Parenting Advice

Are you worried about a child problem and seeking parenting advice? Dr. O'Connor, a Toronto Psychologist, offers a range of services to help parents who are worried about a child, and looking for parenting advice. 

What Do Parents Worry About?

“Studies show that stress among parents is wide spread ... 70 percent say that one of their biggest worries is whether they are raising their children properly.”--Angus Reid Poll, 2002

1. Do you worry about whether you are raising your children properly? You are not alone. Few parents escape worries about their children. And many are seeking parenting advice to assist with their concerns. Their concerns range from the benign, to the serious and extreme, and include academic and learning problems, as well as social, behavioral and emotional difficulties.

2. Sue is a worried parent. She sought parenting advice because her daughter, Jessica, can’t concentrate at school. Teachers report that she is quiet and withdrawn and cries easily. Sue wonders what is wrong and how to help.

3. John is worried too. He finds it difficult to focus and perform to his potential on the job. His son, Tyler, exhibits behavior problems at school. He is disruptive, acts out and fights in the schoolyard. Teachers find him argumentative and non-compliant. His grades are dropping. Tyler is 11. John wonders if he is moving into the difficult adolescent stage, or whether he requires professional help.

3. Jeremy’s’ parents are also concerned. Jeremy, a bright, articulate child, performs poorly at school. He is disorganized, distractible and inattentive. He misbehaves, seeks attention and bothers others. Although he attends a private school to provide the structure and challenge he needs, he continues to flounder and requires support with the academic program.

Common parenting concerns like these lead parents to consult a psychologist. They seek parenting advice around the adolescent and child problems that worry them.  What kind of parenting advice are parents looking for, when they set up that appointment with a psychologist

Presenting Concerns:

Parents seek the support of a psychologist to address a range of parenting concerns. Some of the  most common include:

1. School and Learning Problems: Why does my child have problems learning or paying attention in school? Is my child underachieving? Does he/she have a learning disability or some other learning problem?  

2. Behavioral Problems: Parents are most concerned about externalizing problems: for example, acting out, disruptive behaviors; aggression or violent and destructive behavior; non compliance, temper tantrums and mood swings. Parents often dismiss internalizing problems that are present in the child, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem and withdrawal.These are often less noticeable than externalizing behaviors. But when parents do note them they become very concerned.   

3. Social Problems: Bullying, lack of friends or rejection by other children or controlling and bossy behaviors with siblings and peers.

4. Head Injuries: Parents and the professionals who work with them (e.g., personal injury lawyers), are seeking support for children who have suffered a head injury, which at first seemed relatively  benign. But with time the child or adolescent has continued to show behavioral, emotional and/or learning or cognitive problems.

5. Other Neurological Issues and Concerns: These include Learning Disabilities, ADHD and Autism, or the neurocognitive affects associated with various medical treatments.

6. Trauma and/or Attachment Related Issues: These may include concerns around a single acute trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident, or more ongoing, complex kinds of trauma.   

Interconnecting Concerns

Frequently, various other concerns interconnect with the presenting concern, although they are not always identified by the parent. These concerns either contribute to or are a result of the presenting concern. They include learning stress, family stress, parental problems and ineffective parenting skills.

Justin was experiencing problems with the school program. This was the presenting problem. The psychologist did an assessment and found Justin had a Learning Disability; he also suffered from high levels of anxiety related to learning stress. This, in turn, contributed to attention problems, which added to his academic difficulties.

In another case, involving significant distress around homework, the mother’s depressive symptoms and perfectionism made it difficult for her to effectively support her son with his homework. Consequently, their relationship had broken down and the stress around homework contributed to the child’s academic problems at home and school.

How Do Parents View the Problem?

When parents seek parenting advice from a psychologist their view of the child problem  is often characterized by one, or several of the following:

1. Isolation of the problem within the child and failure to consider the multiple influences that impact on their child’s concerns: for example, learning problems or stressors at home such as parental conflict, ineffective parenting, family stress or sibling fighting.

2.  A focus on the negatives or what is wrong, rather than right, with their child. Parents’ may also project a negative view of what they are doing, or not doing as parents, rather noting the positives or where things are going well.

3. Parents often feel overwhelmed; they frequently view themselves as helpless and unable to solve or cope with their parenting concerns.

4.Parents neglect to balance their view of what is wrong, with what is right or where things are working. They ignore their parenting successes, or what they are doing that works. They continually fixate on “what is wrong”, and fail to notice the progress the child has made or where things are "okay" or working for her.

Parenting Advice for Worried Parents

Based on the cases reviewed for this article, worried parents need and benefit from the following support:

1. Encouragement to focus on the positives: for example, their child’s strengths, and where things are working, and their own positive strategies and parenting successes.

2.  Encouragement to address their own issues and concerns. These often contribute to stress in the child and ineffective parenting strategies.

3. Strategies to address the environmental factors that impact on the child’s problems, such as poor  parenting skills, and parenting and family stress.

4.  Strategies to help parents build the child’s competence and foster their strengths.

5.Support to help parents build their child’s confidence and self esteem, as well as their social, emotional and behavioral skills.

6. Strategies to help children and parents develop their assertiveness, problem solving and decision making skills.

7. Stress management skills for parents and their children.

8. Confidence building for parents and encouragement to adopt a more optimistic view of their parenting skills, their child’s problems and their ability to cope and promote positive change in their families and the lives of their children.

"Understanding the problem is the key to solving it." Dr. O'Connor offers  Psychological Assessments and parent consultations to help "get to the root of child problems" , and find evidence based interventions to address them.

The  Psychological Assessment  and/or the  Parent Consultation increases understanding of child problems and how to help.

Find out where things are going well and how you can help?

Dr. O'Connor runs her practice, in Toronto (Yonge & St.Clair.)

She can be reached at 416-592-0838.

You can also contact Dr. O'Connor by email.

Dr. O'Connor is the author of I Can Be Me-A Helping Book for Children of Alcoholic Parents.