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Author Topic: 8.03 | When the children of a BPD parent are at risk  (Read 40353 times)
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« on: July 07, 2009, 09:43:51 AM »

WORKSHOP: When are the children of a BPD parent at risk?  How can you tell?  What can you do?

Introduction

Many parents and grandparents come to bpdfamily.com and are concerned about the interactions between the BPD sufferer in their life (perhaps the children's mother, father, stepfather, or stepmother) and the children. They may feel that something is wrong or they may know the actions are wrong, but they don't know what to do or say or how to intervene.

Many BPD sufferers work very hard at being good parents. However, BPD patterns can lead to problematic parenting in several ways. For instance, a BPD sufferer is prone to black and white thinking and “splitting,” which can lead a parent to see a child as “bad” and thus deserving of punishment. A sufferer’s ways of coping can become a source of neglect (abusive or addictive behaviors distract the parent, leaving the child untended) or abuse (with impulsive behaviors and rages resulting in emotional and physical scars).

If a child is in danger, you must act. In some cases acting will have a profound implication for you, including leaving your marriage or doing something that you know the BPD sufferer—who may be your adult daughter or son, your sister or brother, your spouse—will view as a betrayal. In the case of child abuse and neglect, adults are at times called upon to show extraordinary courage and make the most difficult of decisions.

The purpose of this workshop is to provide such parents, grandparents, and other caring people with the information that they need:  

1) To assess the borderline loved one's interactions with the children

2) To understand what kind of damage such inappropriate or abusive interactions may have on the child's entire life

3) To help that person know how to handle such a painful and delicate situation.

bpdfamily.com can provide education, support, and tools as you work toward improving the lives of the children you love. Depending on your relationship to the child and the severity of the problem, there is as lot you can do, including:

  • Ensure the child’s physical needs are being met.


  • Take the child out regularly for some “down” time.


  • Reassure the child that the mistreatment is not his/her fault.


  • Teach the child coping mechanisms, like thinking of a happy place or time when things are difficult or to focus on breathing and to count to 10 when angry.


  • Provide counseling for the parent and the child.


  • Talk—and listen—to the child.


  • Validate the child’s feelings and sense of reality. If a BPD parent says the child is “not cold” when the child has said he is freezing, say, “I think he is feeling cold. I’ll get a sweater for him.”


  • Find ways to check regularly on the child’s well being.


  • Reduce the amount of time the child spends alone with the stressed parent. Offer alternatives, such as to babysit or pay for activities.


  • Create small rituals of security and happiness. Go to a park every Saturday. Take the child grocery shopping and let her choose one small treat.


  • Remove the child to safety.


  • Call a child abuse hotline or 911.


  • Call a domestic violence hotline or encourage the other parent to do so.


  • Do not leave the child alone with the BPD parent.


  • If you are not the child’s parent, consistent with your own safety and need for boundaries, stay in the child’s life to the greatest extent possible.


  • If you are the child’s parent and you feel that you must look at all options to protect your child, consult with an experienced family law attorney and a counselor to map out a plan.
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2009, 09:45:03 AM »

    Where to call to get help or report abuse

    If you suspect a child is in immediate danger contact law enforcement as soon as possible.

    To get help in the U.S., call:

    • 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) – Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline


    To get help for child sexual abuse, call:

    • 1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368) – Stop It Now


    • 1-800-656-HOPE Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)


    Child Abuse Hotlines: NSPCC (U.K.)

    • Adults: Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.


    • Children and young people: ChildLine is the free confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK. You can call us on 0800 1111 to talk about any problem.


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    « Reply #2 on: July 09, 2009, 12:06:21 PM »

    Thanks for starting this workshop - it's a very worthwhile topic.

    As we work through this, I would encourage everyone not to get too caught up with the word abuse as it tends to suggest that there is a dividing line above which we have abuse that must be rectified, and below which, we do not.  I suspect that all children with a BPD mothers suffer and its important for us to understand this and to help them.  The question is not about "if" - it's more about "how to assess the problems" and what will best help them.

    In an article on our web site from Columbia University, it is stated that "Children of mothers with BPD show a significantly higher prevalence of ‘disorganized’ attachment than children of mothers without BPD. Disorganized children face stress management problems, frequently engage in externalizing behaviors, and may even face dissociative behaviors later in life. Evidence suggest that, even in middle childhood, children of mothers with BPD may display problems with interpersonal relatedness and affective regulation. Follow-up studies show that disorganized children have more difficulty engaging in ‘democratic’ play with peers at ages six and seven. These children often make executive decisions and are overall more controlling in interactions with both peers and parents. Additionally, disorganized children maintain an inability to appropriately resolve frightening situations in middle childhood years."

    https://bpdfamily.com/tools/articles4.htm

    The children are helpless... .we are the only ones that can help them.  Children often appear resilient to day to day things - and its important not to mistake this as "everything is OK".
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    « Reply #3 on: July 09, 2009, 01:22:15 PM »

    Thanks for adding in that important info, Skip.

    Excerpt
    Children often appear resilient to day to day things - and it's important not to mistake this as "everything is OK".

    On a personal note, as I've been thinking about this workshop, one of the many things that struck me, as an adult child of a uBPD mother, is how resilient I probably appeared to outsiders. Like many children of BPD sufferers, I was the classic "good" child. Did well at school. Stayed out of trouble. Acted like a 45 year old social worker when I was 11. Seeing a child taking care of a parent--not just a hug from time to time, but consistent caretaking--should be a real red flag that things are very backwards in the household.

    B&W

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    « Reply #4 on: July 09, 2009, 02:59:29 PM »



    In an article on our web site from Columbia University, it is stated that "Children of mothers with BPD show a significantly higher prevalence of ‘disorganized’ attachment than children of mothers without BPD. Disorganized children face stress management problems, frequently engage in externalizing behaviors, and may even face dissociative behaviors later in life. Evidence suggest that, even in middle childhood, children of mothers with BPD may display problems with interpersonal relatedness and affective regulation. Follow-up studies show that disorganized children have more difficulty engaging in ‘democratic’ play with peers at ages six and seven. These children often make executive decisions and are overall more controlling in interactions with both peers and parents. Additionally, disorganized children maintain an inability to appropriately resolve frightening situations in middle childhood years."

    https://bpdfamily.com/tools/articles4.htm

    I'd like to suggest that this article could/should say "children of mothers or fathers with BPD... ."

    In our household it's the father with the BPD issues - and the kids display all the above mentioned negative behaviors.

    MANY THANKS for this topic and for the helpful information provided here!

    PictureLady
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    « Reply #5 on: July 09, 2009, 03:09:00 PM »

    Excerpt
    Like many children of BPD sufferers, I was the classic "good" child. Did well at school. Stayed out of trouble. Acted like a 45 year old social worker when I was 11. Seeing a child taking care of a parent--not just a hug from time to time, but consistent caretaking--should be a real red flag that things are very backwards in the household.



    Thanks for this personal statement, Black&White.  Here's a statement about that similar thing from the

    Workshop on Problematic Parenting, which is a companion Workshop to this one:

    Excerpt
    Children who are the victims of emotionally incestuous or parentifying behavior often are very "good" children:  They do well, often very well, in school, they are usually respectful, they do what they are told, don't need to be "reminded" of things too often.  Very often the parents brag about how responsible or mature these children are. 

    Many times these kids are too pale and don't laugh, smile, or play as easily as other kids the same age.  There is usually guilt or manipulation involved here... .  the child is subtly or overtly asked to show how much he loves Mommy or Daddy (whichever is the BPD/NPD parent).  And maintaining a good relationship with someone who isn't BPDMommy is often seen as a betrayal, producing great guilt in the child.

    Ultimately, these kids can rebel during adolescence or even after they leave the house.  They may choose "bad" partners or friends.  Or they can move through life being fearful and cheerless... .and choose demanding spouses.

    https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=65426.0;all

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    « Reply #6 on: July 09, 2009, 04:18:07 PM »

    So often the case, children do not have the courage or opportunity to talk to someone about mental illness issues in the family.  For the non parent, it is so important that the illness is openly dealt with within the family structure because children often do blame themselves for their parents' psychological issues.  This blaming leads to symptoms of caretaking, ultra-responsible traits, withdrawing, guilt and embarrassment, acting out, risks of developing psychiatric illness themselves, suppressing their own needs and giving way to the disordered parents needs, etc.

