Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘changing parent's behavior’ Category

Father Checks Son into Rehab

Posted by Marcia on September 18, 2012

I have moved my blog; please click here for the new location.

The new blog post is about a recent conversation I had with someone whose son has been causing them a lot of heartache and the father’s emotions regarding the situation.

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Posted in Addiction and Prescription Medicine, alcoholic father, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, chemically dependent, drug use, enabler, enabling, Parents and teens, teen alcoholic, teen and addiction, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger Scott Morgan: Five Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

Posted by Marcia on February 29, 2012

Today’s guest author is Scott Morgan, a a board certified Austin divorce attorney who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. You can read his blog at AustinDivorceSpecialist.com.

Divorce is an emotional roller coaster for most couples, but the ride usually ends when a judge grants the divorce and the couple go their separate ways. However, for the divorcing couple with minor children, the ride continues well beyond the judge?s termination of the marriage. They may no longer be married, but they are still to mom and dad, so the parting has to wait until the children are grown.

Co-parenting with an ex-spouse can be difficult, but there are a few simple rules and techniques to help make it easier for you, and, more importantly, less stressful for your children.

To read the remaining post, please go to my other blog. I’m gradually migrating to Strained Relations: Parenting Troubled Teens and hope you sign up for the RSS feed to follow me there.

Posted in changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, children of divorce, Co-Parenting, confidence, cope at the holidays, emotional abuse, enabling, estranged, Parents and teens, parents divorce, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Loss, Regrets and Living an Honest Life

Posted by Marcia on December 3, 2011

This has been a year of loss for me including several friends and now family members. Sometimes, just when you need something to remind you of important lessons, a friend sends you an article. I was sent “Top Five Regrets of The Dying” and recommend this page.

For those of us coping with difficult family relationships and troubled people, it’s easy to focus on the pain and not view the other wonderful parts of our lives and the positive things we can do.

Are you honest about your hopes and dreams and who you really are? Do you express your feelings? Have you established and kept friends, and are you honest with those friends?

Once I was honest with others about my relationship with my son, I found support, understanding, and a whole lot of other people with their own family pain. It was so reassuring to know I was not alone, and it gave me additional courage to write the book, this blog, and reach out to others.

I know that what I read in that article was very true, and I hope it helps you or gives you something to think about.

Posted in adopted kids, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, forgiveness, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, listen to family problems, missing our son, out of control teens, parent coping with disappointment in kids, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Keeping Perspective on Problems

Posted by Marcia on November 21, 2011

Please note I am now primarily posting at Strained Relations: Parenting Troubled Teens. You’ll find all of the content you have sought on this blog. Please follow me over there.

Thank you,

Marcia

 

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written, and I could go into lengthy reasons, but I will instead say we took a fantastic vacation, my old computer died, had to get a new one, suffered though re-doing each program and lost a lot of data. Meanwhile, I learned more disheartening and worrisome news about our son. Just when I think he’s on the brink of getting on-track.

One of the things I’ve been mulling over is that when you’re living in the same house where you have difficult memories, being concerned about your child, where s/he is, how s/he’s doing, what will be in the future, it’s hard to remove yourself from that spiral of thoughts, worries, re-plays of conversations/fights and missed opportunities, second-guessing and regrets. At least, that’s the way it is for me, so I assume it must be the same for many others.

Going away, being out of our environment and going to a foreign country with a different culture worked some magic in reminding me about perspective.

We live in California, and although there are older buildings and ruins we can visit, our area is mostly pretty new. It’s the Silicon Valley, focused on the now. Out trip to France reminded me of our distant past, of Western history and culture, and of the thought that we are still but specks on this planet.

Walking down the street and seeing buildings that have been occupied for a thousand years does tend to put things in place.

It was a good reminder for me that whatever we’re going through with our son, whatever you’re going through with your child or family member, there are only a few ways it can go. Things can stay the same, they could improve a little, or you can turn our relationship around so that it is fully repaired.

If I can hold on to that thought that things may change, that I can control and work on some things, and other things are out of my control, I will be okay.

I hope you can hold onto these thoughts during the holiday season, a really difficult time for many. Best wishes.

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, forgiveness, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, listen to family problems, missing our son, parent coping with disappointment in kids, sadness at the holidays, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Dreading Mother’s Day? Me, too.

Posted by Marcia on May 4, 2011

Last year I wrote about Mother’s Day and how I felt about it.

