As a child and adolescent psychiatrist for almost 40 years I have worked with tens of thousands of children, adolescents and their families. Whereas I think we should avoid blaming parents for the problems of their children, it would be ludicrous to suggest the parents do not have the lion's share influence on how well their children fare.
So, here are three crucial steps that parents can take to damage their children as they go along their way toward adulthood.
1) Hate your ex-spouse or your previous partner more than you love your child. If you don’t work together—and are more interested in fighting with your Ex---your child suffers.
He or she is stressed and confused. He or she loves both of you. Don’t make her chose!!!
Bonnie was 16 years old and was increasingly out of control, she ran away frequently, “on the road” she had many dangerous activities including using drugs and with her mates breaking into cars. Her parents increasingly were at odds with what to do. Her mother wanted to call the authorities, whereas her father felt sorry for Bonnie as she had asthma. At the first session when I asked what the problem was, the father said I am really quite divided, I don’t know whether my wife or my daughter is right, as he looked glaringly at his wife
2) A house divided has difficulty raising well-functioning kids. Over the years I have seen that there is very little wrong with children on a biological basis, it’s when there is not a congruent parental influence in their lives that they go astray.
Laura was 14 years old, failing in school, refused to cooperate and running away. His mother and step-father were confused. I was not clear when I met with the family, what the problem was, or who was maintaining and supporting the child in the initial consultation. The next morning we have a conference meeting with the stepfather and the mother as we were trying to determine what exactly was going on in the system. The mother said to the stepfather every time she runs away and then comes home, you take her shopping. An interesting reward! Keep it up folks.
3) Already you see a pattern of the importance of parents. Another way to help your child is to not put your child in the middle of you and your feelings about their school.
In meeting with a school and a 14 year old boy who was having difficulties at school the boy was complaining about the school and his father, a sole parent, criticised the school in front of the boy. This gave the boy the message that he did not have to support or listen to the school. He ultimately was so out of control that he was expelled.
These are simple ideas that stem from the fact that we as parents need to do our homework and be sure not to put our young children in the middle of how we are feeling. While we are of course entitled to our feelings, sentiments and disagreements, we need to keep them separate so the young people do not grow up conflicted about who to pay attention to and are not supported to resist authority.
For questions, please contact Charles Fishman