    The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry suggests these protective factors that can decrease the risk to children:

    -Knowledge that their parent(s) is ill and that they are not to blame

    -Help and support from family members

    -A stable home environment

    -Psychotherapy for the child and the parent(s)

    -A sense of being loved by the ill parent

    -A naturally stable personality in the child

    -Positive self esteem

    -Inner strength and good coping skills in the child

    -A strong relationship with a healthy adult

    -Friendships, positive peer relationships

    -Interest in and success at school

    -Healthy interests outside the home for the child

    -Help from outside the family to improve the family environment (for example, marital psychotherapy or parenting classes)
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    « Reply #7 on: July 09, 2009, 04:48:56 PM »

    Excerpt
    So often the case, children do not have the courage or opportunity to talk to someone about mental illness issues in the family.



    Oneflewover's point is very important. Often children have no ability to speak out for themselves or even an understanding of what is wrong. A common statement of adult children of BPD sufferers is "I don't know what normal is." Without reference, children accept their reality as is and adapt as best they can. As adults who care for them, we often have to rely on observation to assess the level of risk and stress children are facing.

    Are the children at risk?

    No parent is perfect, but if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is worth looking into. Or you may observe behavior that troubles you, but you’re not sure how serious it is. Some examples of behavior that put children at risk both physically and emotionally:

    •   Leaving young children unable to care for themselves alone, or effectively alone (through excessive sleeping, drug or alcohol abuse, or other distracting addictive behaviors like spending a great deal of time online, texting, or gambling).

    •   Leaving older children unsupervised for stretches of time beyond their age and development level. For example, a mature 10-year-old can probably spend some unsupervised time alone but should not spend an entire day alone or have the sole care of younger children.

    •   Physical abuse—beating, punching, kicking, pinching, slapping, hair pulling, burning, etc.

    •   Locking a child in a room or other space. Locking a child out of the house.

    •   Singling out one child as “bad” or for particular punishments.

    •   Expecting children to care for parents instead of the other way around.

    •   Threatening or injuring a child’s pet.

    •   Abusing one child in front of another.

    •   Not supplying adequate food, clothing, shelter, rest, or schooling. For example, a parent who is very depressed may not prepare regular meals. Children are sometimes told to stay home from school to care for a parent or to clean the house to help the parent out.

    •   Failing to provide medical care. This might be brushing off an injury or ignoring a fever or signs of a chronic illness.

    •   Failing to provide a safe home environment. Exposing a child to risks, such as risk of fire (smoking while intoxicated) or sexual abuse (bringing home strangers for risky sexual encounters).

    •   Inconsistent parenting, sometimes being very loving and taking care of a child’s needs, other times ignoring or punishing, switching for no apparent reason.

    •   Excessive chores. Providing a sense of responsibility through age appropriate chores is good parenting, but if the child is required to do chores for long periods of time or beyond his or her capability, that is too much.

    •   Punishing a child by destroying or giving away his or her possessions.

    •   Invasions of privacy (not caretaking), such as taking the bathroom door of the hinges so the child cannot have privacy while bathing or using the toilet.

    •   Sexual abuse.

    •   Relentless criticism, including telling a child he or she is “evil,” “bad,” “just like [someone the parent hates],” “worthless,” and so on.

    U.S. federal definitions of child abuse and neglect: https://www.childwelfare.gov/can/defining/federal.cfm
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    « Reply #8 on: July 09, 2009, 09:56:43 PM »

    So often the case, children do not have the courage or opportunity to talk to someone about mental illness issues in the family.  For the non parent, it is so important that the illness is openly dealt with within the family structure because children often do blame themselves for their parents' psychological issues. 

    This is so good, oneflewover. 

    I wonder how many people, like myself, didn't realize that mental illness was the issue going on in my family.  And when I finally did (after many years!) the damage was done.  All along I did search relentlessly for help and answers.  I sought help and support from the mental health community, my church, family, etc., but I think that many of us end up fighting this battle very much alone.  Especially with the higher functioning BPD's, where everyone else doesn't see what we see. 

    Even now, my extended family is reluctant to refer to this stuff as mental illness... .it can be a lonely road.  That's why this site has meant so much to me - and many others.  Thanks once again.

    PictureLady

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    « Reply #9 on: July 10, 2009, 11:03:54 AM »

    picturelady and oneflewover,

    That sense of being alone and perhaps "crazy" is one that I think almost everyone in this situation shares.

    The BPD sufferer has those feelings as part of the illness.

    The non spouse may feel completely alone, witnessing behaviors within the family that nobody else sees and also sometimes losing a sense of how damaging that behavior can be.

    In the absence of specific guidance and reinforcement away from this way of thinking, the child of a BPD parent almost always assumes responsibility he or she should not, and feels guilty and "bad." ("Mommy/Daddy gets so mad at me. I must be bad." "It's my job to take care of Mommy/Daddy and she/he is unhappy. It's my fault." Later, the child sees examples outside the home where people behave very differently, but by then has absorbed the guilt and the "badness.":

    "Parents are supposed to take care of children, yet I'm taking care of my parent. Wait, I must be bad to think that. Yet my mother/father says I'm selfish and a bad child... .I must be crazy." And the guilt is terrible. The guilt about things you did not do and feeling of "badness" that you did not earn, along with the message that you are responsible for your parent, isolate you and keep you silent.

    Thank you, oneflewover, for posting the information about resilience. These two factors were especially important for me:

    Excerpt
    -Interest in and success at school

    -Healthy interests outside the home for the child



    School was a haven. I understood the rules, there was consistency, and I could succeed. I also began working very young, before it was even legal for me to get a work permit, because my mother refused to buy clothes or school necessities. Though the work was driven by necessity, it was also very helpful. It was another place where I could predict how people would act, cause and effect were connected, and I could succeed. It also took me out of the house.

    Thanks to all who have participated so far in this workshop!

    B&W
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    « Reply #10 on: July 10, 2009, 03:29:07 PM »

    How can you if a child is being abused or neglected?

    Abuse and neglect are sometimes obvious, other times subtle. On the obvious end of the scale, you might witness or learn about a parent beating a child, locking a child in a room or out of the house, leaving a young child alone, not allowing a child to eat or sleep, or failing to pick up a child after an activity and leaving him/her to fend for him/herself. Less obvious examples of abuse and neglect include criticism of everything the child does or brushing off a child’s need for weather-appropriate clothing and abusive behavior that is under the cover of normal behavior, such as excessive chores or very rough hair brushing.

    Certain behavior patterns in parent and child suggest the possibility of abuse or neglect. For example, a child who is very withdrawn and watchful, comes to school dirty, and begs for food is showing signs of difficulties at home. A parent who describes a child as “evil” or a “burden” is also signaling a problem.

    Articles and an excerpt on signs of child abuse and neglect:

    •   www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factshts/signs.cfm

    •   www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm. An excerpt from this helpguide follows:

    Excerpt
    Physical child abuse: Warning signs and how to help

    Many physically abusive parents and caregivers insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline, ways to make children learn to behave. But there’s a big difference between giving an unmanageable child a swat on the backside and twisting the child’s arm until it breaks. Physical abuse can include striking a child with the hand, fist, or foot or with an object, burning, shaking, pushing, or throwing a child; pinching or biting the child, pulling a child by the hair or cutting off a child’s air. Another form of child abuse involving babies is shaken baby syndrome, in which a frustrated caregiver shakes a baby roughly to make the baby stop crying, causing brain damage that often leads to severe neurological problems and even death.

    Warning signs of physical abuse

    Physical signs. Sometimes physical abuse has clear warning signs, such as unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts. While all children will take a tumble now and then, look for age-inappropriate injuries, injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt, or a pattern of severe injuries.

