Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘defiant adopted kids’ Category

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.

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Barbara Blomquist: 24 Years of Estrangement and a Repaired Relationship, Part 2

Posted by Marcia on November 18, 2010

Barbara Taylor Blomquist is the author of “Insight Into Adoption” and “Randy’s Ride.” In the second of a two-part series, she relays the story of her relationship with her son and their 24 years of being estranged. If you missed Part 1, please click here.

Back in contact

One day when our son was 40 years old, he emailed me and asked how everyone in the family was. I emailed back saying that it was hard to cover 24 years in one email, but I gave him a brief update and mentioned I’d just had a book published. He emailed back that he wanted to get a copy and I mailed one to him. I didn’t hear back for several weeks, but then I received the message I’d prayed for, but at times thought I’d never receive.

He said he realized in reading “Insight Into Adoption” that he had been loved all along, but his anger was so strong at being given up at birth that he couldn’t see or feel any love. He realized he was normal and all the feelings he had were shared by many adopted youth. He was no longer alone. It was difficult for him to read “Insight Into Adoption” because it brought up so many emotions, but he later said it was instrumental in cementing him back into the family.

A visit home

Shortly after reading the book, he said he wanted to fly home for Mother’s Day. We were apprehensive, of course, but said we’d been waiting years to hear those words. He’d left as a boy and was returning as a man. The three days we spent together were like a Walt Disney movie, no deep conversations, but just a reconnecting of love, and an appreciation for each other as human beings who had all suffered. I felt no blame toward him. He felt no blame toward us. It was what it was, over and done with.

During the next year, he flew home five times. He still flies home several times each year and is in regular, wonderful contact by phone and email. He openly shares his joys and his challenges.

Aftermath and a strong beginning

It’s been eight years since he came home that Mother’s Day. There have been times when his anger has shown itself. We’ve been calm and tried to help him deal with it. Each and every time after a few days, he’s said he overreacted. Perhaps old habits die hard. We always say we understand, and we do. We tell him it’s no big deal. These episodes are getting very rare now.

He has many regrets which we tell him are understandable, but not important now. In taking this journey he became the outstanding, understanding, loving soul that he is now. He reconnected with the innate qualities he had as a little boy when he was sensitive and compassionate.

He has an appreciation for life which many people would envy. They wouldn’t envy his method of achieving it, however. He is similar to people who have come back from a life threatening experience. They never look at life the same way again. Their priorities change and their appreciation and gratitude are enhanced for things they used to take for granted.

Our son has said he would be dead now if it weren’t for us. Somewhere deep down he must have known that we would not only eagerly take him back into the family, but would do so with no questions asked. All we care about is now. He’s mentioned that some of his friends can’t believe we’ve been so loving and accepting after what he put us through. I couldn’t imagine being any other way.

How we’ve all grown

We all are different people after going through this. I think when we “know” we are right about something, we have a tendency to judge others, silently or openly. I no longer do that. When I see a behavior on someone’s part that is distasteful or even abhorrent to me, I immediately think “He’s doing the best he can.” A feeling of sympathy overwhelms me and I want only the best for that person who is obviously suffering. They are being motivated by fear or frustration or a feeling of being lost. I no longer take the position that I am better than that person. Instead, I feel gratitude that our son has taught us not to judge or label people. I’m sure people judged him for his negative behavior. That’s human nature.

We have all found a deeper meaning to life through this. First of all, not ever to judge people, but also to genuinely love people for who they are, warts and all. I know in my heart that our love for our son was a factor in bringing him out of his lifestyle. It took way too many years, but if people knew him years ago, they would know he’d die an early death. He proved them wrong. He dropped out of high school and never could stay in college, but he’s worked hard in his field and is greatly respected for the knowledge he has which he’s learned on his own. He is sought after for his knowledge and paid handsomely for it. He dedicated himself to getting himself out of his messy life. His very bad credit has improved to the point where he is now a homeowner.

His life now is calmer and he takes justified pride and joy in how far he’s come from his previous years. I think we as parents feel even more happiness in this. We know the outcome could very well have been different. I had prepared myself for one day hearing that he had died. At least I thought I had. Now what we are witnessing is a second birth of a beautiful human being who accepts love and gives love.

Bitterness versus understanding

We have several friends who have had problems with troubled sons who have devastated their lives. I’ve heard them say they would never take their sons back after what their sons did to them. My heart goes out to these families because they will never know the ongoing joy of knowing the power of parental love. They express anger and resentment and are living daily with that. I did for some time until I realized that stance was hurting all of us.

Even if reconciliation never occurs, an attitude of forgiving and understanding love enhances your own life and allows bitterness to be non-existent.

We couldn’t be more grateful and prouder of the person our son has discovered he is – and was all along.”

Posted in adopted kids, Barbara Taylor Blomquist, defiant adopted kids, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Barbara Blomquist: 24 Years of Estrangement and a Repaired Relationship, Part 1

Posted by Marcia on November 12, 2010

Barbara Taylor Blomquist is the author of “Insight Into Adoption” and “Randy’s Ride.” In the first of a two-part series, she relays the story of her relationship with her son and their 24 years of being estranged.