It hasn’t been an easy day for me in years. As I child, I remember looking forward to giving Mama something I had made, and even when I gave her simple beads on a string, she would beam and thank me and she’d wear the necklace. My mother was special, and she died at age 50. I’ve been without her more than half my life. I still miss her, wonder what her life would have been like, what our relationship would have been like had she lived longer. I especially missed her and appreciated all she had done once I had my own child.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this blog is an offshoot of the book I wrote, “Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens.” The book and this blog came about as a result of my experiences with my son. I’ve talked with many people over the years about difficult or troubled teens, and it helped me to know I was not alone. It also helped that I was an investigator, keeping my own emotions out of it.

This year, more than others, I’m dealing with those emotions. I still don’t talk with my son and it’s been exactly four years and one month since he lived in our home. I really miss the child I had and the time we spent together. There were issues along the way, but really, it’s been since he was 13 that he was someone with whom you could have a conversation. He is 22 now and I’m still hopeful that we’ll repair our relationship in the future.

For that repair to happen I have to grow and learn and he has to do the same. I’m doing my part and hoping for good things for him.

Now I want to say one final thing about Mother’s Day. This is the most painful and cruel day for a mom who has lost a child. My son had a friend who came to our home several times. In the brief conversations we had, I had a richer sense of who he was and what was on his mind than I had with my own son. He was a lovely boy and very close to his family. He died suddenly when he was in college, and it wasn’t due to horrible things you assume with kids that age – he simply died. An adult’s version of sudden infant death syndrome, I suppose. I felt terrible, deeply sorry for his loss, for the loss to his parents and family.

If you’re wondering how you talk with someone who is estranged from a child or worse, that the child has died, here’s what I would do. I would say to that person, “I was thinking of you and I’m sure you miss your child. Do you want to talk about it?” Just acknowledge the loss, the emptiness, and don’t pry. If the person doesn’t want to talk, he or she won’t do it, but the important thing is that you have let them know it’s okay to talk or not talk, that you’re there and you care.

Take care, friends.

Posted in changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, forgiveness, help at the holidays, listen to family problems, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are You Bullied by Your Child?

Posted by Marcia on April 11, 2011

As parents, we want our children to be respected at school and most of us would be upset if they were being bullied. We teach our children to stand up for themselves and we may enlist the aid of the teacher and principal. We don’t want children to be bullied, so why would we allow them to bully the parents?

A father and teenage son were at a table in a restaurant near my friends. The son was berating the father, being sarcastic, talking back, insulting his father and using foul language.

My friends were shocked to hear a teenager talk to a parent like that. The father didn’t reprimand the son and didn’t do anything other than hang his head. Frankly, given the people I’ve interviewed and the people who have contacted me, I find this shocking but I am not surprised.

I imagine the father has been bullied by his child for years and did not address it when it started. When you overlook this behavior or give the child a “pass”, the child can assume it is okay to be disrespectful to parents. Bad behavior that is allowed will often escalate, and once escalated, parents may feel helpless to stop it.

Bullying comes in many forms, but experts agree that it is repeated behavior that is intended to intimidate, humiliate or demean another person. It is intentional disrespect. It may take the form of verbal abuse like the father and son in the restaurant. The bully has a pattern of behavior that may include yelling, intimidation or humiliation, criticism, insults or even personal sabotage. This emotional abuse and may escalate into damaging personal property or even physically harming family members with the idea of further intimidation.

Victims of bullies usually do not confront the bully or react aggressively. They may have different reasons behind their decisions not to confront, and it could be that they don’t want to stoop to the other person’s level. Maybe the victim is startled, upset or angry and decides to walk away; hoping that will prevent reoccurrence of bad behavior, but the bully sees this as a victory. You’ve just given your child a lot of control over you by not speaking up for yourself.

Whatever form it takes, the parents have to consider this to be intolerable behavior and must put a stop to it. Clearly define what bullying is, talk about it in your family, explain it will not be tolerated and the disciplinary action that will be taken to those who violate the family rules. Train your children about what is and is not appropriate behavior and what constitutes a healthier environment in the home. Teach kindness and sympathy, acknowledge and reward small steps in the right direction with praise and a hug.

Children learn from the model you present and the way you talk with them, the corrections and guidance you give them. It’s in your family’s best interests to stop bad behavior, don’t let it slide and don’t avoid confronting it. Help your child to stop the bullying and stop being a victim.

