Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
Dear Dr. Debbie,
My husband is a marine vet and we have four children, from a 6-month-old to a 9-year-old. I’m sure his military experience has contributed to his stress level, even though he’s home for good now. My concern is how he treats our children, particularly the six-year-old, our second oldest. My husband flies off the handle at the slightest thing – such as how our son holds his fork at dinner. I try to tell him, in private, that yelling is not a good way to help our children behave better. I worry about their self-esteem and also that they are not getting a good model for their own future parenting.
I’ve asked my husband to go to counseling with me, but he doesn’t think we are having any problems.
Don’t miss last week’s column on dealing with a constipated child.
Dear Wanting Peace,
Yes, counseling would be beneficial. Often one child bears the brunt of a parent’s stress, sometimes because the child is very much like that parent. The stressed out parent may be making a wayward attempt to yell at himself. Additionally, a baby in the house can contribute to household stress – at least one parent must provide steady attention, including interruptions to a good night’s sleep.
Military service has its own brand of stress. According to the Military Family website, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is found in up to 20% of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Flying off the handle” is among the list of symptoms. Resistance to seeking help is an unfortunate condition of many individuals with mental health needs; going to counseling is viewed as a sign of weakness. Perhaps a skilled vet counselor could see you individually at first to talk about your concerns about your husband and the effect his yelling is having on you and the children. Eventually your husband may get brave enough to join you in getting profession help.
Find information on local counseling service locations as well as other resources for veterans at the Anne Arundel County Network of Care. If your family qualifies, counseling services are free.
Hoping for the best for all of you!
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com