A Parent’s Greatest Fear


One of the benefits I experienced during my days on the lecture circuit was the opportunity to meet wise and learned senior colleagues who shared pearls of knowledge that helped me see clinical situations in a new light. One such colleague is Dennis Rosen, a developmental pediatrician in Western Massachusetts well-known for treating kids with a variety of emotional or behavioral problems. He shared the anecdote below after an evening lecture:

Before he finishes a consultation, Dr. Rosen regularly asks parents “Deep down inside, is there anything you were afraid you’d find out as a result of our meeting today?” By far and away, the most common answer he receives is “I was afraid that I did something to cause my child’s problems.”

I suspect the fear of being told that their parenting strategies, family values or choices are the cause of their child’s emotional or behavioral problems poses a major obstacle to families becoming actively involved with a local church.

shutterstock_351645356Getting to the root cause when kids experience the behaviors listed above can be pretty challenging. That’s why I had to do four years of med school, three years of general psychiatry residency and a two year child psychiatry fellowship in preparation for my job. There are all kinds of developmental, environmental, biological, genetic, psychosocial and spiritual issues at play in kids with issues. Is it possible that “scripturally unsound parenting” could contribute to the behaviors listed above? Absolutely. How might a parent of a child being treated for ADHD, depression, Bipolar Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder hear the message described in the post? If that parent is exploring Christianity, would they experience grace in the teaching they experienced?

There are topics that are very difficult to discuss outside the context of a relationship. After I’ve gotten to know parents for a while, I can talk about “scripturally unsound parenting” because I’ve taken the time to understand all facets of their child’s situation. There may be parents who are trying their best visiting the church with kids who have bad genes, kids who experienced trauma or abuse, or kids who haven’t yet developed the skills to effectively self-regulate their emotions and behavior.  How do we welcome them and share with them the unconditional love Christ has for them? How do we as the church best communicate so we build the relationships necessary to cast influence in their family?

There’s a lot to say about how churches handle this issue.

Originally published 7/25/10. Most recently revised 1/23/16.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
This entry was posted in ADHD, Adoption, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Parents and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Parent’s Greatest Fear

  1. amyfentonlee says:

    Dr. Steve – LOVE IT! This is definitely a great addition and tie in to The Inclusive Church blog entry today. Thank you!


  2. pistolpete says:

    I was 31 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and still my mother blamed herself.


  3. Pingback: Bad Parenting or Autism? | Life2gether

  4. Tarasview says:

    I just found this post from the Inclusive Church blog- I am a pastor’s wife and mother of 3. My oldest has ASD & ODD and my middle has ADHD. When I read the parent’s greatest fear in this post I burst into tears. It is so true. Thanks for writing this wonderful post.


  5. Patricia Ward says:

    Thank you for writing this post. Two of my grandchildren are affected by ADHD and ODD. Inclusion by the church is pivotal, especially since their parents are in church ministry.


  6. Jon says:

    Oh the church should be the safest place for these families. It breaks my heart that it is not.


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