Parenting today is hard and every parent will struggle from time to time. Many parents tell us they are not coping. They are worn down by constant worry and can feel as if they are walking on eggshells, tiptoeing round their family’s feelings. They live in fear that their child is in trouble; whether it is the phone call from the school or visits from the police. Parent’s worry their child’s behaviour is out of control. There is a price that parent’s pay for living each day with worry and fear and that is exhaustion.
As exhaustion sets in we all call upon our coping strategies to help us through. Our worries start to overwhelm us and we find ways to distract ourselves, even for a short time. This somehow keeps the constant fear at bay. Our coping strategies help us to avoid the problem when it is too difficult to deal with. These coping strategies, although helpful at first, are likely to have a negative impact on us over time. So, how do you cope when your child is being violent?
For some it may be by having a drink, a way to relax, to forget for a while, maybe to help you sleep. Others may distract themselves with cleaning. The house is spotless and the routines become rigid. Then there is work, fitness regimes, inappropriate relationships, eating, or not eating, spending money, etc. These coping strategies can bring calm to chaos. Some of these could be deemed positive activities. They can contribute towards a healthy lifestyle, and we all want to be healthier, and happier.
But what happens when your chosen activity, your coping strategy, is used to excess? When suddenly you can’t get through the day unless you have hovered every room in the house, or gone for your longest run. The very thing that is supposed to be healthy takes over and suddenly it is in control of you. ‘As long as I get this done I will feel better.’ You could be stuck in a pattern of behaviours where your own needs are not being met appropriately.
Now is the time to think about whether your coping strategy is working for you or against you? What are you teaching your child about how to cope? Our coping strategies are likely to have a negative impact on us overtime, especially if we overuse one strategy rather than having a few strategies that we can call upon in times of need. Ask yourself what else could you do, to help yourself? What/who is your support system?
Meeting your needs appropriately will make a huge difference to your energy levels. Accept that sometimes you will slip into old patterns and that is ok. Learning to use healthy coping strategies is like learning a new skill. When we learn a new skill it takes time and effort. Try not to get blown off course by an increase of violent behaviour or by judging yourself. Meeting your needs in a positive way will not only give you the energy for change, it will also help you to remain calm under pressure and maintain appropriate boundaries.
In Chapter 5 of ‘Parenting a Violent Child’ it looks at our coping strategies and will encourage you to think about the ones you use. It will help you to work out which ones are positive and which ones are negative. It will inspire you to see what is within your power to change and it will show you the small steps that make a big difference. It looks at the challenge parents face when managing violent behaviour, and the importance of looking after yourself in a healthy way. This book is all about balance and it enables you to think about the balance in your life and whether the scales are tipped too much in any direction.