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Teens, mental health and marriage

Are we out of options!?
Are we out of options!?
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We have talked about this topic a couple of other times. Teen issues today seem 10 times tougher than in the 70’s or 80’s. But one issue that seems to drive married couples to near nervous breakdown are the teens who have mental health issues. I am not talking about, nor am I excluding mental retardation. Yes that can have a major impact on a marriage, but seems to have at some level, some acceptance.

But, what about those parents dealing with teens who have Bipolar disorder, Oppositional defiance disorder or maybe some narcissistic traits? These sorts of issues in teens can really make things hard on a marriage. You find yourself asking should we give up, should we let them learn a lesson, or even, should I feel guilty. Well, first you should not ever feel guilty about your teen being sick.

Having mental health disorders is not about raising them well or providing the best for them. They will either have issues or they won’t, absolutely do not blame yourself. What is scary is that there couples who blame each other. Some it seems that we live in “someone’s at fault” mentality, when we can’t explain it…we blame it. And we even do this with issues that are out of anyone’s control.

It is this mentality that rocks marriages to the brink of divorce. When marriage partners think about becoming marriage parents they are usually shortsighted. They focus on the early delight of having endearing children, not on the later demands of having abrasive adolescents. Although they will see their teenager less than they saw their toddler, because adolescents are more drawn to the company of peers and eager to experience life away from home, parents will spend more time preoccupied with the teenager.

They will be more entangled with conflict over matters of freedom and responsibility, and more beset by worries over harmful conduct and social danger. Better yet, in relation to Oppositional defiance or narcissistic traits, their self-centeredness suffuses and they may not want to take any responsibility. No, it is not always related to Oppositional defiance or narcissistic traits, normal healthy teens will challenge authority to some degree.

Plus, the stress they may create is nothing compared to the stress felt with teens of mental health disorders or addiction. If a couple is not in turn with what their feeling and stay in constant communication with each other, holding their marriage together becomes almost impossible. Teens with these sort of mental health issues can, like flipping a switch, bring chaos to any given situation or conversation.

What starts off as a simple conversation about your teen getting a job or doing chores can become an all-out fight, especially if they don’t see the need for a job or doing chores. After all, it’s mom and dad’s job to take care of everything, right?. So now you have a teen, with possible Bipolar disorder, Oppositional defiance or narcissistic traits, who thinks they should be a kept, catered to 18 yr. old just because their still in school.

This is where mom and dad have to be on the same page. Perhaps rule number one when parenting adolescents is this: never let parenting decisions about the teenager become divisive of the marriage. Remember, when the young person is grown and gone, how well parent’s partner will partly depend on how well they managed their relationship during their son or daughter's adolescent years.

Was it a time of unity and gratitude for each other's support or of intractable opposition and resentment for feeling abandoned? Did they pull together or did they pull apart? That will be the million dollar question, along with after the child leaving, was the devastation such that they couldn’t pull things back together. Do the best you can, draw your line in sand at some point and advocate for each other. If you teen inadvertently creates separation between mom and dad that fuels anger and resentment, you just may have lost the will to fight to stay together.

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