Saturday, November 09, 2002

News flash: Parenting emotionally challenged kids is hard!

A research report from Ohio State University finds that it's really hard to raise children with emotional disorders, and that it doesn't get any easier with time. That's not news to a lot of parents, but it's nice to have it recognized by somebody who's not actually doing it. The researchers note, as I often have, that the emotional state of the parent can have a huge effect on the emotional state of the child. But as time goes one, they also note, the emotional state of the child starts to have a more and more debilitating effect on the emotional state of the parent, so that living in a dysfunctional family is damaging to every family member, not just the young ones. The recommendation, thankfully, is for more services for families in this situation. Sure hope somebody listens.

A note about studies like this, though -- the findings in this one sound right, but having recently done an over-the-phone survey on raising a child with Fetal Alcohol Effects, I wonder if just asking questions about how a caregiver feels tends to make that caregiver feel worse. The OSU report states that "To measure the well-being of caregivers, the researchers asked them to rate the level of stress, pleasure and responsibility they were feeling with regard to different aspects of their lives including work, home, relationships and physical health." That's somewhat similar to the questions I was asked, and I have to admit, if you force me to sit down and quantify it, I am stressed, I am exhausted, I do sometimes just sit down and cry, I do feel overwhelmed. But is that my experience at every moment of every day, do I constantly move under the shroud of those feelings, is that the way I perceive myself? No. Some people do, no doubt. But I wonder if you can ever really get a sense of a family's daily reality through questionnaires like this.

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