Archive for Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Child fears divorce imminent

August 28, 2007


Dear Dr. Wes and Julia: My family isn't that good for each other, and we might get a divorce. What other things can we do?

Julia: One Christmas, when I was younger, I witnessed my parents arguing over fruit salad. I had never seen them argue like this, and my most immediate fear was divorce. I think most people's concern when it comes to divorce is losing a security they know or knew when they were younger. Any demonstration to that effect can cause anyone to assume the worst: divorce.

First, assess your situation thoroughly, looking not just at your parents' actions but at anything that could be affecting your family as well. Consider how serious your situation really is. Do your parents fight a lot? Stressed parents tend to problem solve in raised voices. When money becomes especially tight, parents' tolerance gets stretched to its limit. Are there outside forces affecting your family? All families experience rough patches - mine happened to be a disagreement concerning fruit salad. Some of those rough patches really can prove whether the parents are meant to stay together. Divorce can be one option - like cheating or running away - which people consider but don't end up choosing.

If it happens that your family is headed for divorce, the best thing to do is cope. Parents rarely divorce on account of their kids. In fact, they often try to stay together for the sake of the family. So in no way would a divorce be your fault. Talking to a trusted friend can help. If you calmly let people know what is happening, it is less likely the word will get out before you're ready. You don't have to try and find a silver lining or act like nothing is wrong, but showing people that you are able to accept what has happened will decrease any unwanted pity. I truly hope your family is simply going through a rough time, but if divorce is imminent, don't hesitate to let your parents know how you feel and take measures to help get you through a tough time.

Dr. Wes: Julia's words are wise. Knowing what's really going on is a good idea before leaping to any conclusions. Unfortunately, the statistics are on your side. Well over half of American families with children will divorce at some point - some before the kids leave home and some after. I think divorce is particularly difficult for teenagers. Just as you're trying to pull away from your family in an age-appropriate manner and focus on your own relationships and loves, your family suddenly falls apart. It might seem easier if you were already away at college. However, I find it's often just as hard for younger college kids to realize that the home they remember is no longer there for them at the point they really need a base camp. So in short, divorce is never easy, and I can understand why you'd hope for alternatives.

An obvious alternative is for your parents to see a therapist to determine what's wrong in their relationship and whether it can be fixed. Sadly, research suggests that feuding couples wait an average of six years too long to go to therapy - instead, avoiding dealing with their differences until they begin to get out of control. Another alternative is to simply stick out the marriage until the kids are out of the home. This can work, but only if the parents are very tolerant of each other and able to put aside their difficulties and focus on their kids. Unfortunately, being married to someone just to co-parent kids can lead to a rather lonely and depressing life. People need to feel loved and be able to show romantic love to someone, and sometimes these arrangements cause more problems than they solve.

When it comes right down to it, you are correct: Some families just "aren't that good for each other." There are many complicated reasons for that and, as Julia notes, they rarely have anything to do with the kids. If your parents really have considered their alternatives, they may be best off splitting up. At that point the golden question is as simple as it is serious: Will their divorce express the best interests of their children or create more conflict and anger along the way? I've seen it go both ways, and I hope all parents who are divorced or considering divorce will listen to me when I tell them to cling desperately to a path of KINDNESS and RESPECT. In general, any divorce is only as bad for children as their parents make it. Some work out well for everyone; others sink the family into a deep morass of suffering that is only rivaled by child abuse. In fact, psychologists often consider a bad divorce or vicious custody battle a kind of abuse.

So I deeply hope that your parents make a good decision about how to proceed - even if that isn't the decision you hoped for - and that if they decide to split up, they do it with gentleness to each other and to you and your siblings, if you have any. If they hold to those principals, I think things will turn out OK.

Next week: A girl with bipolar disorder has problems with bullying at school.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Julia Davidson is a Bishop Seabury Academy junior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to All correspondence is strictly confidential.


Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

daddax98 10 years, 5 months ago

and vodka, don't forget about the vodka

Confrontation 10 years, 5 months ago

Ragingbear! That was mean, inappropriate, and completely hilarious.

Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

Confrontation, if you look at the past comments of Dr.Fraudshaw, he acts like out of every 10 kids in school, that there are 8 with ADD/ADHD when we all know the number is closer to 1 in 120. I asked him about this in a chat he had with the paper and he blew me off, acting as if he did not understand the question.

