Do you have a child who has been diagnosed with bipolar, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, anxiety, or Reactive Attachment Disorder?
Have the behavioral programs that you have tried not worked with your child?
Would you like an alternative treatment approach to medication?
Parents Can Help
The truth is, there is a lot that parents can do to help their children who struggle with mood disorders learn to regulate their emotions within tolerable levels.
The first step to treatment is to understand the role emotions plays within the family. Are emotions safe? Are they feared? What happens within each of the family members when someone within the family starts to express sadness, anger, frustration or any other emotion that is traditionally viewed as negative? Are the parents able to remain emotionally available when a child is throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown or do the parents emotionally disconnect and become disapproving or not accepting?
While certain behaviors are definitely unacceptable, the way that parents handle those behaviors can communicate to a child that the child is good or that the child is bad. When parents correct their children through criticism or shame, the unstated message is that the child is bad. When parents can be aware of their own emotional state when a child has misbehaved, and work on their own self-regulation, parents can then create an emotionally safe place for their child. They can also take the opportunity to bring their child in close and communicate that the child is unconditionally accepted and then let the child know what the child can do to correct the misbehavior.
How Trauma Effects Emotional Availability
Parents or children who have their own history of trauma may have a more difficult time regulating their emotions effectively. Parents who have experienced trauma may need to first work through the emotions of their own trauma in order to create the capacity for them to be emotionally available for their child to express emotion in a healthy way.
Gaining Insight into Behavior
Something else to consider is that children traditionally have low insight into why they do what they do. This is why when parents ask them why they did something the child will usually respond by saying, “I don’t know.” Parents have a greater capacity to gain awareness of their own emotions and the emotions of their child. Therefore, the more parents participate in their child’s treatment, the better the outcome usually is for the child and the family.
Parent-Child Psychotherapy and Other Relationship Based Therapies
Parent-child psychotherapy can help parents and children improve their relationships with one another. The focus is often on helping the parent learn to understand and read the cues of their child and then respond to the child in an emotionally safe way. Many children develop mood disorders, or the disorders are made worse, when the parent is unable to read their child’s cues correctly. The child then starts to miscue the parent in order to get needs met. The miscue is often the misbehavior that gets punished and that leaves the child emotionally disconnected and unsatisfied.
Relationship based therapies can help both parents and children learn to co-regulate and then self-regulate their emotions. This can then reduce the symptoms of bipolar, oppositional defiant, ADHD, anxiety, and Reactive Attachment Disorder and can lead families to strengthen their relationships with one another.
Child and Family Therapist in Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona