It is virtually routine to give kids medications for ADHD. There is an industry organized around ADHD, well orchestrated, with abundant research to create the illusion of scientific certainty. But what happens when you look at the child’s behavior in the context of the family? What happens when parents, rather than being bystanders, are integral to the child’s treatment? What if the family becomes the patient? Check out this feel-good story.
When this couple first came to therapy the husband was certain that he was being victimized by his wife and her anger. As it turns out, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
When kids show signs of emotional or behavioral troubles they may be sent to a mental health professional who suggests that a “chemical imbalance” is the problem. Here’s what can happen when the family, not just the child, becomes the patient. The side-effects are good.
Amy: One of the best-kept secrets that even families themselves don’t know, is that kids worry about their parents. And why
Dave: I have to take a moment to applaud my good friend and muse, Amy Begel, who has a splendid
Parenting advice often describes ways to “manage” a child’s temper tantrums. But temper tantrums, or defiant behavior in kids contain important messages for the parents. Often, without meaning to, kids are responding to underlying tensions in the family. They react in the only way they know how: through their behavior. The message: HELP!
Tensions in marriage are normal, and unavoidable. They’re part of the price of intimacy. Problems only occur when these underlying tensions are ongoing, and not acknowledged. They are semi-buried. Children are geniuses at feeling these latent tensions; they often help magnify what hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in their own way, they may be trying to help.
In contemporary culture, as portrayed in commercials for pharmaceuticals, family members are portrayed as bystanders to suffering, having to “manage” the symptoms of their bi-polar loved one, or “suffer” the effects of the depressed person’s symptoms or behavior. But families, couples, all of us, can unwittingly get stuck in patterns, sometimes destructive patterns, of which we are unaware. Those patterns can cause distress in ourselves and others, which can show up as a “symptom” in one person. This is rarely intentional, more a product of the tricky, powerful and subtle nature of relationship dynamics.
Eating disorders are no exceptions. Most of the clinical writing and popular assumptions about anorexia and other eating disorders note that these conditions are characterized by the need for individual “control”. There’s truth to this. But if you expand the lens to include the family, you learn a lot about what this “control” can look like.
The psychological defense mechanism of projection can distort a parent’s judgement about their kids, or it can create a wedge between a couple, since projection interferes with the ability to see one’s partner as she truly is. The (unconscious) grip from the past gets in the way. Here’s a therapy session that looks at how this projection process played out in one family, and how it was–for the moment-transformed.
This is some advice from Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of Business. In today’s