Reply To: At the End of My Rope


Hi Emily,
First off, I want to say that from my perspective, you are exactly the kind of “parent he needs”: you love him, you want to make things better for himself and for you and you are trying to find solutions. That’s exactly what he needs.

I know you feel helpless and frustrated. I’ve been there. As parents, we think we should be able to make everything better for our kids. But the fact is, you may not be able to fix things for him. (And that does not mean you are not a good parent!!) No matter what you do or don’t do, you may never be able to stop him from acting the way he acts and as he gets older, you may not be able to keep him from making bad choices. You may be able to find some tools and techniques that help (like medication) but the reality you can’t control him or change him. The only thing you CAN control is your reactions to what he does.

In order to do that—to react differently—you have to focus on your thoughts. Sounds weird, but the truth is, your feelings are not a result of what someone else does. Your feelings are a result of your thoughts about what they’re doing. So if you want to change how you feel (and how you then react), you have to change what you’re thinking. For example, you can think, “It’s my fault.” Or “I’m not what he needs.” Which make you feel like crap (which will affect how you deal with him); or you could think, “This is a challenge but I’ve met challenges before. Today I will do my best and at the very least let him know I love him no matter what he does.” Different thoughts, different feelings, and very different reactions that will result. So my suggestion is to not focus too much on what he’s doing right now and how to fix those things; instead, I think right now it’s much more critical that you focus on yourself (which is really the only person you can control anyway!)

You mentioned guilt. I think that guilt has a place as an emotion, when we’ve done something wrong, because it spurs us on to make reparations and do things better the next time. But you have done nothing wrong. You are human and humans don’t function at their best when they don’t get enough sleep and when they are dealing with a challenging situation for days and months and years on end. So I think it’s important that you find a way to release/change those guilt-thoughts. I wonder if one of the things keeping you stuck in guilt is that maybe you are stuck in the place of wishing things were different, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling sorry for him (and maybe in a way mourning/grieving the loss of your ideas of what it would be like to be a parent, have a son, etc..) The only way out of that stuck place is to fully accept that this is the way things are, at least in this moment, and to realize that your job is to just get through each day in the best way you can and to take care of yourself emotionally. (You know that announcement the flight attendant says on planes: “put the oxygen mask on yourself first….” Well, it’s true–If you don’t take care of YOU and find ways to make yourself feel better, you will have little to offer him in terms of patience, and perseverance—both of which are critical when dealing with a child with special needs.)

Hope this helps.
I wish you all the best,

Joyce Mabe
Parenting Coach, author, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD