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Child Diseases: How it can Affect Marriage & Ways to Cope

child in wheelchair

Childhood Diseases

Samuel and Leo

Leo was born just after one in the afternoon on January 21. The doctors said that the baby had been born with Down syndrome and the parents experienced a few minutes of shock. The shock passed when he Leo’s father held him for the first time and fell in love. The pediatrician brought Leo to see his dad. The baby’s face was covered up and the hospital staff wouldn’t let Samuel Forrest see the baby. The doctor paused, looked at Forrest and told him there was a problem with his son.

Speaking to ABC News, Forrest recounted what he experienced when the physicians and nurses told him his son had Down syndrome. Then Forrest held his son for the very first time. Forrest’s wife’s reaction wasn’t what he was expecting. She gave him an ultimatum — the baby or her.  Keep the baby and get a divorce. Despite the warning, Forrest claimed to never have any doubt that he would keep his son. A week later, Leo’s mom left home and filed for divorce. Samuel was left to raise his son alone.

“He’s beautiful,” Samuel Forrest told ABC News. “He’s perfect and I’m keeping him.”  Forrest established a GoFundMe account to raise the funds needed to take Leo home to New Zealand.

As of February 5, the amount raised passed the target. In nine days, Forrest had raised over $60,000. The amount grew to just over $500k.

When a child has a life-threatening illness, life, for the parents, as they know it, ends. The world starts spinning and it becomes a confusing existence. New medical terms to learn and new procedures to get used to. No parent wants to make mistakes. The fear of making an error is magnified when a child is hit with what, often, seems unfair. Some parents scream, “This can’t be happening to me!” But it has

The stress of a gravely ill child can take its toll on a marriage, especially a marriage that already had some cracks in the foundation showing. The added stress of a sick child can send marriages over the wall into divorce. Some observers say that a wedding has as much as a 90 percent chance of falling apart when a child is diagnosed with what could be a fatal illness.

That’s what “observers” say. The truth is that research don’t support the dire statistics.

It is true though that the marriage will change. Parents of terminally ill children change and with them, the parent’s relationships change as well. Some of the worst fears and strongest stressors will affect the parent and challenge the world view that they have held close. The marriage can survive and may become stronger and more intimate. It all hangs on how the parents handle the situation.

Deborah Raiees-Dana lost her ten-year-old daughter to cancer in 1999. When her spouse filed for divorce, Raiees-Dana found there wasn’t anything in writing to help her cope with the grief of losing both her child and husband. She sat down and wrote a how-to guide of sorts for parents facing the same rough path she had just traveled.  Over the years, she has updated the paper and it is available online.

Be Aware

Remain aware of some of the issues the marriage will encounter. Knowledge, combined with alertness, can keep parents from being caught off balance. More knowledge of the situation will also help increase the sense of control. There will be outside forces on the marriage and either, or both, of the parents may anticipate how they can manage the pressure. The pressures can either destroy or strengthen. With some reflection and thought, the marriage should survive.


Finances are already a source of friction in many marriages. When a child is first diagnosed, the community rallies and raises funds for the parents.  Over time though, the disease continues even as the money dries up. In addition to medical bills, there will be expenses for meals, travel, lodging and those items which were forgotten at home and need to be replaced at the hospital. With a child in the hospital, there isn’t time to clip coupons and everything adds fuel to the potential for arguments.

A social worker might provide contact information for organizations that may provide financial support. Trouble with creditors? Consumer Credit Counseling can intervene sometimes.


Hospitals are not excellent locations for catching up on sleep. Once you get home with your child, a parent can still expect their sleep to be fitful. Rigid schedules demand that medicines are given on time and frequently your child may need other assistance during the night. A parent’s worry and stress can block a good night’s sleep and physical reserves can be destroyed due to a lack of sleep.


Being in a hospital, even one close to home, can lead to a feeling of isolation. Some diseases may demand that your home be almost quarantined even after coming home from the hospital. Friends and family may evade you since they don’t know what to say. With the demands of caring for a sick child, the parent may find themselves too tired to maintain contact with friends as well.


Communication with a spouse can also be threatened from the lifestyle needed to care for a sick child. Hospitals aren’t great places to carry on in-depth, intimate conversations. As the hospital if there’s a room available where the parents can talk freely.  Failure to do so can lead up to pressures that may blow eventually.


Even with a sick child and the feeling that everything in the world must revolve around him or her, the truth is that life goes on and there are other commitments to be handled. Other kids in the family may need to be cared for; the extended family may end up being a burden and trying to balance a job with the child’s needs can be challenging at best. There may also be community commitments such as religious, civic and social groups.  And don’t forget, your spouse needs your time as well.


Family, friends and a faith group often can provide support. Don’t be leery of asking for help too soon — early support could prove to be the difference in a surviving marriage or a failing one.

Hospital Staff

The hospital will have trained professionals who have experience in similar situations. Besides medical personnel, hospitals often have social workers, child life specialists and mental health workers available. Make use of all the resources you come across.

Support Groups

To avoid isolation, connect with other parents who know what you’re going through. The hospital staff, as well as clergy, is probably able to provide you with contact information for a self-support group that fits your needs.

Deborah Raiees-Dana understands that it takes two to make the marriage work and she freely shares her experience with others. She reminds every parent of an afflicted child that there is hope and help.

Bad Parenting–What It Really Does to Kids (Scientific Proof)

The Effects of Bad Parenting

The Effects of Bad Parenting

Ten Serious Effects of Negative Parenting—and the Science Behind Them 
We all know that neglectful, dysfunctional, and/or abusive parenting patterns can have long-term negative effects on children. Marianna Klebanov draws on new research to explain just how deep and significant the effects of bad parenting actually are.

San Francisco, CA (March 2015)—We all intuitively know that the way a child is parented has a deep and indelible impact on that child’s life. But now, thanks to ever-more-detailed brain scans and scientific research, we’re learning just how important parenting actually is. What happens during a child’s formative years directly impacts the brain’s growth and development—and not always for the better.

“When a parent’s behavior does not create a loving, supportive environment, a child’s brain develops in altered form,” says Marianna Klebanov, coauthor along with Adam D. Travis of The Critical Role of Parenting in Human Development (Routledge, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-138-02513-4, $46.95, “Dysfunctional, irrational, and destructive behavior patterns are literally programmed into the child’s brain, setting the stage for recurring issues throughout that child’s life.”

negative parenting

The effects of Negect

Among a host of scientific studies on these issues, Klebanov points to research from the Washington University School of Medicine, which shows that children of nurturing mothers have much larger, healthier brains. Furthermore, the hippocampi of neglected children were up to 10 percent smaller than those of children with caring, loving mothers. (See the image below from Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, for a comparison.)

 “This is significant, because the hippocampus is the region of the brain responsible for memory, stress control, learning, and other cognitive tasks,” Klebanov explains. “But of course, it’s only when we translate this scientific lingo into real-life consequences that the serious implications of this research truly come to light.”

Here, Klebanov looks at 10 ways in which parenting affects children throughout their lives:

Parenting affects intelligence and education. As Klebanov has pointed out, a parent’s nurture (or lack thereof) affects the growth of children’s brains, as well as their ability to learn. Research has also amply demonstrated that children who receive corporal punishment (yes, this includes spanking) score lower on IQ tests and other tests of cognitive ability.

“The bottom line is, a child who is subject to any level of abuse, mistreatment, or neglect will often grow up with lower intelligence levels and cognitive strength—consequences that obviously have a detrimental effect on his or her education,” Klebanov explains. “Childhood trauma also impacts social and emotional intelligence, thus leading to relationship problems that additionally limit educational advance¬ment, success, and accomplishment.”

Parenting affects career success. When we struggle with problems in our careers, their roots can often be traced to childhood issues. Of course, lack of education, which in itself limits an individual’s career path, can be a consequence of arrested cogni¬tive development caused by less-than-optimal parenting.

“Furthermore, if our parents were unsupportive, engaged in obvious or subtle put-downs, or modeled destructive relationship and communication patterns, these issues will become wired into our brain circuitry during our development,” Klebanov comments. “This can lead to limits on upward mobility, problems with earning capacity, lack of respect for and from others, negative relationships, and other career-sabotaging problems.”


Parenting affects morality. Parental affection and attention matter much more than many of us realize. Research has shown that fast responses to infants’ cries, physical contact and affection, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping all help children grow up to become adults with mature moral development, including a developed sense of empathy and moral sensitivity to others.

“Children’s primary caregivers directly impact the child’s primary and fundamental neural connections at times of prime brain plasticity,” Klebanov states. “Ironically, many people throughout history and today have applied the concept that children must be strictly corrected so that they do not grow up to be immoral individuals. But in reality, kind, loving, and responsive parenting leads to emotional maturity and empathetic morality. Cruel, distant, and critical parenting leads to children who become cruel, distant, and critical adults.”

Parenting affects violence, crime, and war. When a child is parented with violence, neural connections form in an unhealthy fashion. (Klebanov states that violent parenting certainly includes severe trauma, but also covers “less serious” practices like spanking and slapping.) In particular, the child’s brain becomes overwhelmed with stress, leading to faulty stress response systems that contribute to irrational behaviors such as hypervigilance, violence toward others, and revictimization.

And once again, brain scan studies demonstrate that trauma during development stunts the growth of the child’s brain in various ways, which can lead to violent behavior due to limited cognitive abilities and difficulty controlling aggression in a healthy manner.

“Parents who are violent toward their children often rationalize the behavior based on the concept of retribution,” Klebanov shares. “That is, if a child behaves badly, he or she ‘deserves’ a painful punishment. When the majority of a society’s children are parented with violence—which is certainly the case in the United States—that society’s prevailing belief becomes that escalating violence, retribution, and cruelty are somehow constructive. It’s easy to see how this belief plays out not only in individual households, but in violent crime, gang warfare, and the perpetuation of war.”

Parenting affects mental health. As Klebanov has explained, childhood trauma caused by parental mistreatment can lead to a host of mental health dysfunctions. And in fact, many studies have shown a significant link between childhood trauma and mental illness.

“Specifically, childhood trauma has been linked to PTSD, attachment disorders, dissociative behaviors, developmental delays, disordered psychological patterns, inappropriate response and interaction in social situations (including ambivalent, hypervigilant, contradictory, or excessively inhibited responses), higher levels of internalizing, and deviant behaviors in adolescence,” she notes. “Childhood trauma can also lead to anxiety and depression. All of these psychological issues have tragic impacts on individual lives, and collectively, they cost our society dearly.”

Parenting affects addiction. Studies have shown that adverse childhood experiences lead to an increase in addictive behaviors. Parental substance abuse, as well as the need to dull the pain caused by one’s own childhood maltreatment, may lead to substance abuse in the victimized individual. Frequently, children of substance abusers themselves replay their parents’ patterns.

“Whatever its cause, it’s no secret that substance abuse often leads to serious lifelong problems that impact individuals and society as a whole,” Klebanov says. “These problems include health issues, emotional limitations, obsessions and compulsions, serious financial issues, an inability to take responsibility for one’s actions, destroyed relationships, anger and/or violence, a lack of productivity, an inability to responsibly manage family obligations, and more.”

Parenting affects relationships. The relationship between a child and his or her parents serves as the foundation for all of that child’s future relationships. Infants and small children need to experience love and positive attachment behaviors from their primary caregivers in order to conduct relationships optimally throughout life. If these things are not present, children may grow up to be too needy or attached, too critical, withdrawn, unreliable, inconsiderate, and more as they recreate the earliest relationship they experienced.

“How many of us suffer because of negative relationships?” asks Klebanov. “We read relationship guides, we wonder why we continue to repeat the same patterns, we suffer continued discord, we suffer through the emotional pain and economic struggle of divorce, we live through continuing failed relationships or failed friend¬ships, and we take on jobs where our coworkers and bosses treat us inappropriately. All the time, we are unknowingly recreating patterns that developed in our brains when they were most plastic and forming their primal connections.”

Parenting affects physical health. Childhood trauma is proven to cause numerous physical illnesses and disorders including cancer, severe obesity, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease. It can lead to accelerated aging and inflammation, and has also been linked to chemical sensitivities and allergies, autoimmune diseases, and osteoarthritis.

“Unfortunately, these links are not general public knowledge,” Klebanov comments. “But they are so impressive that when they are more widely disseminated, they have the potential to make a significant positive social impact. As a practical matter, the reduction of child abuse and neglect in various forms will lead to a decrease in physical illness and to a generally healthier society and culture. And in terms of policy, increased funding for effective parental education and therapeutic programs would lead to enormous reductions in healthcare costs, as well as a generally less ill, more energetic, more productive society.”

Parenting affects personal economics and the economy as a whole. Children whose parents are strict about money and anxious about not having enough (whether because of actual circumstances or due to fear-driven thriftiness) grow up in an environment of limitation and stress, which may impact the child’s status with peers, ability to concentrate on studies, and feelings of anxiety.

Believe it or not, the negative impact of a parent’s financial concerns can begin even before birth. For example, if a pregnant mother is concerned about the cost of raising the child she is carrying, this concern will reflect itself in the stress hormones and chemicals that are released into the body she shares with the child.

“On the other hand, children who live with financial plenty grow up in an environment with less fear, less stress, and a stronger social support network,” Klebanov says. “This is one reason why wealthier parents tend to raise wealthier children, and those raised in poverty frequently remain in a state of financial limitation. And obviously, personal economics impact our society’s overall economic health. Where many in the population are financially limited, consumer spending is limited, leading to businesses that also suffer financial hardship.”

Parenting affects prison costs, defense costs, and healthcare costs. While Klebanov has touched on these consequences of negative parenting already, their impact on spending (both public and private) is so significant that they deserve to be mentioned on their own.

“Violence stemming from childhood trauma leads to increased rates of incarceration, and thus rising rates of prison spending,” Klebanov explains. “Our overarching cultural belief in the effectiveness of retribution causes us to act on the premise that war is necessary to correct other nations’ wrongful behavior, leading to a staggering defense budget. And research has linked child abuse with measurably higher healthcare costs in individuals. Just take a moment to imagine how different our country and our world might be if even a relatively small percentage of those dollars were free to be spent on other needs and initiatives.” 

“Ultimately, very few elements of our lives escape the impact of parenting, even though we may not consciously connect our difficulties, dysfunctions, and issues with our upbringing,” Klebanov concludes. “My intention in sharing this information is not to shame or needlessly frighten parents, but to educate them in order to spark positive change. The majority of parents do want the best for their children, and are themselves victims of negative parenting and erroneous cultural beliefs.”

She adds, “As science and technology continue to reveal more about the effects of parenting on children’s brains, as well as on their overall growth and development, I hope we will begin to see meaningful change in the education provided to parents, in our nation’s policies and laws pertaining to the rights of children, and in increased funding in the area of mental health treatment.”

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About Marianna Klebanov: 
Marianna S. Klebanov, JD, is the coauthor of The Critical Role of Parenting in Human Development. She works as an attorney with a specialty in matters relating to child welfare and family violence. She writes a column on issues relating to parenting, child abuse prevention, and brain development. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee of Family and Children Services, a large nonprofit organization focusing on mental health services. Klebanov chairs the organization’s Program Committee, overseeing the board’s relationship with the organization’s mental health and counseling programs. She is the legislative liaison to the Board of Supervisors for the Juvenile Justice Commission and serves on the Child Abuse Prevention Council. Klebanov graduated with honors from Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and earned her JD from the University of California at Hastings, where she served as a journal editor.

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Pool Safety and Children – 5 Layers of Protection

child pool safety

Pool Safety

In 1987, Life Saver coined the phrase “layers of protection” to describe the most effective way to prevent drownings. Almost 30 years later, everyone (including the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance) recommends layers of protection.

Five key layers of protection are:

1. Parent supervision

Nothing beats parent supervision. Proactive parent supervision is your most important tool in drowning prevention. When using the pool, active supervision means sitting close to the pool with your full attention on the child/children — no reading, no texting, just watching the pool. At parties/events, we recommend designating a person as a Water Watcher (we offer lanyards and whistles to give to the person to denote them), and change shifts every 15 minutes. Most drownings occur, though, when the child was thought to be in the house, nowhere near the pool area. In 67% of fatal drowning cases, a parent was responsible for supervising the child. So, supervision can and does fail, and that’s why you need additional layers of protection.

2. High locks on all doors and windows.


Locks out of the reach of children should be installed, and used, on every door and window that leads to the pool area. Lots of drownings happen because a parent didn’t know that the child had figured out the door knob, so don’t rely on the door being shut. Also, close up and doggy/pet doors that access the pool. Lots of children who drown got to the pool via a doggy door.

3. Pool Safety Fence

Pool fencing is the only layer of protection that physically isolates the backyard from the pool. Fences should be at least 4′ tall and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Mesh pool safety fence, like Life Saver Pool Fence, has proven to be an effective layer of protection for over 45 years. It’s very transparent, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to remove when entertaining only adults.

4. Alarms

Drowning is silent. Alarms break that silence. There are door/window alarms, alarms that sit in the pool, and our favorite, the Safety Turtle which is worn on the child.  If the child falls into the pool, an alarm inside that house goes off.

5. Swimming Lessons

All children should receive swimming lessons as early as their parents and pediatricians feel comfortable. Swimming lessons can begin earlier than one might think, some organizations training even infants to roll over and float, and to swim to the edge of the pool in the event that they fall in.

5.5 CPR

And if all of the other layers of protection fail, parents should be trained in CPR. Knowledge of CPR can make the difference between life, permanent disability, and death.