    Behavioral signs. Other times, signs of physical abuse may be more subtle. The child may be fearful, shy away from touch or appear to be afraid to go home. A child’s clothing may be inappropriate for the weather, such as heavy, long sleeved pants and shirts on hot days.

    Caregiver signs. Physically abusive caregivers may display anger management issues and excessive need for control. Their explanation of the injury might not ring true, or may be different from an older child’s description of the injury.

    Is physical punishment the same as physical abuse?

    Physical punishment, the use of physical force with the intent of inflicting bodily pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control, used to be a very common form of discipline. Most of us know it as spanking or paddling. Many of us may feel we were spanked as children without damage to body or psyche. The widespread use of physical punishment, however, doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. The level of force used by an angry or frustrated parent can easily get out of hand and lead to injury. Even if it doesn’t, what a child learns from being hit as punishment is less about why conduct is right or wrong than about behaving well — or hiding bad behavior — out of fear of being hit.

    Emotional child abuse

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. This old saying could not be farther from the truth. Emotional child abuse may seem invisible. However, because emotional child abuse involves behavior that interferes with a child’s mental health or social development, the effects can be extremely damaging and may even leave deeper lifelong psychological scars than physical abuse.

    Emotional child abuse takes many forms, in words and in actions.

    Words. Examples of how words can hurt include constant belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child, calling names and making negative comparisons to others, or constantly telling a child he or she is “no good," "worthless," "bad," or "a mistake." How the words are spoken can be terrifying to a child as well, such as yelling, threatening, or bullying.

    Actions. Basic food and shelter may be provided, but withholding love and affection can have devastating effects on a child. Examples include ignoring or rejecting a child, giving him or her the silent treatment. Another strong component of emotional abuse is exposing the child to inappropriate situations or behavior. Especially damaging is witnessing acts that cause a feeling of helplessness and horror, such as in domestic violence or watching another sibling or pet be abused.

    Signs of emotional child abuse

    Behavioral signs. Since emotional child abuse does not leave concrete marks, the effects may be harder to detect. Is the child excessively shy, fearful or afraid of doing something wrong? Behavioral extremes may also be a clue. A child may be constantly trying to parent other children for example, or on the opposite side exhibit antisocial behavior such as uncontrolled aggression. Look for inappropriate age behaviors as well, such as an older child exhibiting behaviors more commonly found in younger children.

    Caregiver signs. Does a caregiver seem unusually harsh and critical of a child, belittling and shaming him or her in front of others? Has the caregiver shown anger or issues with control in other areas? A caregiver may also seem strangely unconcerned with a child’s welfare or performance. Keep in mind that there might not be immediate caregiver signs. Tragically, many emotionally abusive caregivers can present a kind outside face to the world, making the abuse of the child all the more confusing and scary.

    Sexual child abuse

    Sexual abuse, defined as any sexual act between an adult and a child, has components of both physical and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse can be physical, such as inappropriate fondling, touching and actual sexual penetration. It can also be emotionally abusive, as in cases where a child is forced to undress or exposing a child to adult sexuality. Aside from the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, the emotional component is powerful and far reaching. The layer of shame that accompanies sexual abuse makes the behavior doubly traumatizing. While news stories of sexual predators are scary, what is even more frightening is that the adult who sexually abuses a child or adolescent is usually someone the child knows and is supposed to trust: a relative, childcare provider, family friend, neighbor, teacher, coach, or clergy member. Children may worry that others won’t believe them and will be angry with them if they tell. They may believe that the abuse is their fault, and the shame is devastating and can cause lifelong effects.

    Signs of sexual child abuse

    •   Behavioral signs. Does the child display knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior? A child might appear to avoid another person, or display unusual behavior- either being very aggressive or very passive. Older children might resort to destructive behaviors to take away the pain, such as alcohol or drug abuse, self-mutilation, or suicide attempts.

    •   Physical signs. A child may have trouble sitting or standing, or have stained, bloody or torn underclothes. Swelling, bruises, or bleeding in the genital area is a red flag. An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14, is a strong cause of concern.

    •   Caregiver signs. The caregiver may seem to be unusually controlling and protective of the child, limiting contact with other children and adults. Again, as with other types of abuse, sometimes the caregiver does not give outward signs of concern. This does not mean the child is lying or exaggerating.

    Child neglect

    Child neglect is the most frequent form of child abuse. Neglect is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs, endangering a child’s physical and psychological well-being. Child neglect is not always deliberate. Sometimes, a caregiver becomes physically or mentally unable to care for a child, such as in untreated depression or anxiety. Other times, alcohol or drug abuse may seriously impair judgment and the ability to keep a child safe. The end result, however, is a child who is not getting their physical and/or emotional needs met.

    Warning signs of child neglect

    •   Physical signs. A child may consistently be dressed inappropriately for the weather, or have ill-fitting, dirty clothes and shoes. They might appear to have consistently bad hygiene, like appearing very dirty, matted and unwashed hair, or noticeable body odor. Another warning sign is untreated illnesses and physical injuries.

    •   Behavioral signs. Does the child seem to be unsupervised? Schoolchildren may be frequently late or tardy. The child might show troublesome, disruptive behavior or be withdrawn and passive.

    •   Caregiver signs. Does the caregiver have problems with drugs or alcohol? While most of us have a little clutter in the home, is the caregiver’s home filthy and unsanitary? Is there adequate food in the house? A caregiver might also show reckless disregard for the child’s safety, letting older children play unsupervised or leaving a baby unattended. A caregiver might refuse or delay necessary health care for the child.

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    « Reply #11 on: July 10, 2009, 04:25:55 PM »

    Thank you for this topic. My dBPD mom is living with my young cousins and taking over the mother role. I am very concerned for them. I have already caught them lying so they wouldn't feel her wrathe. I try to spend some one on one time with them when I visit to make sure everything is ok, give them a sounding board.

    In an article on our web site from Columbia University, it is stated that "Children of mothers with BPD show a significantly higher prevalence of ‘disorganized’ attachment than children of mothers without BPD. Disorganized children face stress management problems, frequently engage in externalizing behaviors, and may even face dissociative behaviors later in life. Evidence suggest that, even in middle childhood, children of mothers with BPD may display problems with interpersonal relatedness and affective regulation. Follow-up studies show that disorganized children have more difficulty engaging in ‘democratic’ play with peers at ages six and seven. These children often make executive decisions and are overall more controlling in interactions with both peers and parents. Additionally, disorganized children maintain an inability to appropriately resolve frightening situations in middle childhood years."

    https://bpdfamily.com/tools/articles4.htm


    Reading this above brought a flashback. In junior high i asked to see my student file. I read all the concerns my teachers had for me, and there were many. I was too good. I didn't play well. I didn't resolve issues well. But I was an excellent student, promoted early twice, gifted and talented.  I just realized my mother told me I could look in my file. She knew I would find all this "criticisms", it would further drive home the point that something is wrong with me. This quote really hit home.

    As a teacher, I will expand my knowledge to include the parent factor. Thank you for helping me become a better teacher.

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    Channeling Lorelai...


    « Reply #12 on: July 11, 2009, 06:30:03 AM »

    My son had heard lots of verbal abuse and on a couple of occasions witnessed physical abuse, so he already was in danger just from the problems between his parents.

    My ex was a very loving father - he would play with our son all the time, and dote on him as a baby.  As my son got to be about 4 or 5, though, I started to see competitiveness and criticism starting up.   Luckily, I was the primary target, so my son didn't get a lot of that.

    My son, being who he is, tried to become my caregiver, though I knew that wasn't good for him.  My ex, seeing this, tried to "enlist" my son in abuse, by making derogatory comments about me directly to the little boy.  My little one questioned these things, and even called him a "bully" once when the ex was raging at me.  The BP ex responded by physically attacking him.  Prior to that, he had only been mildly physical toward him (discipline), and it was literally only a few times.

    Interestingly, Ex had mostly encouraged him to do whatever he wanted (I was the "bad guy" who disciplined).  The ex would often say things  and do things that would try to cultivate a sense of entitlement in the boy, too.  Ex didn't recognize other people's boundaries, and he encouraged my son not to as well.

