Hazardous Parenting

Hazardous Parenting

Hazardous Parenting:

How to Regain and Maintain Your Life While Raising a Child with Dis-Regulated Behaviours and Behavior Disorders

Hazardous Parenting is a term I use to describe and define the parenting experience of raising children who have serious and multiple behaviour disorders. This term is not a negative reflection of the children nor does it indicate a lack of love in the parent/child relationship. Indeed, most parents of children with behaviour disorders or dis-regulated behaviors dedicate their lives to giving their child every opportunity to reach their full potential. As well, the behaviour disorders do not negate the many positive attributes that the children or youth possess and the many parts of their personality that are brave, funny, happy, creative, and just plain wonderful. And, to be clear, not all children who have a behaviour disorder create chronic stress in those who live with them. But for those who are finding themselves overwhelmed by stress, then this article will help you acknowledge your stress and begin your recovery.


As the parent of a child with challenges you may have experiences stress from any of the following:

– trying to find, afford, and access all available services

– responding to regular crisis calls from the school and others when your child cannot comply with the agenda

– never being able to take a break from parenting

– not having time to give your other children the time they need

– not having time to have a social life, or friends, or interests beyond your child’s special needs

– having to learn more and more about the condition and the potential interventions or supports

– not having time to resolve normal marital issues

– ongoing financial stress from having to provide services or supports for your child

– alienation and criticism from extended family who don’t understand the issues

– police involvement when the behaviors escalate

– aggressive or self injurious behaviors presented by the child

Here are some suggestions to help you as you recreate your life and begin your recovery from the stress of Hazardous Parenting:

Exercise: the first step to good brain health is exercise. It will help to rebuild the neurons that are destroyed by the years of chronic stress and will reduce your chances of developing dementia and heart disease that can result from chronic stress.

Set personal boundaries: take a look at your life and determine where you need to say “Stop” and then stick with it.

Distract from racing thoughts: racing thoughts/worries are a stress trigger. You can train yourself to distract from sinking into those familiar negative thought patterns. Doing something as simple as changing your physical position can help — for example, if you are sitting down, then stand up. If you are loading the dishwasher, stop for a moment and do a quick breathing exercise.

Positive & nurturing self-talk: your brain will respond to what you say and what you make yourself think about — you can re-train it to go to the positive by focusing on the good in your life and the good you have to offer the world.

Don’t take on the responsibility for the emotional well-being of others: you are only responsible for your emotional well-being – others can’t fix you and you can’t fix them

Set the bar lower: many of us judge our own success by measuring ourselves against others. Our small successes are just as valuable to our family and to the world as the major successes of others.

Acknowledge the losses: parents of children with behavioral challenges typically experience multiple losses throughout their child raising years. Some are subtle and not noticed till later, others are more obvious and are recognized as soon as they are gone.

Seek a place outside of yourself and your family to *give your sorrow words* (Shakespeare said that): your first step in recovering from loss is to claim the losses by articulating them and creating a narrative. You can do this by joining a live or online support group of other recovering parents, or you can write about it in a journal or a blog. Any of these will externalize the experiences and the feelings. Just make sure you find a safe way to let it out

Raising a child with behavior disorders is not a life sentence, although it can feel like that when the stress becomes chronic and overwhelming. It’s important that you realize that the harmful effects of chronic stress can be alleviated and that you are as important as your child. Put your mental health at the top of your agenda and move onto a more positive and stress reduced life.

Photo by Menage a Moi

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