It was pointed out that as a psychologist that he is unable to actually prescribe anything other than therapy. However, he is part of a group where he forwards his recommendation to their doctor at the facility, and they immediately agree and dispense the cherry flavored ADD drugs to the kids. I briefly used their services until I ended up in the hospital one day. To this day, the doctors are boggled as to why they prescribed a medicine for high blood pressure to treat my depression.

Divorce is hard on children, and it is important that they understand during the process that it is not their fault. By default, any divorcing family should be in group therapy for the sake of their kids. The adults will be none the worse for the wear out of it as well. This not only will help the child through a rather traumatic event in their life, but help the parents not use the child as a tool against their ex-spouse, which is commonly the case.

Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

As for ADD/ADHD, if your child has been diagnosed with it, I would suggest that before you take your "doctor's" advice, that you try the following for 1 month.

Regular sleep schedule, even on days off. This means in bed at 9, up by 8am or whatever. At least 8 hours.

No sugar. This includes sugar frosted sugar cube brand cereal with marshmallows. No added sugar. Nothing such as soda, kool-aid, syrup for waffles or any other candies. If you must give something sweet, try fresh or dried fruits.

No caffeine. I don't know how many times I have seen kids with ADD/ADHD drinking cola, red bull, and even coffee on a regular basis. Caffeine is a rather potent drug but Americans don't know it yet. Give a 1 liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi to somebody in another country, and they will probably act like they just did a whole lot of crack.

No TV, Video Games, Computer games or other low focus activities. If your kid is on the computer, supervise them and only allow them to use it for research and homework.

No cellphones, portable music devices, text messengers or other idiotic little annoyances.

Lastly, send them outside. Make sure that they don't go to their friend's house to play video games. They should be out playing ball, or riding bikes, swimming or getting into general mild level mischief that kids typically do. Make sure they got things to do, because if they don't, they will get into trouble and set an empty apartment on fire or something.

Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

Now, for the DO's.

Family activities. Watch a movie, play board games, even something like a family round of Mario Party is fine, as long as your group stays focused on one thing. Turn on the movie and leave it at that channel. Don't watch high intensity movies like "Teenage Mutant Power Rangers from the Center of Venus and the Monsters That Love Them" and then expect them to go do their homework or go to sleep. Kids are easily stimulated.

Spend time with your kid. I am talking about 1 on 1 time. About an hour 3 or 4 times a week at minimum. And no, not 3 hours on Monday and then ignore it for the rest of the week. Talk to them about your life, and what they are doing. Share stories and experiences. You might even want to consider such things as "The Talk", but that is another realm you might want to save for another time.

Do homework with your kid. Merely having another set of eyes reading the problem can help them understand the lesson. Most lessons in school provide a cursory glance at the particular subject and then assign homework. If your kid leaves school with 2 pages of math homework about compound fractions and does not understand how the system works, then they will not be able to get a decent grade. This inspires feelings of giving up.

Inspire the imagination. Even if your child does have ADD/ADHD, this is a good thing. Actually, even moreso with true ADD kids. Introduce them to these things called books. They are known for having an overactive imagination, and soak up things like science and history just as much as fantasy.Harry Potter is popular, but so are R.L. Stein's Goosbumps series. Choose your Own adventure books are popular as they actually place the child into some control of the story. Do a family re-enactment of points in history. Don't focus on the dates and places. Make it fun. Provide the essence of the era. Their stimulated interest will follow. This method was practiced by a pilot program for ADD/ADHD children. The lowest score that year in social studies was 71. The average was 89. Up until then, every kid in the group was flunking History.

One month. That is all it takes. After that, you will know for sure if your kid has real ADD or if it is just the lifestyle they are living that causes it. Even if they do, you will notice that these methods will have a significant impact on their overall behavior. Children with ADD need attention and structure. American standards are counterproductive to that. Do you think that ADD is as common in places like China as they are in the U.S.? Not by a long shot. That is because most ADD/ADHD is behavioral, not a physical chemical imbalance. It's not true ADD.

ADD does exist. I have moderate ADD. I have seen severe cases where it was so bad that the kid was manifesting psychotic and even violent symptoms. But for every true diagnosis, there are 100 false diagnosis.

Confrontation 10 years, 5 months ago

Great advice Ragingbear, but don't you understand that those steps would require actual parenting?! The problems of most of the kids are caused by bad parenting, so most parents would rather cure their problems with a pill. Less work.

