What can parents do about their own feelings? Most parents have a full range of feelings toward their children. These feelings range from love to anger, from joy to disappointment, from fear to excitement, and sometimes even to hate. In our culture, however, only positive feelings are clearly accepted. Yet many of us have negative feelings toward our children, sometimes we experience these feelings when our children are young, and sometimes we experience them when our children go through adolescence. We are not talking about the angry feeling we have when our children disobey or get in trouble, but the really negative feelings that border on hatred.
What is the source of these feelings? Most of us are programmed to want children, and, indeed, most of us have children who are lovable. Rarely do people talk about what you have to sacrifice to have those children. Most of us are not really prepared for the sacrifices required. Women may have to give up or delay a career. Men may not be able to chance a new career because they have to provide for a child. The parents’ sexual life often changes dramatically when children are born. In addition, every child lowers the socioeconomic level of the parents by ten or twenty percent. Although parents may love their children, many will verbalize that, in one sense, they made a big mistake having children. The price was too great for the relatively small rewards.
Any parent may have a difficult child. While all children are sometimes difficult, there are some children who seem difficult always, These children may constantly challenge, may constantly need help, or may be constantly negative or unhappy. After a while, you feel drained when you are around them. If you have a child like this, he or she can create very negative feelings in you.
If you have a child who doesn’t meet your expectations, or who is perhaps handicapped in some way, you may feel extreme disappointment or failure. Also, some parents complain that their child is so different from them that they cannot find anything to relate to with that child. These are sad but true feelings.
What parents can do about working with a difficult child.
Parents’ feelings may range from negative feelings to hostile fantasies. If your negative feelings progress to hostile fantasies of doing harm to your child, then you are too stressed. If you have daydreams or night dreams of killing or seriously hurting your child, you have to take a break and talk to someone about your feelings. These are powerful feelings, and you must deal with them.
When negative feelings get to this level, we usually blame the child unfairly for things that are not his or her fault. We usually react to deep levels of self-rejection and unfairly put that on the child.
It is important to get some professional help if these thoughts are persistent.