Protective Parenting

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Grandfather in a Parent Support Group

The story is tragic but familiar: The mom and dad succumb to drug addiction, the dad lands in prison, and the mom, still using, winds up homeless. Where does that leave their middle-school–aged boys, Jake and John? In the loving hands of their grandparents, Jack and Julie, who gladly stepped up to parent their grandchildren.

Child Welfare referred the grandparents to the Family Solutions Protective Parenting Class in Grants Pass because the boys needed special care, having been traumatized by family disruption, parental neglect, and abuse. Jack and Julie were happy to attend the class.

“When you haven’t raised kids for over 15 years, you forget what it’s like,” says Jack. “I figured I needed a refresher, and boy was I right. These classes are good for ANY PARENT or guardian, not just people who have had challenges or kids with behavioral issues.”

Children who have been exposed to adult abuse and neglect often manifest exceptional behavioral challenges that require a specific parenting approach. Standard parenting strategies can easily backfire and may even make the child worse. Severely traumatized, the boys were regressed in home, school, and community functioning. Neither was involved in extracurricular activities. After the boys relaxed into a more stable routine, Jack enrolled his younger grandson, John, in soccer.

“You should see his face light up when he kicks that ball into the net!” Jack says proudly. “But it hasn’t all been easy. When the boys first got here, they were scared and nervous. Trust was a big issue. Sometimes they had extreme reactions to our rules.”

The parenting classes taught Jack how to manage his own reactions to the boys’ outbursts and better handle conflict. It helped for him to talk with other parents, who suggested strategies that worked when they had faced similar difficulties.

Jack learned to separate the boys when they start fighting. They quickly realized they prefer being with each other without fighting to being alone in separate rooms. “In the past, I might’ve hollered at them to quit fighting,” says Jack. “Now I know a better way.”

The grandparents learned how to provide developmentally appropriate expectations that reduce the level of stress for everyone in the household. Their understanding of abuse dynamics has helped them be more present for Jake and John. Most importantly, they learned not to take the boys’ behaviors personally.

The house rule is to give the kids an hour after school to play outside or to play a video game, but then it’s time to do homework. One evening, after telling Jake to pause the video game until after homework, it was still on 15 minutes later. Jack was about to tell Jake to stop the game when Jake told him, “I think you need to take the Nintendo out of my room, Papa. I just can’t focus knowing that game is waiting for me.”

“Jake didn’t ask to have it back until school was out for the summer,” says Jack. “I’m pretty sure these boys will turn out just fine. And if I run into any more challenges, I can call my friends at Family Solutions!”

Stock photo used for illustration purposes only. Client names have been changed to protect the subjects’ anonymity.
 
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