My younger brother hated school and would often joke around and get in trouble. They tried to get my mom to drug him when he was in elementary school. She refused, but only after I informed her of the consequences and health risks (I'm quite a bit older than him). However, many of these parents are uneducated and will dope their kids with whatever drugs are handed to them. Plus, too many parents like to "share" the prescription. My brother graduated from high school and is very successful at his current job. He never fought in school or got suspended. I'll admit that he was a brat at times, mostly due to not having strict parenting. So, my mom worked on that issue without a prescription. There was no real reason to drug him, except that teachers felt inconvenienced to do their jobs.

Crispian Paul 10 years, 5 months ago

Raging and Confrontation, I understand your points about ADHD being overdiagnosed, but coming from someone who has ADHD and was diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder in 1982 before ADD/ADHD were diagnoses, please don't discount the potential effectiveness of medications. I took medication from ages 4-12 while simultaneously getting behavioral therapy to help me control some of the more bothersome symptoms such as interrupting, losing things. I chose to quit taking meds until I was 20 and was struggling with focus in long college classes. I took the meds again for about two or three years to get me through and reorganized my life to be simple in many ways to help me from getting overwhelmed. I don't take meds anymore and do some of things you described, Raging, and some other things such as not eating red dye, not using caffeine after about 4 pm, sleeping regularly, etc.

Also, Confrontation, don't address me by getting personal such as you saying you know me, or saying what you think you know about me.

Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

Crispian, there is no doubt in my mind that I suffered ADD as a child. But part of my issues were caused by 3 main things. First of all, I required more challenging schoolwork. I would do things like read 10 chapters ahead in my science and history books because I got into those things. So when the lesson came around I could care less. Secondly was that I was raised primarily by my video game system and my TV set. Lastly was that most kids with ADD tend to act out. This includes things such as trying to be the class clown and instead coming off as annoying, or "That kid that eats chalk and grasshoppers to try and impress people." this resulted in a lot of trouble from bullies. School were, and still are rather blind to the childhood trauma invoked by constant bullying on the playground and in the classroom.

I also suffer from an uncommon condition where I have adrenalin blackouts. This meant that if I ended up in any sort of fight that I could lose complete control and have an extreme adrenaline surge that would usually cause brief lapses in memory. When I messed up a 6th grader so bad in school that he ran off the playground and told his parents that an 8th grader beat him up, I decided to not fight if at all possible. You see, I was in 2nd grade at the time, and I am a big guy. Even today, it would be possible for me to seriously injure or even kill somebody while in such a state. Needless to say, the combination of wierdness, passivity and my size made me a huge target on the playground by everyone wanting to vent their frustrations. Not saying that my ADD was the sole cause of my issues, but they definitely contributed. Even today I take a potent amphetamine based medication to allow focus, and I have seen dramatic improvement in my did anyone watch "America's Got Talent" the other day?

Crispian Paul 10 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for sharing Ragingbear. I just wanted to make it a point to say this because in my job (I am a child welfare social worker) I often see people who say this isn't a real condition or joke about having ADD. However, I, much like you, definitely exhibited some interesting symptoms that had me labelled as a clown, annoying, bully. However, I was also not stimulated enough as a student until my mom assured that the school and doctor did some serious testing and it was found that I had ADHD, a learning disability and was gifted....try being a teacher dealing with that. I was often making mischief because I was the first one done with my work and some of the symptoms did not seem like typical ADHD, such as my being hyperfocused on books as a child. To this day, I avoid certain things like too much caffeine, am very organized to the point of being a little obsessive and have a system for doing things because I have lived with ADHD for 25 years and this is how I combat and cope with it.

Crispian Paul 10 years, 5 months ago

Oh, yeah, and I saw America's Got Talent and Cass was robbed!!!

Crispian Paul 10 years, 5 months ago

How could "America" pick a ventriloquist over a guy like Cass who was an incredible singer?!

Confrontation 10 years, 5 months ago

You do enough to ruin your own reputation. I rest my case.

matahari 10 years, 5 months ago

I have NO idea what 'America' is, a tv show I gather..but beyond that.the only thing that really caught my attention in all these cooments was the quote

"eating red dye"

Hahah, ya, that's got to be bad~

as for the rule RB listed i dare any one of you to swear you have followed them all those "ADHD" rules to a "T"

now, of which were we speaking BiPolar or ADHD? but label on something and all the sudden everyone understands it! bleh!

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