Parenting & Family Difficulties
What it is: Parenting is difficult even in the best of circumstances, and it is not unusual for parents and children to experience some conflict in the home, especially as children enter adolescence. While “testing the waters” is common, some youth engage in problematic behaviors that are outside of developmental norms. In younger children, this may include excessive tantrums, lying, or physical aggression, whereas older children may engage in substance use, shoplifting, sneaking out, self-harm, or impulsive sexual behaviors. There may also be academic or behavioral difficulties at school (truancy, not turning in homework, getting in fights). Alternatively, families may encounter any number of difficulties even without extreme behavioral problems, including communication difficulties, adjusting to divorce or becoming a blended family, or differences in parenting styles that cause conflict in the family, the marriage, or both.
While some developmental and relational issues are to be expected, sometimes parenting struggles and behavioral difficulties start to take over the family. As a child’s behaviors get more and more out of control, or as family conflict increases in frequency or severity, household emotions go up and relationships start to suffer. All of this can lead to additional behavioral problems and increasing conflict among family members. Many parents aren’t sure what problem to tackle first, or how best to address problems that are occurring. In addition, many parents disagree about which problem is most important to focus on, or they disagree on ways to punish or reinforce behaviors. They also may be experiencing anger or resentment toward their children, or they may be experiencing marital problems that stem from the parenting difficulties.
Associated Concerns: When there are a significant number of behavioral or communication problems in the home, any number of associated problems may arise. Broadly, those fall into two categories: (1) individual difficulties (of the parent or child), or (2) family/systemic difficulties. In the individual category, parents may be in need of support to address difficulties with their mood, anxiety, or perfectionism/shame. Youth may be in need of support to address their emotional and behavioral dysregulation, including suicidality and self-injury. In the family category, couples may be in need of support to address relationship difficulties, or they may need help with parenting strategies specifically. Lastly, families may seek treatment to help their entire family improve communication and overall family functioning.