Some families I work with are going through some of the toughest challenges of their lives. In addition to having problems with their kids, many parents report financial difficulties and marital dissatisfaction.
This trifecta of issues frequently results in intense feelings of depression, denial, anger or helplessness. Here’s how parents successfully navigate such tough times.
- Develop a social support system. I urge parents to reach out to friends, relatives, work colleagues and others for support. I understand the natural inclination of not wanting to burden others with your problems. However, relationships are essential in providing both diversion from our troubles, and emotional support for getting through the day.Don’t ever underestimate the impact of a warm smile, a gentle hug, a kind word or just the accepting presence from a friend.
- Gain perspective. When overwhelmed by today’s turmoil, it’s easy to forget yesterday’s calm. I urge both kids and parents to reflect upon and be grateful for the pleasant times in their families’ histories.Here’s a fun homework assignment. I ask parents to talk about some of their favorite family photos. This simple activity typically prompts lots of discussion and laughter. It forces families to remember their many good times and helps give perspective to their current experiences.
The goal is for families to gain the simple insight that these tough times will pass.
- Focus on what you can change. The toughest part of therapy is helping parents change the way they think about themselves. This means focusing on what you can influence, and putting aside everything else.People who are depressed typically pay too much attention to things that are unchangeable. You can’t change your child’s personality, yesterday’s bad decisions or marital infidelities.
Understanding the past is helpful. Living the past is not.
This is all about developing an empowered belief system that helps you set obtainable goals and take action to make life a little bit better today than it was yesterday. The intent is to be successful in taking very small steps, rather than failing at overly ambitious goals.
- Be less reactive and more mindful. Families in turmoil are often victims of their emotional state. They tend to react rather than plan. Their goal is to survive today, rather than plan a strategy for making tomorrow a bit better.
Lots of my work with families, whether it be with four or forty-year olds, is to help them get control of their emotions. Our feelings are messages to be understood, not an excuse for acting in harmful ways.
With support, perspective and a positive approach, you need not be a victim of life’s inevitable tough times.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the October 18, 2015, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Family Survival Guide: Handling Tough Times” Gregory Ramey, PhD]
© 2016, Ohio Family Law Blog. All rights reserved. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, it makes the page you are viewing an infringement of the copyright.
Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.