest!  I was just trying to say that she was on my side and understood where I was coming from.  It's hard to explain, it's like I knew mom would listen if I said a grown up said it... if it was coming from me - not a chance). 
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« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2011, 02:34:39 PM »

I love this article.  I refer to it a lot.  There are a couple of others like it, which I will look for, in the high conflict literature.  

I think a lot about these factors.  My SDs have a lot of the positive factors in their lives.  Another article mentions that the number 1 factor for doing well is the child's charisma, which is sad to me.  My SDs (and their mom and dad) both have a lot of charisma, which helps them with all the listed factors.  But what about kids who lack that comfort in reaching out to relatives, teachers, and safe adult mentors?  I have a neighbor who I suspect has BPD.  I have taught her son in a camp.  He is so shy and pained.  I have heard stories about her screaming at him and her husband, and have actually heard this when walking by at night.  She is very controlling and isolating with him, will not let him be part of carpools or have play dates.  

My SDs mom goes through phases like that, too.  But the kids are really outgoing.  So they are never totally isolated.  They have so many champions in their lives.  

Things I notice that help my SDs with things like self esteem are:

1. Having projects they can accomplish themselves that are fully supported by adults:  a tree fort, art projects, etc. Things that make them feel they can accomplish their dreams, that THEY have the abilities they need, with or without adults, but have the full support of the grownups at their own homes.

2. Disciplined practices:  Music lessons, physical activity/team sports, working on projects over time, skill development.  Anything that gets them to realize that their mom's hopelessness about ever doing anything that takes work is just one approach; another is to just do a little but at a time until you get good at it.  

3. Loving them no matter what:  For both kids, their dad and I making clear, all the time, "We love you no matter what."  If they are angry at me or I am angry at them, I say, "I love you even when you are angry at me," or "I love you even when I am angry at you."

4. Owning and articulating my own feelings:  When I am angry, I say "I am angry right now, but that does not mean you are bad.  I may want you to do something different, but my anger is not your fault or your problem; it is just how I feel."  I cannot tell you how many times SD11 has said, in an empowered and totally non-bratty way:  "It is not my fault that you are angry.  I am not responsible for how you feel."  To me, this is right on.  I respond by saying, "That is absolutely right.  You also have an ability to help influence my anger, if you do not like it when I am angry.  And, I still want you to pick up your clothes before you go out to play."  

I also try to state my feelings rather than stuffing them, in a way that is kid-friendly and not putting down their mom, but in a real way.  This is something both the kids' T and my own T, who is a child psychologist, support, but it is tricky.  

SD11 does things like the story Marlo tells-- SD11:  "Why do you hate my mom? Mommy says you hate her."  ME:  "I do not hate your mom.  I feel sad that she feels that way, or that you think that.  I love your mom, and sometimes I have a hard time with some things your mom does."  SD11:  "Are you saying my mom is a liar?"  

The kids also project their own feelings about mom onto me, either saying I say something about their mom that they feel, or saying about me something that is actually true about mom.  

Sometimes in a fit of pique, I blow it.  Say something I should not.  But in general, the fact that I am a little more open about my feelings seems to allow the kids to forgive me more even given stuff mom says about me, and also models for them ways to express feelings that are non-blaming, owning of one's own feelings, and also accurately identify challenges rather than stuff them.  I usually do not bring mom up unless the kids do, respond to happy statements happily even if they are baloney ("Mommy says we are going to disneyland!"  "Great!", but respond to questions with honesty.  SD11:  "Why is mommy so angry all the time?"  Me: "I am not entirely sure, and that is something maybe she knows more about, but what I think is that difficult feelings like hurt or fear are hard for her to feel and deal with, and she feels safer being angry.  Sometimes when we are afraid, it feels good to be angry, but then anger has a lot of impacts that create problems later.  Why do you think she is angry?  How is that for you?"

The book ":)ivorce Poison" is great on "how tos" for this stuff--little tidbits that stick with me are "Strike when the iron is cold" (meaning address issues of negative talk by the other parent with the child when the child is not upset); that it works better to talk with a kid when she is doing some activity.  

5. Clear help for kids on identifying and expressing their feelings:  

The T really helps them, but also we work with the kids.  If a child says, "I hate you!" (which actually our kids barely ever say, but sometimes they say they hate us to mom or to each other), then I say, "It is totally okay to feel how you feel about me.  Sometimes when people say they hate someone, they mean "I feel really angry at you for telling me what to do" or "When you said ---, it really hurt my feelings."  

Sometimes I also address deeper issue--when SD11 had come back from a month with her mom, she was so mad and behaving really badly and was having a really hard time.  I would get angry with her, but then would take her aside later and say, "I am guessing you are feeling really angry right now.  Are you more angry at me?  Or at feeling like you have no say about your parents being divorced and who you live with?  Or about how your mom feels bad about splitting up and your dad does not?"  

She said not so angry at me, but the other ones.  Then we talked about how hard it is as a kid to be so powerless.  That she does have power, not over her parents choices.  But over her own life.  And that she can use that power to be difficult, to get us angry or make her sister do things, but she could also use her power to do a really cool project that gives her something all her own, like making a tree fort, doing a huge art project, or making a plan to go on a trip.  In our case, SD11 really got this.  We spent the next hour designing a tree fort, which she has worked on for almost two years, and still loves.  

Both my SD7 and SD11 have become very able to state their feelings.  I also tell them that how they feel is okay no matter what, but it is way easier for me to hear them say they are angry at me, which feels true, versus hearing they hate me, which seems not so true but more designed to make me feel bad.  I have noticed for myself that saying I am angry versus being blaming is much more empowering and good for me, and I see the kids feeling that, too.  

6. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries:  Kids feel bad about themselves when they are allowed to do stuff that is harmful to others.  I am lucky as a step-parent as I have two SDs who were pretty young when I got involved:  they were 3 and 7, and now are 7 and 11.  My DH is great about not letting them get away with treating me or each other poorly, but I also am firm about that.  I have firm boundaries, that I explain clearly.  Part of this is just my own alpha-dog nature, that if something is not okay with me, you will know it, and it will be hard to ignore.  I am not mean, but I am not likely to back down.  I wonder how this will work out for me when the kids are teens... .but thus far, they seem to be willing to go with this.  And, I am very willing to reciprocate by allowing them boundaries. If they do not want me to be in their space, or touch them, or have a bite of their sandwich, I do not.  When they want to be more in charge then their dad, I point out that if they were in charge, they would have candy for every meal, and how good would that feel?  They are both wise enough just as people, regardless of age, to laugh and say, "Terrible!  We would have tummy aches all the time!"  I say, "You are kids.  You are supposed to want candy all the time.  Your dad is a parent.  He is supposed to stop you from making yourself sick, at least most of the time."  

I learned a lot from working with autistic kids at a place called the Option Institute.  They point out that the thing the kid wants most is your attention, that this is true not only for parents but for other caregivers.  If you withdraw your attention, that is often more powerful than using any kind of physical or verbal force.  When I can muster this, it works well.  Yes, for sure some of what the kids want is negative attention.  When the kids do something like try to divide and conquer parents, by getting their dad to feel sorry for them for a limit I set or vice versa, I address it directly.  We dealt with this around pets.  The kids wanted pets, and were making me the bad guy because I did not.  They did a bunch of things to try to get dad to trump me, to make dad see that I was the outsider, that they wanted daddy to be in charge not me, and so forth.  

I said, "In this house, we all get a vote.  Everyone in this family, even SD7, has to agree before we get a pet.  If you want to influence me, complaining to daddy is not going to work.  You might get daddy to agree that way, and that is between you and your dad, but you will not get me to agree that way, ever, and I also get a vote.  So you might want to start thinking about what will influence me.  I may still not want a pet, but I definitely will not want a pet if you are trying to get daddy to be on your side and not on mine."

SD11 saw the light.  The next day, she called a family meeting and she made an agenda. She also initiated a conversation with me:  "So, what kind of pets might you be open to?  What things would I need to do to be able to have a pet?"  Within a week, she got a hamster with her own allowance.  Not because I gave in, but because she really did address all of my concerns, with real regard for my needs.  In the end, it came down to her checklist, which had a box next to each of our names.  At the top was the question, "Can I get a hamster?"  Each person checked yes.  Because each person matters.  

This may seem dominating, but it is not from my view.  I will not be the person who does not count in my home.  I do count.  I will figure out ways of addressing my needs that do not make me win over another person, but that involve creative ways to emphasize and empower that all of us matter.  Because I am scrupulous about treating each child like they matter, too, then they have started to believe in these ethics.  So they can hate me all they want, but they cannot override me.  Eventually,  they seem to come around to realizing hating me does not work with me.  Negotiating works with me.  This is an important principle for me in every interaction from the very beginning: whining, yelling, etc., never works with me.  So if they want my help, they need to try another way.  I also hold myself to this: when I yell at them, I say, "I notice that when I yelled at you, it really hurt your feelings, which is not what I wanted.  I really love you, and am sorry I yelled.  What I wanted was for you to pick up your clothes.  Can you help me figure out a better way to get you to do that so that I do not have to do it for you?"  

I totally see that dads need to step up and take care of their own needs and create boundaries, or the work of being a step-mom is difficult if not impossible.  But I also think that being committed to having one's own boundaries, regardless of one's role, provides great models for our DHs as well as for the kids.  I do not have to give up my boundaries to help DH have boundaries---DH has learned more from me sticking to my guns than any other thing in the past few years.  The kids, too, have learned to say:  "I do not like that.  That hurts my feelings" or "I feel angry" or "I do not want to give that to you when you ask in such a mean way" rather than "I hate you" or "You are not the boss of me."    Boundaries are something we own, not making someone else do anything.  I think that is actually one of the main reasons my SDs, for all our problems, love me so much even in the hard times:  because I do not relinquish my boundaries with them just because I am not their biological parent, and I respect their boundaries in response.  I feel like there is a huge social pressure, including in most literature about step-parenting, that is encouraging step parents to not have boundaries.  I do not discipline by saying "you are bad," but by saying what I want, and sticking up for it.  

From the option institute, I learned in very practical ways that asking is much more likely to succeed than coercion, contrary to appearances.  I have a hard time remembering that at times, but when I do, I find that asking for my boundaries to be respected almost always works better than ignoring my own boundaries, or that trying to make the kids conform to them.  I also look for what the kids want underneath, and try to help them articulate it.  

At the end of the day, when a kid voluntarily tries being nice to get what they want rather than mean, they just feel better than when they are mean.  Learning and using more loving ways to get what they want helps kids to feel more self-esteem, in my experience.  

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prayingforgrace
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
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« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2011, 09:02:03 PM »

If anyone out there has some specific articles I can use for reference, I will need them for something my attorney has asked me to put together.  Any help is much appreciated on this since I'm on a tight timeline and need more information by Wednesday.

Thank you!
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