    My decision was to get my son out of the house as much as possible while we were still living together, and to speak up in front of my son when he was being criticized, and to teach my son those boundaries when the Ex wasn't around.    Eventually I had to leave and get a divorce.

    The father who doted on that little baby has since chosen not to have visitation or contact for the last 2 years.  I think BP's tend to look at their children as extensions of themselves.  When my ex couldn't have control, he lost interest.   Our son probably became an extension of me, in his eyes.

    We happened upon my ex once, walking around town.  Ex hadn't seen or spoken to our son in a year.   Ex tried to approach, but I have an RO and I flashed him my cell phone as a warning.  Not a word was spoken.  But he kept staring at me.  He didn't even look at our son, and my son noticed it too  :'(

    I guess the point to this ramble is that at the root of it, it's important that concerned adults help those children learn that they are their own people.  It's important not to let the BP "own" them, either through direct abuse or doting/enlistment.  If that sounds muddled, it's because I still haven't truly figured it out myself  ?

    Thank you for this topic, blackandwhite.  I hope it helps people cope with this very difficult situation.  I don't think I've ever actually thought/shared this much about my son's experience with his dad.

     

     Mousse
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    « Reply #13 on: July 12, 2009, 08:37:53 AM »

    Demeter,

    Thank you for your concern and care of your cousins and of your students. They're lucky to have you in their lives.

    If you return to this workshop and wanted to comment more on how to cope with the situation of children of BPD sufferers as a teacher (or coach, clergy person, etc.), that would be a very helpful perspective, especially given your personal experience as well.

    Same for others who encounter these children in professional capacities. What do you see? What are options for helping?

    xoxox

    B&W

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    « Reply #14 on: July 12, 2009, 09:19:52 AM »

    My decision was to get my son out of the house as much as possible while we were still living together, and to speak up in front of my son when he was being criticized, and to teach my son those boundaries when the Ex wasn't around.    Eventually I had to leave and get a divorce.

    The father who doted on that little baby has since chosen not to have visitation or contact for the last 2 years.  I think BP's tend to look at their children as extensions of themselves.  When my ex couldn't have control, he lost interest.   Our son probably became an extension of me, in his eyes.

    Mousse,

    It's really helpful that you shared this story--thank you. This workshop relates to situations we all wish didn't exist, and it's often easier not to talk about. As nons, however, I think it's our responsibility to avoid denial and bring these difficult situations to light. Others can learn and take courage from your actions and decisions.

    I guess the point to this ramble is that at the root of it, it's important that concerned adults help those children learn that they are their own people.  It's important not to let the BP "own" them, either through direct abuse or doting/enlistment. 

    The quote above really struck home for me in a personal way as well. I have had to learn to deal with a lot of guilt about the role my uBPD mother played in my daughter's life. Like your exBPDH, my uBPD mother also doted on my baby when she was born. She was very gentle with her and was terribly excited about her grandmother role.

    I ignored, denied, and minimized signs of concern because I wanted her to "have that experience" and "maybe it will make her feel better" to have a baby to love. Whenever she talked about the baby, it was in terms of a fantasy of how the baby would change my mother's life. For instance, she wanted to take the baby out around the neighborhood and show her off. There's nothing unusual about a grandmother wanting to show off a new baby, but I came to realize that sort of vision--how my daughter was going to meet her needs for attention, a sense of purpose, a role, being needed--was her entire conception of this child's life.

    It took me a long time, because I didn't want to see it (some denial with a side of self-delusion, anyone?) but it finally sunk in: She was unable to conceive of the idea that my daughter existed when she was not with uBPD grandmother. She called her "my baby" and would give her toys and other presents only to stay at uBPD grandmother's house, where she didn't spend that much time. Because the toys weren't for my DD; they were for uBPD grandmother.

    However, I continued to minimize this. My mother seemed happy, directed, energized for a while after my DD was born. That was such a relief, because I'd been extremely worried about how I would take care of them both and knew I'd have to not care for my mother for the first time in my life, because the baby's needs would come first.

    When my daughter reached certain developmental stages and obviously preferred her parents to others, my mother became pouty and angry. She was very critical of my parenting, especially of limits I put in place, and I would doubt myself. As my daughter grew verbal, she too began to enlist my daughter to join her in criticizing me, only in subtle ways. She also became very depressed, moody, and ever more inconsistent, fine one minute and white hot with silent rage the next to screaming at the dog to offering cookies. When angry at me, she would tell me and my daughter pointedly about OTHER children (the child of a neighbor, for example) who loved being with her and how much she enjoyed that child; she would take away gifts she'd given to my daughter because "other children need them more."

    I began to do more of the classic walking on eggshells.

    With my mother, my daughter saw a mommy she never encountered anywhere else. A tense, false, easily startled, fearful, placating, hovering (around my daughter in case I needed to whisk her away) person as a opposed to a strong, straightforward, competent, funny, at ease, and loving person I usually am.

    Like you, Mousse, I realized this could not go on. I began to put in place boundaries that eventually led to NC with my mother.

    I don't want to minimize. I had been highly enmeshed and had never stood up to her like that before. I learned as a tiny child to put her needs first and to prize her happiness and emotional well being above anything else, certainly above my own. Like many who have relationships with BPD sufferers, I had a strong "trauma bond" with my mother. (More on that later in this workshop.) I remember standing in my kitchen making dinner, just an ordinary family moment, and realizing that I was going to have to do something so beyond the bounds of my previous shows of courage that I wasn't sure where the strength was coming from. I was going to have to set my mother back on her heels and tell her NO. You cannot consume--in the terms Mousse used, "own"--this wonderful child.

    And I did, with predictable consequence of rage. My daughter has some questions about her grandmother, and we'll continue to talk about that as she grows. It's incredibly sad that a woman so in need of love and a child so full of love couldn't continue to have a relationship. But the cost was too high for my daughter, and as a parent, I had to protect her.

    B&W
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    « Reply #15 on: July 12, 2009, 01:38:50 PM »

    blackandwhite, many, many thanks for your insights here.  I can't imagine what it is like for a child growing up in this situaion.  You have obviously done a tremendous amount of work on your own healing.

    The snapshots you offer as one who has grown up with disordered parents are quite helpful for me - they affirm many of the reasons I've separated from my uBPDh.  And as you well know, the process of detaching is amazingly confusing, full of FOG.  THANK YOU for insights which help me stay the course I've chosen!

    xoxox

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    « Reply #16 on: July 13, 2009, 08:51:08 AM »

    Picturelady,

    I'm so glad this workshop is helpful. All the suffering--at least we can try to prevent more of it in future.  xoxo

    Thank you for all your great input.

    B&W
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    « Reply #17 on: July 13, 2009, 09:03:24 AM »

    What can I do if I suspect or witness child abuse or neglect?

    It can be difficult to take the step of stopping or reporting abuse or neglect. We tend to feel the relationship between a child and a parent is private and not to be interfered with—even when we are the other parent or a close relative. We may fear the consequences of taking steps, including the anger of the parent directed at the children or ourselves. We don’t want to make false accusations. We don’t always trust authorities to help. We feel the parent is mentally ill and can't help him or herself.

    But improving the lives of children is worth it and it is our duty, and in some cases the law, that we protect children in our care and report abuse if we witness it. Many individuals with mental illness are very loving and devoted parents. However, having a mentally ill parent is in itself a stressor for children. Consider that—

    •   Rates of child psychiatric diagnosis among offspring [of parents those with mental illness] range from 30% to 50%, compared with an estimated rate of 20% among the general child population. (Source: Critical Issues for Parents with Mental Illness and Their Families 2001 J Nicholson, K Biebel, B Hinden, A Henry, L Stier; www.mentalhealth.org)

    •   Children may show developmental delays, lower academic competence, and difficulty with social relationships. (Source: Critical Issues for Parents with Mental Illness and Their Families 2001 J Nicholson, K Biebel, B Hinden, A Henry, L Stier; www.mentalhealth.org)

    •   The list of negative consequences of having a parent with mental illness, culled from the retrospective reports of adult children is lengthy and includes: anger, isolation, shame, fear, sadness, chaos, grief, neglect, feelings of helplessness, frustration, and confusion, identity problems, poor self-esteem, and trust and intimacy difficulties (Marsh, Appleby, Dickens, Owens & Young, 1993). (Source: The Experiences of Parents with Mental Illness. SAMHSA. www.enotalone.com/article/9139.html)

    •   Many of the adult children of BPD sufferers who post on bpdfamily.com report far-reaching mental and physical effects including PTSD, addictions, eating disorders, and panic attacks.

    Add in abuse and neglect, which can occur in any family but are particular risks for those in families with a BPD sufferer, and these children face tremendous challenges well into adulthood.

    Depending on your relationship to the child and the severity of the problem, there is as lot you can do, including the ideas in the introductory section of this workshop. Put the child's welfare first. Seek advice and help from supportive and knowledgeable sources. Speak out despite the fear, misgivings, and uncertainty. bpdfamily.com is here to support you.

    More guidance on what you can do, from www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm

    Excerpt
    You can make a difference

    One of the most painful effects of child abuse is its tendency to repeat itself. One of every three abused or neglected children will grow up to become an abusive parent. You may be reluctant to interfere in someone’s family [or change the dynamics in your own], but you can make a huge difference in a child’s life if you do. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle.

    What to do if a child reports abuse

    You may feel overwhelmed and confused if a child begins talking to you about abuse. It is a difficult subject and hard to accept, and you might not know what to say. The best help you can provide is calm, unconditional support and reassurance. Let your actions speak for you if you are having trouble finding the words. Remember that it is a tremendous act of courage for children to come forward about abuse. They might have been told specifically not to tell, and may even feel that the abuse is normal. They might feel they are to blame for the abuse. The child is looking to you to provide support and help—don’t let him or her down.

    Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.

    Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

    Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.

    Reporting child abuse and neglect

    Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives. However, by reporting, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child and the child’s family, especially if you help stop the abuse early. Early identification and treatment can help mitigate the long-term effects of abuse. If the abuse is stopped and the child receives competent treatment, the abused child can begin to regain a sense of self-confidence and trust. Some parents may also benefit from support, parent training and anger management.

    Reporting child abuse: Myths and Facts

    •   I don’t want to interfere in some one else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.

    •   What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home - unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.

    •   They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.

    •   It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.



    See prevention tips and more at www.preventchildabuse.org/publications/parents/index.shtml
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    « Reply #18 on: July 13, 2009, 10:28:37 PM »

    It seems that as long as erratic/ abusive behavior is immenent, the children are continuously at risk. The emotional dysfunction that develops in children of BPDs--especially if that parent is a single parent-- seems a product of the inconsistency of parenting: the periods of normalcy countered by periods of rage/ neglect/ abuse, etc. It is the same emotional upheaval experienced in a warzone: violent unpredictability countered by periods of calm that foster a false sense of security and stability. Just as soldiers in Baghdad are under continuous exposure to trauma and the threat thereof, so are the children of the BPD parent at continuous risk, whether emotionally or physically, and this risk plays out in their development.
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    « Reply #19 on: July 14, 2009, 04:20:44 PM »

    It seems that as long as erratic/ abusive behavior is imminent, the children are continuously at risk. The emotional dysfunction that develops in children of BPDs--especially if that parent is a single parent-- seems a product of the inconsistency of parenting: the periods of normalcy countered by periods of rage/ neglect/ abuse, etc. It is the same emotional upheaval experienced in a warzone: violent unpredictability countered by periods of calm that foster a false sense of security and stability. Just as soldiers in Baghdad are under continuous exposure to trauma and the threat thereof, so are the children of the BPD parent at continuous risk, whether emotionally or physically, and this risk plays out in their development.

    Jos,

    You're making an excellent point. The inconsistency of BPD parenting (for those not working on recovery) has very unfortunate predictable effects. When I was putting this workshop together, my friend oneflewover pointed me in the direction of this hard to read but important quote on the nature of the "trauma bond" many abused children form with their abusing parent:

    Excerpt from (PDF): www.centrefortherapy.ca/images/Not%20all%20Parents%20Love%20their%20Children%20-%20Seonida%20Andrews.pdf

    Excerpt
    How children develop traumatic bonds

    Children are born with an instinct to bond to their caretakers. Infants have powerful attachment

    needs. They will bond to abusive people if that is the only choice they have. Abused infants have

    been observed crawling backwards, towards their mother, while crying. It is a serious psychological

    dilemma for babies to have to seek out, to save their lives, the very people who hurt them. Abused

    children learn that the people they are attached to will hurt them. It often feels like they have to pay

    for attention, or any care including food, with abuse. Their identity becomes based on the idea that

    they don’t deserve to be taken care of, that they are not “good enough” to be loved for just who they

    are. This sets children up for a great deal of psychological grief as they grow up and provides the

    basic foundation for very low self-esteem. It can even become expressed as self-hatred that comes

    from the idea, “I was born so awful that I deserve to be treated this badly”.

    This distortion of an infant’s natural attachment needs can lead to traumatic bonding. Many forms

    of child abuse threaten the child’s life, or seem to... .Sufficiently tormented and confused,

    children learn to be grateful to, and even convince themselves they love their abuser, in an attempt

    to be tortured less often.

    ... .Children who are raised as captives of their abusive families, are developing these traumatic bonds

    that are motivating them to have positive feelings about their captors. This can also be part of a

    survival instinct to make the captors feel more positively towards the captives and thus to minimize

    the harm done to them. Abused children may try to get the abusers to like them more in the hopes

    that they will abuse them less, or at least let them live. Sometimes the children may focus on the

    least abusive person to try to get that person to like them enough to rescue them. Sometimes they

    may focus on bonding with the most powerful abuser, to get them to care enough to stop hurting

    them. The children will often convince themselves that they like, or love their abusers. These

    children can also hate the same abusers at the same time. The survivors are torn between confusing,

    conflicting emotions of love and hate. Numbing out their emotions may be the only choice they

    have to get some sense of control.

    The above quote relates to extreme forms of abuse, but one thing I'd like to point out is that you don't have to have extreme conditions of cults or ritual abuse to create this dynamic. Plain old standard BPD parenting is likely to form trauma bonds. I don't think this is necessarily done in a purposeful way. The BPD parent's illness causes him or her to be very inconsistent, sometimes loving (if not to that child then perhaps to a "split good" sibling) and sometimes punishing, withholding, rejecting, or indifferent for reasons that the child can make no sense of. The BPD parent can make no sense of it either, for the most part. The only reason a child can identify is that it must be ME (the child). I must be bad (or sometimes, good). The child will often stick close, cling even, and try to be "good," learning to live by the principles of the parent's emotional and physical needs, not the child's.

    The "warzone" metaphor you use is apt. Though the official diagnosis of PTSD relates to a particular life-threatening incident, many children of BPD parents (and other abused and neglected children) experience PTSD symptoms just as many soldiers do. Because as a child you are so helpless and vulnerable, your survival is always at stake.

    There's a very helpful related workshop on traumatic bonding (adults and children) and the Stockholm Syndrome: https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=63989.0.

    B&W
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    « Reply #20 on: July 16, 2009, 12:18:59 AM »

    I'm posting an exchange between problemfamily, stepmom to two children who have a BPD mother, and me about her family's situation. She kindly gave me permission to include the exchange here, which I wanted to do as it sheds light on some of the opportunities and challenges adult nons face in trying to help children they love.

    Problemfamily:

    Excerpt
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It seems I can't post directly to your workshop, but I wondered if you would mind addressing the more subtle hurts/abuses that a BPD parent can inflict that fall under the radar of the warning signs listed above.

    My skids mother exhibits BPD behaviors and the children have noticed her angry outbursts, lack of attention, emotional distance, etc, but she hasn't done anything bad enough that a court would take seriously as a reason to remove the children. So what can we do? They are stuck with her 50% of the time on paper - she often farms them out to other people including uBPD/possible NPD g-parents - but what about the kids then?

    I am very interested in concrete ways to shore the kids up during the time they are with us and concrete examples of ways we can help them cope when they aren't with us.

    Thank you,

    pf

    My response:

    Excerpt
    Hi problemfamily,

    I think you'll be able to post to the workshop later, when you have more posts. Thank you for your concern for your stepkids--it makes a huge, huge difference. More than you can imagine.

    How old are the kids? Is there anyway to amend the custody order so that their dad gets "rights of first refusal" if she's not with them during parenting time? I don't know how feasible that is with his work, etc., anyway, but it might be a strategy.

    Document everything, even the things not rising to the level of involving CPS or addressing a change in custody. It may come in handy and at a minimum, it might help the kids later to have a record like that.

    One of the key things you feel as a child of a BPD is that YOU are crazy. The world does not make sense to you and you feel like everything is your fault, because the only way to make sense of it is to assume you are bad. That's why bad things are happening to you. If you can give them a sense of simple reality, it will help a lot. Something really simple like, "Yes, your mother does get really mad sometimes. You're a great kid. If she yells and screams and calls you names, that's not right. It's not your fault. She has trouble with her feelings sometimes. But it's not your fault." Talk to them as directly as you and your DH can. Try not to get put off by any "protect mom" instincts. Those are natural. It can be a challenge, but you can find ways to validate them that aren't denigrating to her in their eyes.

    You can give them little mantras to repeat to themselves, silently. "I'm a good kid. Daddy loves me. Stepmom loves me. I'm a good kid and people love me." Get them one of those bear puzzles (or something similar) with different emotion faces and talk about when we feel different emotions, and that it's okay, and some good ways to handle it when you feel different emotions.

    Try also to get them involved in as many activities that they enjoy as possible. I don't know what her attitude is to you or your DH, but if you can put it in terms that she will appreciate, offer to take them. "Yes, exBPDw, you do deserve a break. Why don't you spend some time at the spa/with your latest boyfriend/etc. and we'll take the kids to pottery class tonight." The more you can build them up with things they can do that are predictable, enjoyable, and perhaps tap their interests and talents, the better.

    Even if you only have the 50% time with them and can't get any more, you can fill that time with a sense of safety, predictability, and consistent affection. Have nice routines, a weekend pancake breakfast or walk to the park. Take them out in nature or other places that are soothing.

    Also, teach them little ways to self-soothe. For example, get a kid's yoga video and do it with them. Help them learn the breathing and a simple guided visualization that can take them to a happy place. Encourage them to breathe and go to the happy place if they're scared or feel really mad and can't express it. If they like to read, do puzzles, draw, or any other quiet activities, suggest they do that when things get to be too much. Have them write out their feelings (if they're writing) and keep the writing at your house, assuring them it's private. Get them to see a child psychologist if possible. Talk to their teachers to get a sense of how they are at school and enlist the teachers to help with encouraging them.

    Tell them that it's not a child's job to make a parent happy, to care for a parent, to make sure a parent is okay. It's a parent's job to take care of a child. You can look for this theme in books and movies. There's a book specifically for kids of BPDs, which might be helpful, An Umbrella for Alex. Here's a link to reviews: https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=56239.0.

    Give them a sense of the future. Talk explicitly about it. "When you're grown up and going to college and having great adventures as a young adult." Give them a picture of an adult life that isn't about taking care of mom.

    That's a lot and probably some repeat from what's in the workshop. I just brain dumped--hope it's helpful! Let me know if you have anything specific questions. I'll do my best or could even post your question as part of the workshop.



    B&W

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Problemfamily:

    Excerpt
    Thank you so much for replying. I certainly didn't expect such an involved answer!

    To answer some of your questions: SD is 10 and SS is 8. As things stand, because problem mom hasn't made any overtly neglectful or abusive things toward the kids we wouldn't be in a position to get more custody. In our state you have to show a preponderance of evidence or some other wording that if we can't prove she is harming them, then they won't consider a change of custody - the default here seems to be 50/50. Unfortunately he agreed to a screwed up right of refusal agreement which she abuses. He has complained to her about it so many times that she is certain to fight tooth and nail to keep it in the parenting agreement.  On top of that my husband has a very crappy lawyer with not enough funds to hire another. He tries to stay out of court for this reason. I have encouraged him to document, but often we argue about the appropriate time frame for documentation and when/if he should document by emailing her concerns. Often, he blows it off when a timely email would serve as documentation if needed in the future. He is still learning how to have appropriate boundaries with problem mom. At least he no longer goes to the door at exchanges and rarely takes her calls - she has drastically reduced her rages over the last year or so since he has started doing these things.

    It is hard to say just how much of the BPD the kids witness or understand yet. DH and I have made it a priority - me more than him because I notice more - to talk to the kids about things that "don't make sense" or "don't seem to be normal".  When the kids bring up things that their mom gets "mad" about they have stated that they don't "get what the big deal is" and we have begun discussing with them that their mom seems to have some difficulty controlling her anger and knowing what is a big deal and what is a little thing. So far, they seem to be ok in understanding that it isn't their fault that she "gets mad" and we have also explained that no kids are ever in charge of making adults get happy after they are mad, it is the adult's fault if they lose their temper and the adult's job to show kids appropriate behavior.

    I find these topics very interesting and read LOTS about divorce and its effects on children, BPD, anger, negotiation, step-families etc. It helps me to understand some of the feelings the kids may be having. DH is not as invested, but will mostly support the information as I relate it to him.

    Thanks for the ideas of the mantras. Brilliant - SD has been in the habit of being a pleaser and lying for no good reason since I have known her. We have addressed this with her (another big talk last night) and are trying to find ways to help her discover who she really is, as she feels she must play a different role wherever she goes. I think the mantras might help her with this. SS, may not be as receptive, but it's worth remembering for him.

    I'm also so glad that you suggested talking about the future and their adventures as grown ups - we have already begun pointing out to them that once they are grown up they will be able to make all their own choices and do what makes them happy. That they should begin now in listening to what their hearts and guts tell them and not what other people tell them or say they should do (being obedient and respectful to parents, teachers, etc)

    Anyway, thank you again for your thoughts. As the kids are understanding the dynamics of their lives more and more, I get more and more scared for them and what life holds for them. I think we are doing a good job of creating a safe, loving, consistent home. We have responsibilities, accountability and rules that help them feel secure and they seem to enjoy the routine, but still I worry about the subtle ways problem mom can and does undermine their sense of security. sigh.

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    « Reply #21 on: July 19, 2009, 08:55:55 AM »

    blackandwhite, thank you, this entire thread has been so helpful!

    I would be interested in hearing more from your perspective as one who grew up in a BPD home.  I have been married for 24 years to an uBPD; we have 4 children.  I mostly stayed for the kids, and the older ones have not fared well at all - somewhat due to their own hard-wiring issues, but I'm certain that the chaos and unpredictability during their early developmental years contributed greatly to where they're at now.  The information on trauma bonding was very interesting - I have never read about that before.

    I separated a little over 2 months ago, trying to carve our a more consistent, loving, safe home for my remaining kids, ages 16 and 10.  Last night my 10-yr-old daughter asked if we were going to divorce, then she announced, "Well, if you do, I'll commit suicide."  Her behaviors are much like those of my 20-yr-old d who is BPD through and through.  Any additional insights you might share on what it was like growing up would be appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    PictureLady  xoxo
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    « Reply #22 on: September 15, 2009, 02:46:31 PM »

    Hi picturelady,

    Excerpt
    Any additional insights you might share on what it was like growing up would be appreciated.

    I'm so glad the workshop is helpful to you. Here's a very belated reply to your suggestion. Another parent with a BPD spouse asked me on a different thread what was the hardest part about growing up with a BPD parent. I'm pasting my answer, which also gets at some of the insights you asked about. The bolded parts are suggestions to those who love a child who has a BPD parent, especially the co-parent or a step-parent.

