Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for December 19th, 2011

Difficult Child or Bad Marriage: Which Came First?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 19, 2011

  Rachel and Tim have been married for twelve years. They have three children, two of whom are relatively trouble-free, but their oldest, Enid is a “disaster” by their account. Enid has no friends. She does poorly in school. No one knows how to help her. She has cost the family tens of thousands of dollars in various interventions with only mild success, if any. It is not clear. Tim has decided to leave Rachel. He says that his life is very unpleasant and that at forty years old he feels he deserves to be happy. Rachel thinks that Tim has been so disappointed by Enid’s difficulties that he “checked out” leaving her with the entire burden to trying to figure out what Enid needs. Before Enid, the oldest, was born Rachel and Tim had some marital problems, but they never contemplated divorce until recently.

 My job is to help them help Enid, but I cannot wonder about how difficulties in a child creates the need for blame and withdrawal, resulting in painful and sometimes irreconcilable marital discord. It is hard to understand the unfairness of parenting. Some kids are “easy” in that they develop with high accomplishments and they are mostly compliant with rules. Other kids, by contrast, have a hard time fitting in and they don’t achieve the successes of other children. Depending on parental expectations, these differences in children, can be heartbreaking, financially draining, and deeply disturbing to a family. As a child psychiatrist, I see families destroyed by the challenges of their children. It is not easy to have your expectations of parenthood dashed by the reality that some kids do not grow up to be independent adults. Or, they do become independent, but they struggle with social relationships and economic stability. The pain in the parents can be deep. Deep pain leads to inner turmoil and outward blame. Marriages often cave under this pressure. It is too bad, but it is understandable.

Posted in Parenting | 5 Comments »

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