Posted in bullies, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, emotional abuse, enabler, enabling, family difficulties, family violence, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, rewarding good behavior, teen intervention, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger: Fern Weis’s Top 5 Parenting Tips

Posted by Marcia on March 24, 2011

Our guest blogger today is Fern Weis, and she provides tips and some insight into her own family. She is a certified coach, middle school teacher, wife, and parent of two wonderful young adults. She specializes in supporting and educating parents of teens and young adults through individual and group coaching, as well as educational workshops. Fern continues to volunteer as a facilitator of family weekends at Hyde School. She is committed to strengthening American families, one family at a time. Learn more about her work at www.familymatterscoach.com. You can also contact her at fgweis@gmail.com. And now…here’s Fern.

In a recent blog post, Marcia Stein posed some serious questions about the downward spiral of Charlie Sheen. She also asked readers to share their own experiences. I am pleased to be able to share part of my life with you and what I learned along the way.

In our family, it was our son spiraling into a pit as a teen (and taking us down there with him). What was so painful was that somewhere in this out-of-control teen was a kind and loving person who didn’t know how to come back to us. When he was having a good day, we would hope against hope that this was a sign he was turning around. We were not facing reality. When we could no longer deny it, and accepted what was happening and that we had no control, we pulled him out of high school. First step, a one-month wilderness program to separate him from his community and from us. Second step, two years at an amazing boarding school called Hyde School, a program of family-based character development.

The deciding factor in choosing Hyde was the intensive parent program. While we considered ourselves good people, and understood that he made dangerous choices, we knew that we needed to change, too. We couldn’t ask the school to ‘fix’ him, and then have him come home to the same parents. We had to do things differently, see ourselves differently.

I learned that I taught my children so much about how to see themselves and life, not only by my words, but by my actions, reactions and responses to people and events in my life. It’s frightening how much our children learn from us that we are not aware of.

I learned that you cannot stand by. It hurts to take difficult steps, but it hurts more to watch your child self-destruct. Change is hard, but not changing takes you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. So…

1) Do the hard thing. Don’t worry about your ‘relationship’ with your child. He has lots of friends, but only one set of parents to teach him how to get through life. Children need us to set limits. They don’t have the self-control to do it for themselves. If you don’t do it, who will? Whether it’s saying ‘no’, or having a serious intervention, do it!

2) Understand that parenting is more about YOU than your children. Step up! You know all those qualities you want to see in your children? You want them to be truthful, persistent, courageous, compassionate, generous, thoughtful, curious and optimistic. Make sure you are the best role model you can be (for your own benefit, as well as theirs). Have you given up on a dream? Have you ever been less than honest? Do you tell them to be more assertive, and then avoid saying what you need to say to others? Do you expect more from them than you do from yourself?

As they get older, you have decreasing control over the choices your children make, the actions they take. They are counting on you (even though they will deny it) to show them how it’s done, and to be their guide.

3) Ask others for their insights about you (this includes your kids). I can sense some of you mentally walking away from this one. But we are often the last ones to see our own inconsistencies. It’s the inconsistencies that prevent us from moving from struggle to confidence. The mixed messages make parenting, decision-making and personal growth more difficult.

Ask the people who love you most (spouse/partner, kids, trusted friends and family) for their input. You don’t want them to sugarcoat it, and you don’t want them to be cruel, either. You are looking for helpful feedback so you can be a great example for your children and enjoy life more.

3) Listen, listen, listen! Your kids want to be heard. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with them or not. Listen and become the trusted adult they turn to when there’s something really important to talk about. This is not the time for judgment, criticism, or fixing it for them. After they have vented is the time to help them with coping and problem-solving strategies.

4) Be a teacher, guide and mentor… but don’t be ‘the fixer’. Too many young people are not prepared to launch themselves into independence. When we give them the answers and solve problems for them, they are not learning the skills.

Step back. Guide and teach without doing it for them. And if you are not always the right person to teach the skill or lesson, you have options. Ask for help in being a better teacher. Consider who might be more effective in helping your child work through challenges. There is no shame. It really does take a community to raise children.

5) Share your struggles with your children. What was challenging for you growing up? What did you fail at? How did you deal with it? Our kids see us as adults who mostly seem to be in control and know what we’re doing. As confused, hormone-ridden teens, they can’t imagine being competent and self-assured. They need to know that it does get better, that we were once like them and we, mostly, successfully muddled our way through, too.

You already know how important this job is. And while you weren’t given a user manual for your children, it doesn’t always have to be difficult. Learn when to step in and when to step aside. Listen as least as much as you speak, if not more. Ask for help when you need it. Inspire your children by sharing your own difficult experiences. Your children need this from you, now.

P.S. My son graduated high school and college, and is employed in his chosen profession. The child we thought we had lost is a motivated and generous young man who gives me bear hugs, tells me about his work day, and dances me around the kitchen. His sister, who prefers not to be highlighted in my writing, is an amazing young woman and daughter, and friend to all who know her. Life is good.

Posted in changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, confidence, enabler, entitled, family difficulties, Fern Weis, forgiveness, listen to family problems, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, wilderness program, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the process of deciding to share difficult information about one’s family. This post is devoted to receiving this information.

Some of the richest and most heartfelt conversations I have had have been when someone decides to confide in me or when another person listens to my story.

When your family member or friend is having family problems and decides to share these issues with you, it takes a lot of courage, hope and trust that you will not judge, will listen carefully, offer help if asked, will not gossip. This is a confidential and difficult conversation.

Truly listening means that you turn off distractions: this is not a time for watching TV, texting and taking calls. Turn off your phone and give that person your attention. Listen with your head and your heart. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just a few to clarify the situation if needed.

Don’t change the topic unless you’re very uncomfortable hearing this news, and if you are, it’s better to just say you’re uncomfortable.

This conversation is about the other person, not you and your family, unless you’ve experienced a similar situation. Then it’s appropriate to share but limit your input: this person has a lot to say.

Be private and confidential. If the person wanted all of the family and friends to know, there are many ways to alert everyone. It can hurt the person’s feelings if you talk about this to others and damage your own credibility as a confidante.

Don’t judge the people involved. You’re hearing a part of the story and you’re hearing it for the first time. It may be shocking news, but all of it is in the realm of the human condition: the things that happen to people and the decisions we make.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide resources if you have them. One woman called me regarding her son and after listening to her story, I asked if she wanted resources or how I could best help her. She was looking for resources and I gave her a few places to start, indicating there were additional resources in my book and on the blog if she needed them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re already dealing with a stressful situation. I also keep in touch, ask how things are going, and remember her on Mother’s Day and Christmas, two really hard holidays for her.

When you see or talk with the person in the future, ask about his or her child. I know from personal experience that the concern people show is helpful. It helps me to know that they haven’t forgotten I am a parent, and birthdays and some holidays in particular are really difficult.

Keep in touch and show concern and compassion. That’s the best way you can help anyone.

Posted in adopted kids, apology, behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, FASD, feelings about Father's Day, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, file restraining order against son, forgiveness, juvenile hall, kid on meth, listen to family problems, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, meth addict, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, restraining orders, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, sadness at the holidays, signs of drug use, step-parent, teen and addiction, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, truancy, truancy and penalties, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teens, Drugs and Consequences

Posted by Marcia on February 8, 2011

Our guest blogger is Asher Levine, and his website is www.cleanbreakinterventions.com.

Asher Levine has experience in interventions, wilderness therapy and assessing teens for substance abuse issues. He supports families who are committed to seeking treatment for their teen. Asher created the “Clean Break” program to support high school and college students during Spring Break by hosting destination sober spring breaks.

In this article, we are referring to the teen as “he” as a matter of convenience: the teen in trouble could well be female.

Just as “love” and “money” are terms we understand, “consequences” is one of the universal languages that can be communicated with most if not all teens. We have all been faced with consequences both natural and logical at one time or another whether it’s being late for something because of procrastination or wearing two different color socks! When I go to schools and speak on substance abuse and addiction, the first thing I ask is: “Who has ever had a consequence”? Most of the hands go up but everyone acknowledges in some form of communication that they know what I’m talking about.

The point of discussing consequences with teens and parents is that experimental drug users and addicts need consequences or else why would they stop using? I ask the students if you came into school late everyday and no one said anything to you and you got a “A” for tardiness on your report card, would you keep coming to school late? The answer 99% of the time is “Yes”.

It’s the role of parents, siblings, friends, caregivers, etc. to create and force those consequences. If a teen has been caught using any drug and his parents ground him and a week or two later he is caught again and the only consequence is a short period of being grounded — the teen can live with that penalty. The teen’s perspective is “I will take my chances.” The scary thing is wondering what other decisions the teen is comfortable making, knowing that his parents are aware of the drug use.

Intervention strategies

As a parent myself, I recognize that it is my responsibility to provide an emotional, physical, spiritual, safe environment for my child at all cost. Just because my children know what I do for a living, it does not mean they are vaccinated from using drugs or becoming addicts.

