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When Your Co Parent is in Denial about Complex Kids

 

Co parenting gets really complicated with complex kids. What do you do when your co parent is in denial?

Diane:
What's a parent going to do if the other co-parent is in complete denial that-

Elaine:
That this whole thing really exists?

Diane:
Oh yeah. Or they don't believe in ADHD-

Elaine:
Or anxiety.

Diane:
Or they don't think that their child has really got that.

Elaine:
"If they would just." It's the... "If only they would just" syndrome. Or, "they're lazy." And we're here to tell you that there's no such thing as a kid who's lazy. These kids are not lazy. They have issues, but if we don't help them understand that, they begin to think that they're lazy, crazy or stupid.

Diane:
And there's two different parts of this. One is that you might be on a different page with regard to how to handle the situation, and the other piece is that you might be thinking, "come on, I want you to learn more. I want you to understand this. I want you to get on board with me." And they are thinking, "this is not what's going on."

Elaine:
So, we're going to talk about those two issues kind of separately. So first, if you want to try different things. Such as, if the style of management that you want to try is different from the style that your partner wants to try.

Diane:
Part of it is just focusing on the challenge rather than the diagnosis. And I think that can help in any situation. If it's not, "well, I have to help my child with ADHD," it's "I have to help my child with executive function issues." Or if instead of, "my child with anxiety," it's "my child with impulse control." Whatever it is.

Elaine:
Or, "my kid has trouble remembering things so how do I help him learn to remember?"

Diane:
And you focus on the challenge rather than the label. Because I think the labels do turn people off, and that's just a reality.

Diane:
And the other piece of it is talking about what's really going on. A lot of people will say, "well, my child is 14 going on 11."

Elaine:
Well, so let me frame it differently. There's a difference between our kids' chronological age and their developmental age. And I find that if you ask parents who are kind of naysayers, "well, what age would you say your child is developmentally? Is he 10 going on 11 or is he 14 going on 15?" Usually they'll tell you right away. No, he's 15 going on 12.

Diane:
Well, and if you can get them there, then you can talk about focusing on where they are. Meeting them where they are. So if they're more like 12 how do we get them to 13 or how do we get them to 14? Instead of saying well, they should be here and they're not.

Elaine:
I hear that a lot. It's like, "well he's 10 he should be able to. He's 18 he should be able to." And if we can help them begin to just shift that expectation, that developmentally he's kind of immature in that area, even if they don't have a diagnosis, they may be willing to shift how they approach it. So that's one thing.

Diane:
So getting back to the differences in style. A lot of times one parent will think, we just need to be more firm with our child. We need to be more stern or yell at them more often. And part of the challenge is that yelling-

Elaine:
Can work sometimes.

Diane:
But the challenge with yelling is that you're going back to that more primal part of your brain and you're motivating your child with fear.

Elaine:
So you're getting them to do something, but you're not getting them to learn how to get themselves to do something. Which is really what we want to do.

Diane:
Because you want to teach them skills that are sustainable. And getting mad at yourself and beating yourself up, it may work, but it exhausts people. And that's really part of the problem we have right now with these older kids.

Elaine:
So one way to handle it, if you want to try different approaches, is to come to an agreement with your co-parent. Just say okay, “I totally acknowledge that this is your perspective. Mine's different. How about we try it your way for a couple of weeks and see what kind of results we get, and then try it my way for a couple of weeks and see what kind of results, and then compare?”

Diane:
Well, and part of what comes up for me as you're saying that Elaine, is that it's not about finding the right answer. It's not about when this happens, I do this. When this happens, I do that. It's about experimenting and trying and learning from what worked. And because the reality is that some of their style might help and some of your style might help. And it may be that by collaborating and looking at the two different ways you handle it, you come up with an even better solution.

Elaine:
And I also want to address the issue of when you have a spouse that you want to become better educated about this and they're struggling. Instead of insisting or sending them articles and then getting upset that they haven't read them ... ask them if they'd be willing to just learn something, to learn something with you. Or just ask them before you give them something -- Would you be willing to watch this one thing or listen to this one thing? And begin to negotiate some buy in from them on "I get that you see it differently and it would be really helpful if you'd be willing to at least try to understand some of what I do. And let's see if we can get to a common ground."

Diane:
Yeah. And this takes me back to something we said in another video on Getting on the Same Page, which is, there may be some of you whose co-parent is saying, I don't want anything to do with this. And I want to remind you that you don't necessarily have to have buy in from both parents to make some real change in your family.

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