    Excerpt
    The hardest things for me, as a child of a BPD sufferer, were:

    The inconsistency of mood, attention, attitude toward me, and ability to parent. Will she be a nice mommy today, this hour, this minute; a withdrawn mommy who is holed up in her bed passed out with depression and pills; an angry mommy; a helpless mommy; an absent mommy; a loving and interested mommy who then gets upset when I'm unsure how to respond to her overtures because I don't trust her; a suicidal mommy; a mommy who loves me; a mommy who hates me? You get the idea. Forming a sense of safety under those conditions is well nigh impossible. You'll want to be a rock of consistency and provide that as much as possible in your living situation, extended family interactions, family rituals, etc.

    The projection and lack of accurate mirroring. A child of a person with BPD is often told he/she is angry, bad, mean, selfish, wonderful, perfect, depressed, etc. with no relation to the CHILD's experience. It's all based on projection of the BPD sufferer's mood or black and white thinking. A child is often told that a parent knows what (bad thing) the child is thinking by the look on the child's face. Children of BPDs school themselves in having stoic expressions that betray nothing and often question their own sanity. Do I really think that? Am I really that way? My parent says so... .Learning your own emotions and generating your own self-esteem is very difficult under those conditions. You will want to be a sensitive mirror to your kids. Give them space to have their own true emotions and identities. Encourage relationships and activities that strengthen their sense of self. Correct misinformation the other parent provides. Let them know the BPD parent is often WRONG.

    The lack of boundaries. A child of a person with BPD is often given no privacy, physical, emotional, or psychological. A parent can insist on knowing everything, take the door off the hinges, read diaries, listen in on phone calls. As children get older and more independent, a parent's abandonment fears are often triggered, and the parent will often try to "claim" or "own" the child. The parent may have a sense of entitlement, eating food from the child's plate, taking the child's things, climbing into the child's bed for comfort for the parent. Creating a sense of self and what it means to have healthy boundaries in a relationship are challenged. Give your children appropriate levels of privacy through house rules that your husband has to follow as well.

    The narcissism. A BPD parent's primary interest is in his/her own feelings. A child's concerns are inevitably way down the list. Put your children's well being first. Let them know there is somebody for whom their interests are paramount. That may mean making hard choices, and this may be hard on your husband. Too often the non-BPD parent "gives up" and sacrifices the children's interests out of exhaustion, loyalty, love, fear, Stockholm Syndrome, etc. in relation the spouse. As they get older, talk to them in age-appropriate ways about issues like how to handle your anger, what it means to be in a reciprocal relationship, what their rights are as people and as family members. Model healthy reciprocal relationships as much as possible.

    The parentification. BPD parents often put their children, from very young ages, in the role of caretaker. This can take the form of taking care of the parent's feelings, reading and soothing the parent's mood, protecting the parent, physically caring for the parent, being what the parent needs the child to be instead of what the child needs to be, and so on. I was my mother's counselor, housekeeper, mood reader, service provider, problem solver, protector, suicide watch, uplifter, and organizer. This started when I was six or so. I felt responsible for her well being, her happiness, and even her life. Let your kids be the kids. You be the parent. Be watchful for parentification and work with [the other parent], kids, counselors, extended family members, etc. to give the kids real childhood experiences and sense of freedom to be themselves and explore without fear and concern for their parent.

    The abuse and neglect. Sadly, both are very common, including physical neglect (lack of food, clothes, sleep, education, routines) and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Be honest with yourself. Denial is your enemy. You need to be an excellent observer and face up to any problematic behaviors. Put a team in place, including a counselor for the kids and extended family, to protect them. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible. Kids are easily manipulated and will protect the abusive parent in many cases.

    B&W
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    « Reply #23 on: September 15, 2009, 04:12:48 PM »

    Blackandwhite, I can't thank you enough for this!  Have you ever considered writing a book from this perspective?  This is incredibly helpful and affirms what I am trying to do now in separating from my h and creating my own loving, stable, predictable home environment.  The things you alluded to in your post are all so familiar to me, even though my uBPDh is very high-functioning and able to "hold it together" at his high-tech job. 

    Recently when my h took the kids on a short trip, I asked him to be sure to get them food at mealtimes.  He acted insulted.  Then on Saturday he took our 16-yr-old to a movie,  they were gone prior to and during supper time, and my son arrived home at 9:30.  When I asked him if he had eaten, he replied, "Oh, no, we never really talked about it."  Last night my h was picking up our 10-yr-old d from a horseback riding lesson, and our d had fallen off a horse and her foot had gotten stepped on (very painful experience!)  He was supposed to get her something to eat since I had a meeting, which he did - but wouldn't allow her to remove her boot b/c "your foot is swollen and you'll never get the boot back on."  No Tylenol, no ice, etc.  Just keep that boot on!  My d told me about the experience this morning, but then added, "It's not like Daddy wasn't taking care of me, though!"

    Wish I would've known all this years ago... .it's too late for my older kids who are out of the house.  They were truly traumatized by all this.  But I'm doing what I can now!  I'm moving forward and I WON"T STOP.  Getting my life back after 24 years - and it feels amazing. 

    Thanks again for digging into your painful past to share these insights.   xoxox  xoxo

    PictureLady

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    « Reply #24 on: September 15, 2009, 04:16:32 PM »

    PS- If you have any other thoughts on this topic, please keep sharing them!  I'll be tuning in!

    Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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    « Reply #25 on: November 23, 2009, 04:53:27 PM »

    Thanks again for this workshop. 

    I wanted to comment on something you said "on a personal note" about how kids of BPD parents often appear "normal."  At my insistence, my partner found a therapist for his two kids, then 4 and 8.  We found someone who took the kids health insurance, had worked with people with BPD, and had worked with "blended families."  After about 6-8 visits, she expressed increasing concern about dynamics and events we and the kids mentioned with their BPD mom, but reported that the kids were "fine" and "normal."   She told BPD mom this, and mom decided therapy was no longer necessary, particularly as the kids were returning from therapy telling her things the therapist was asking about mama's behavior. 

    As their "step-parent" (their dad and I are engaged, but not yet married due to her doing all she can to delay divorce, and have lived together 2 years), I see very clearly ways the kids are developing ways of dealing with conflict and emotions and mom that are very disturbing and clearly not good for them.  Like problemfamily's family, we have 50/50 custody, and it is likely that things that have happened would not result in removing the kids from mom's custody.  Their dad (and I, to some degree) mostly feels that they need their mom and that she does provide some good stuff, and that challenging 50% custody would be very painful for the kids, would be extremely costly, particularly due to the subtlety of some of the problems, and that we might not be successful. 

    It is also challenging, as all families result in some problems, and some of our problems are also great strengths.  That is not to say that one should allow clear abuse, but that a lot of BPD problems are less clear.  My personal feeling is that to the degree that the kids can learn to cope with the kinds of problems they face with mom, in some way they are better off than if she just disappeared (and of course, BPD mom is their mom, and loves them, and has rights, too, so long as she is not abusing the kids).  But the kids can only cope so much. 

    It is difficult that kids appear so normal and want so much to be with mommy, due to parentification and the fact that she is their mommy, and also due to the way she constantly instills fear in them that she will die or leave if they are not totally focused on her.  It is such a powerful reward and punishment system with BPDmom--you get the sweetest, gushiest, baby love from mom if you do what she wants (which, like sugar for kids, seems delicious but is somewhat damaging over time), and if you fail to do what she wants, she threatens to die, leave, cries "you hate me!," sobs, or rages at you.  For hours. And hours. 

    We are constantly weighing whether the current drama is sufficient to require my partner to gain more custody.  Blackandwhite, your comments on my posts have been so useful over the years, but it is still heartwrenching every time.  We want to wait until we move into the house I have been building for 4 years--two weeks to go!  And until we are married--we plan to wed in june, as we have very low cash flow due to costs of finalizing divorce and building.  He would get custody in a minute of something more obvious happened, or if the kids wanted not to be with mama.  On the positive side, BPD mom has not attempted suicide, does not cut or inflict regular pain on herself (she occasionally hits herself hard when mad); she does show love to the kids and attends school events, volunteers in class, brings them to activities, and right now, does live in the house of an older lady who is a really good influence in terms of neatness an structure (we, in the midst of building, are lees neat right now). 

    On the negative side, mama gets upset and rages at other adults in front of the kids on a regular basis.  The adults they have come to love and trust whom their mom brings into the home become "evil" in their mom's eyes, and the kids are never allowed to see them again.  Mama pinches the kids when she is really angry, and washes SD5's mouth out with soap.  Mama says "you hate me!" and says she wants to die or leave if the kids express love for us or have any problem with mama's behavior.  Mama is very erratic as a parent, happy one day, negligent another, angry, then in bed "sick" for days.  The kids sleep with her, which in addition to other problems, makes it hard for the kids to get to sleep without cuddling when they are at our house.  It also means that every week we have to teach them appropriate boundaries again.  No, they cannot sleep with us.  If they have a nightmare, they can call us or come wake us up, but they will go back into their beds and, with a little cuddling, be put to bed on their own. 

    It seems like it is always tricky walking a line between being nurturing in a way that gives them a sense of stability while their mama uses too intimate and invasive ways of nurturing, so they expect to get that.  When SD5 was three and four, she always wanted to nurse with me, and had a really hard time understanding that was not okay. 

    In sum, I know the kids are being subjected to mild physical "abuse,"  (sorry, skip!) in that they are being pinched and some mildly inappropriate things have happened--nursing three years after being weaned at mama's request, etc--and that some degree of negligence is happening, erratically.  Not enough to make the kids smell bad or look dirty (we live in the woods, so they look much dirtier HERE!), but enough so  their self esteem is hurt.  They are mostly late to school, kept home because of mom's state of mind or health regularly, made to miss recitals and performances, etc.  The result is that I see the kids' confidence slipping, see them dealing with situations in a less honest way, and see them in emotional pain.  Some if this is just the reality of their lives, because their mom IS their mom; some of it might be cured by us getting more custody if that was possible, and some of it can really be worked on by us staying consistent and positive. 

    Right now, we are struggling with how to deal with SD9 telling mama she hates us, telling us she loves us, telling mama every possible thing that might be negative that happens here and nothing happy, when she seems so happy and positive when she is with us and returns from mom's depressed.  You can see her on the day she goes back to mom's adjusting her affect to "down," even if all week she is happy.  These things are so subtle, how do we address them when she does not want to tell us what is happening that results in these feelings?  And she also believes (or pretends to) her mom's explanations of her problems as all our fault--she is sad because she misses her mom, because of the divorce (which is daddy's fault, of course, despite her initiation), because I am mean and set too many rules, because daddy is disengaged (he is the primary caretaker 6 out of seven days, while I am off building, and one day I am with the kids while he is at work, after school).  So if you ask the kids what is up, the miss mom, or so forth.  Mostly, though, with us they are just kids and get to play and have fun and are happy. 

    Thanks, b&w. 

    Ennie
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    « Reply #26 on: November 25, 2009, 08:28:30 PM »

    Ennie,

    Excerpt
    I wanted to comment on something you said "on a personal note" about how kids of BPD parents often appear "normal."  At my insistence, my partner found a therapist for his two kids, then 4 and 8.  We found someone who took the kids health insurance, had worked with people with BPD, and had worked with "blended families."  After about 6-8 visits, she expressed increasing concern about dynamics and events we and the kids mentioned with their BPD mom, but reported that the kids were "fine" and "normal."   She told BPD mom this, and mom decided therapy was no longer necessary, particularly as the kids were returning from therapy telling her things the therapist was asking about mama's behavior. 



    That's a tragedy and I'm sorry to hear it. These situations certainly aren't easy.

    I do have a vision, and that's a society where this illness is well understood and recognized, sufferers are supported and given many resources to improve, and their children live in safe, loving homes and are given tools to cope with the damage already done. Others would take care of the person with BPD; the child would have a chance to be... .a kid. Contact with the BPD parent would be designed to meet the children's needs, not the parent's.

    We're pretty far from that vision. For now, there's no perfect resolution; all we can do is try within our power to help kids in these no-win situations. I was just reading in Healing the Shame That Binds You something relevant, "When a child is abandoned through neglect, abuse, or enmeshment, there is outrage over the hurt and pain. Children need their pain validated. They need to be shown how to discharge their feelings. They need time to do the discharge work and they need support. An abandoned child [emotionally abandoned through neglect, abuse, or enmeshment or physically abandoned] would not necessarily become shame-based if there was a nourishing ally who could validate his pain and give him time to resolve it... ."

    Keep being a "nourishing ally," ennie. It's making an enormous difference.  xoxo

    B&W
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    « Reply #27 on: December 05, 2009, 06:43:13 PM »

    B& W,

    Thank you for this worshop topic.  I hear a lot about UBPD mom's but not Dad"s.  Why is that?  I see many UBPD walking around and very high functioning with lots of money so no one questions them.  Those are the ones that hurt and abuse childern.  I know that is my Dad.  I have limited his contact with my son.  Not only is he a UBPD but then he married one.  What a nightmare! 

    I am working toward financial freedom so that I can be done with him and have nothing to him at all.  Honestly, I have cried, screamed and wished him dead more times than I can count.  I feel like when he finally does die I will feel relieved.  That's what these people leave their adult childern feeling.  I truly hate him most days and other days I act like he is not in my life.  I truly think these people should be castrated and never have the ability to be near childern.

    My father's sister is also affected by BPD.  I have had no relationship with her for over 10 years.  We saw her this summer at my Dad's house and she had the nerve to ask me to begin a realtionship with her.  I quickly, answered her NO!  I truly did not care about her feelings at all.  All I thought was that I had to protect myself and my son.  I just wish I could manage my anger better.  I find myself crying a lot and wish I could just get on with my life and stop devoting so much time to this BPD stuff.  I really want to move on.  When does it end.  Thank you. ?

    Meridian
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    « Reply #28 on: December 05, 2009, 10:20:15 PM »

    Excerpt
    I just wish I could manage my anger better.  I find myself crying a lot and wish I could just get on with my life and stop devoting so much time to this BPD stuff.  I really want to move on.  When does it end.




    Meridian,

    I hear such a cry of pain in your post. It is a terrible legacy, breeding so much suffering.   Wanting to work on your anger and move past this legacy are very worthy goals. It can be done, with work. Below, I'm pasting in some resources for working on ourselves.  xoxox

    B&W

    Books for Working on Ourselves

    The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Your Anger: Dynamic Tools for Healthy Relationships

    People who cope with BPD family members are often left with a legacy of anger--underexpressed, overexpressed, or coming out at the wrong time. This book helps you to become more observant and intentional in your handling of anger, so it no longer controls you.

    The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships

    Not just for women, this book is a priceless source for information on triangulation, and how anger and other bad feelings are passed from person to person. Although not explicitly about BPD, adult children of BPD parents will recognize family dynamics and get clearer on how a BPD family member can create chaos in other family relationships.

    The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman's Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships

    The genogram concept is extremely helpful to seeing family patterns across generations--where you fit in and how you can act to stop perpetuating an unhealthy legacy of personality disordered or other unhealthy behavior.

    Codependent No More

    This book will help anyone who is thinking or feeling responsible for other people, feel it is your responsibility to help other people solve their problems, feel needy people are always attracted to you, and feeling unappreciated or used; or you have weak boundaries with the people in your life; you have dependency issues; poor communication; and low self-worth.


    Articles for Working on Ourselves

    Article: Controlling Anger -- Before It Controls You

    Article: Stop Being Tortured by Your Own Thoughts

    Article: Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking

    Article: Ten Ways to Untwist Your Thinking

    Article: On-Line Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Therapy

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    « Reply #29 on: December 06, 2009, 10:21:02 AM »

    B&W,

    Thank you.  It helps to have someone understand how hard it is to get through all of this emotionally.  I am really angery  and depressed and everything.  It comes and goes.  When things are bad in one category it is worse in all categories.  When do you kind of even out?  I read all the articles you suggested and some were very helpful and true.  I think it helped.  We non's just don't have a high tolerance for pain and disappointment.  I know I lived my whole childhood under a constant state of anxiety and waiting for the next thing to happen.  I want all of this to change.  I don't want the rest of my life to be like this.  Thank you.

    Meridian
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