When we’re in a car and come to a sudden stop, we instinctively reach our right arm over to stop our kids from going forward as if it will keep them from going through the windshield. We have innate instinct to physically and metaphorically reach across and protect our kids.

When putting out a fire we have to take away the oxygen and handling addiction is similar. If the lunch money or allowance you’re giving to your child becomes the fuel for their addiction then the parent needs to take away the money. This includes lunch money. You can provide food for them at home and let them make it. Using lunch money for drugs is the most popular option for teens to get drugs. They come home after school to eat and therefore have traded lunch for access to a bag of marijuana or a handful of pills. By Thursday or Friday of that week they can sell or flip drugs like flipping a house. Once this process happens they are in business.

How many lunches do they sell to get some drugs?

Most Loritabs or “tabs” as they are referred to, cost $3 and a 10 mg would cost $6-$10 = 2-3 lunches.
Marijuana “blunts” cigar with the tobacco removed and replaced by marijuana can be purchased for $3 = 1 lunch.
Xanax or “benzo” can be purchased for $3 and a 2 mg bar can be bought for $6 = 1-2 lunches.
Oxycontin “oxy” is usually a much higher price approx. $1 per mg and they typically come in 40 mg and 80 mg. = 10-20 lunches.

Signs of Use

If your teen is taking Loritab, Darvacet, Percoset, Heroin, or Oxycontin (Opiates), you will notice withdrawal symptoms very similar to the flu. A teen will complain of aches, leg and stomach cramps, sweating, nausea, goose bumps, pin pointed pupils, constipation leading to long periods of time in the bathroom, will be hunched over and usually talk as if he is sick. These symptoms can be mistaken for the flu or stomach bug, however if your child is displaying these symptoms frequently and is missing school or is frequently in the nurse’s office, you should follow up. A user’s diet will include lots of snacks, chocolates, energy drinks to replace the electrolytes from withdrawal, and will not eat full meals. You will notice weight loss and abnormal sleep patterns.

Marijuana users will usually hide out and stay away from family so their cover is not blown by smell/odor of the drug. Some kids will use lots of cologne and eye drops to mask their use. A teen might change clothes frequently or use layered clothes such as a hooded sweatshirt. They might also ask for $3 or $5 here and there.

Some teens will leave for school early and smoke before school in a designated spot close to the school. 4:20PM is the universal pot smoking time and April 20th (4/20) is the universal pot smoking day so be aware of these times so you can confront or give a urine screen.

Parents also need to be proactive in not participating in a “text” only relationship. You can tell so much from a phone conversation i.e. the tone in their voice, background noises to detail location and who they are with. You can hear truth or a lie, also inquire about concerns. Teens are more likely to say things in a text that they will not say verbally. Also listen to your kids’ vocabulary. If they’re using they will be preoccupied with drugs and the lifestyle.

I don’t believe all teens that use drugs are addicted, however I do believe it requires immediate intervention and each day your teen goes without treatment is a day his addiction will progress.

www.tellmeaboutyourself.info

Posted in Asher Levine, behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent's behavior, enabler, enabling, family difficulties, out of control teens, Parents and teens, signs of drug use, teen and addiction, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, what drugs cost, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Dore E. Frances, Ph.D.’s Show on LATalk Radio

Posted by Marcia on October 6, 2010

I was invited to be a guest on Dore’s show, and it was a great experience. Dore’s full bio is on her website and she has been working with troubled children and families for several years.

I’ve been a guest on different types of shows, and this was my first experience with blog radio. As with phone-in radio interviews, you can’t see the person and it’s easy to step on that person’s sentence. Because Dore has a weekly program on LATalkRadio, she’s used to pacing her questions and listening carefully for answers.

I found her to be curious and interested with an ability to add information when needed for her audience. Because the subject matter can be difficult, parents may hesitate to call as they may be embarassed or want to maintain some privacy. Dore does accept email questions and this is helpful for her audience. I enjoyed our conversation and am booked to return May 16, 2011.

If you’d like to hear our recent interview, you can download the MP3 or go to LATalkRadio.com and scroll down to the August 30, 2010 interview.

Dore’s websites include Horizon Family Solutions and a Facebook page. If you sign up on the Facebook page, you’ll be alerted about her upcoming guests.

Posted in author, book talk, changing parent's behavior, Dore Frances, enabling, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, LATalkRadio, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

 
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