Hi Mark, Very hard few days - one thing after another. She [daughter] had school disco Friday night. She carried on about underwear, which I had actually just washed. Went on and on. Sat night was about cranberry sauce. She ran out of the house to her dad’s - very annoying. I am feeling very tired. I was going out but to tired - just want to sit. I can't seem to show no emotion. Sometimes I can, but last night she made me cry, how much can you take. She ran back to my ex and said horrible horrible things about me and my partner. Thursday night she ran out of her piano concert. I have a job now but can't make stats probably loose it. I am depressed and sad all the time - just want to close eyes and dream of being far away. Beach somewhere sipping cocktail. No worries - like my twenties. ~ J.
These feelings you are having are very common for parents with out-of-control kids.
Here is a list of symptoms parents can expect to experience when dealing with their difficult child:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Guilt ("If only I had done . . .”)
- Shame (“I’m not a very good parent.”)
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of appetite
- Increased cravings for junk food
- Withdrawal from others
- Intense sadness or tears when a memory is triggered
- Loneliness, or a sense of separateness from your kid
Dealing with a strong-willed, out-of-control kid is very exhausting and trying. It will take about 25% of all your emotional, mental, and physical resources. You have to take care of yourself in ways you would not have to if your child was not so difficult. This includes things like:
- Go out weekly away from this kid and your home with your spouse or significant other.
- Get adequate exercise.
- Make sure you have some hobby you enjoy and can do when things get chaotic at home.
- Expect and accept some reduction in your usual efficiency and consistency.
- Try to avoid taking on new responsibilities or making major life decisions for a time.
- Talk regularly about your parenting struggles with someone you trust.
- Accept help and support when offered.
- Be particularly attentive to maintaining healthy eating and sleeping patterns.
- Keep reminding yourself that your responses are normal responses to a stressful situation.
- Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Have moments of prayer and meditation.
- Do things that feel good to you--take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends, fix yourself a special treat, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring.
- Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings when you need to. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. This will only complicate your situation.
Finally, if you are having difficulty showing no emotion, then you are giving your daughter too much power. She can’t make you spit …she can’t make you stand on your head …she can’t make you mad …she can’t make you sad …she can’t make you happy …she simply does not have that kind of power over you.
If you cry, or get angry, or whatever -- this will be a choice that you – and you alone - make. You are in charge of your emotions -- not your daughter. And if you choose to react strongly to her negative behavior, she will continue with that behavior.
In summary, (a) take care of yourself, and (b) don’t give your power away.
Please stay in touch,
Mark Hutten, M.A.