This post was originally written in 2014 but still rings very true today. Unfortunately the blog post from Tami Green is no longer online to link.
During last week's Twitter "Ask a DBT Therapist" a follower asked if it is possible to "heal" from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD.) As we wrote back and forth for a bit she said this line that had stuck with me, "it's a daily struggle even after a lifetime of therapy and self help. I hope my kids don't learn it...l I wonder of they are better off without me." I spoke with her about people with BPD likely have invalidating parents and childhood abuse, which she admitted was true for her case. I told her she can (mostly) control those 2 factors in her own children and left it there. 5 days later I am still thinking about the statement..
"I hope my kids don't learn it"
I have not read anything on those with BPD raising children until last Sunday and since then have read just about everything on this subject to speak on it to the BPD Community. Every article I read from every journal I could find stated that yes parents with BPD often have issues with their children regarding "attachment and structure" every study involved mothers who were diagnosed with BPD, but received no intensive mental health services. There are no studies on those (who like the woman I was talking to on Sunday) have "a lifetime of therapy and self help," no studies on mothers with BPD whom have done Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), have grounding techniques, skills or tools.
Tami Green has a Blog where she talks about her own struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder in it she talks to Dr. Blaise Aguiree about those diagnosed with BPD raising children. He came up with this set of 10 guidelines for raising children, which utilizes a lot of DBT skill:
1. Validate your child and teach them to self-validate. Validating is, basically, the ability to articulate to your child that you understand their experience to be true and valid for them. This is key to helping your child learn how to trust himself.
And also, teach your child that no matter what, even the most compassionate humans are limited in their ability to understand an another person's experience. Most people don't set out to be mean and insensitive, and yet they may come across as being so. And also some people are intentionally vindictive. Either way, it is vitally important your children don't expect others to validate who they are, but rather that they learn to validate their own experiences.
2. Teach your child non-judgmental and dialectical thinking. Dialectical thinking is the ability to hold two opposing viewpoints at one time. This discipline develops more effective problem solving, better relationship building, and less black and white thinking (splitting).
3. Give them many opportunities to explore their own unique talents and competences. Guide them towards what you see they like, ask them questions about their preferences, let them make decisions. Get them talking about what is uniquely fun and interesting to them.
4. Know your own self very well. Understand your feelings, beliefs and behaviors and also expect that your child is distinctly different from you.
5. Teach distress tolerance and self-soothing skills. Those with BPD have a hard time regulating their emotions. Rather than reinforcing temper tantrums or backing down from requests just because they seem distressing to your child, teach them how to calm themselves and tolerate these types of interactions.
6. Learn not to react. Keep yourself grounded and model effective, not reactive, behavior. Firm, consistent, calm interactions are the goal.
7. Increase skill-building instruction and opportunities in the areas of: personal responsibility, interpersonal effectiveness, time management, basic finances, and appropriate social responses. On the other hand, and just as important, lower your expectations of them that are not consistent with their true selves and innate value system.
8. Attach consequences to bad decisions and reinforce good decisions. Prepare them for real world living, even if they face real challenges associated with a disability of any kind. Let them know that, even if there are challenges, you have 100% faith in your child having a meaningful life. Part of that belief is knowing you expect them to be able to navigate real-life situations.
9. Teach your child to consider others' feelings, thoughts and behaviors while also firmly holding to a strong understanding of their own needs. It is not an either-or life we live. We can remain firm in our own value system, while also contemplating and accommodating another's belief. How simple, and also how advanced a concept this is.
10. And finally, don't take life too seriously. Life is full of ups and downs. Teach them to go with the flow and don't sweat the small stuff. Life is good and meant to be enjoyed and it all turns out just fine. No one is perfect and life is about learning and growing from our mistakes.