“Background of a failed/revived relationship

Our strained relations with our son erupted 32 years ago when he left home at age 16. We were devastated. We felt helpless. He had been into drugs for over a year and that put him on a downward path which only got steeper and steeper. He was doing all of the typical things drug addicts do at that age: lie, steal, cut school and more.

I won’t go into details of his life for the next 24 years (he came back to us after that time) because I don’t know a lot of the details. He called us every 6 or 8 months and gave us a phone number where he could be reached, but when we called it, it was always out of service. From the time he was age 33 to 40 we didn’t know if he was dead or alive. We had no contact at all.

Process of emotions

During this estranged period – a good many years – I had a lot of time to go through every emotion imaginable. First fear for his life, he was only 16. Then anger that he betrayed all we’d done for him. Then frustration that we couldn’t contact him to try to work things out. Then feeling heart sick at the thought he was throwing his life away. My thoughts were of him constantly. I remember vividly one Sunday afternoon when I was involved in a project for a community cause. I realized at 5:00 o’clock that I had gone 4 hours without thinking of him. This was a first in years. The worst times were waking up in the middle of the night wondering where he was, was he scared, was he in jail, was he cold or hungry, penniless, homeless. I found out later after we reconnected that at some point during all those years, he was indeed, all of those things.

We went on a journey through these years as did our son. Eventually, we ended up in the same place, together again.

Pervasiveness of unhappy years

I found that when my thoughts were of anger and resentment I felt very bitter. I resented my friends’ happy existence with their children. I’d see boys on the street that resembled our son and my heart would sink. I could never be completely happy. The thought of the trouble he might be in was always there to take away any joy that would come into my life. This went on for years and years. There’s a saying that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. That was true for me.

I knew our son felt he didn’t belong to our family because he was adopted. Even though he was deeply loved, he didn’t love himself so couldn’t believe that we could love him. In his mind, his birth mother had given him away and he internalized this to the degree that he thought no one else could or would love him. He set about to prove to the world that he was indeed, a worthless throw-away person.

Survival tactics

After a time, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t help him because we didn’t know where he was, but I had to help myself. We had other children who were being short changed by my attitude. My husband understood, but he could go off to work and get his mind on other things. After all, we had other happy, successful children.

In order to help myself survive, I came to the position that I had to think only positive thoughts about him. He had been a delightful little boy and I kept thinking of those years where his good qualities showed. I made myself believe that the goodness was still there, it was only temporarily covered up by bad behavior. All the loving qualities we had instilled in him must still be there. After a time that became easy to believe. I would send positive messages and affirmations out into space believing that somehow they would help him. They helped me.

I also in time came to see that his leaving our family was not done to hurt us, even though it hurt us to an extent I didn’t ever believe possible. He was the one who was hurting. He left, hoping to find a place in the world where his hurt would go away. Of course, it didn’t.

My last position was that he was doing the best he knew how to do. It was a terrible way for him to handle his life, but I came to see that he was hurting so much that he did a desperate thing in leaving and going out on his own at age 16. A feeling of sympathy took over my being. I could look at him in a loving way knowing that if he were ever to return I would welcome him wholeheartedly because I knew he’d been on a journey of self-realization. He, and only he, could do this. We couldn’t help him.

Survival therapy

During these years I started leading support groups for adoptive parents who were dealing with troubled children. I saw clearly that the core issue for our son and for all these troubled families was that the child didn’t know who he was. He felt he didn’t belong to his adoptive family, but he didn’t know where he did belong. He felt alone and lost.

The parents in the groups encouraged me to write about adoptive parenting issues because we discussed principles none of us knew about years ago when we adopted our babies. The book, “Insight Into Adoption”, was the result. I incorporated our own experience as well as the experiences of many families, and the invaluable experiences of adoptees who are now adults. They shed so much light on how they felt as children. Out of this came solid advice and insight for adoptive families. I wrote it hoping and praying I could save some families from going through what we were going through.”

To be continued…

Posted in adopted kids, defiant adopted kids, estranged from parents, family difficulties, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, Troubled teens, worried parents | 1 Comment »

Toni Hoy’s Update: Suing Illinois for Help for Adopted Son

Posted by Marcia on September 20, 2010

Toni Hoy was our guest blogger on April 12, 2010. To follow the thread of thought and experience, it’s best to review her her blog and slideshow at http://scopeandcircumstance.wordpress.com/hes-my-son-3/ and then see her guest post.

If you are moved to comment, kindly consider your words before you type.

“Hello friends,

I decided to send this as a group email.

I wanted to let you all know of our recent decision to sue the state of Illinois.

My husband, me, and another parent, will be joint filing a federal lawsuit against IL HFS for injunctive relief from the state of IL for obtaining residential treatment for our children under the EPSDT provision of Medicaid, and return to us, custody of our children. This is a case that has been won in mulitple other states and is slated to be a landmark case here.

We are represented by class action law firm, Collins Law, in Naperville, IL. Of consult is Professor Mark Heyrman, UIC Clinical Law Professor, who is the major mental health influence in our state.

Since June, I have been working with a large group of people, which includes county mental health board presidents, IL mental health stakeholders, state departments, and senatorial staff. In our state, the only kids that get residential are the ones who have drug/alcohol problems. Kids with mental health issues alone, are subject to the ICG grant, which awards residential to 6%-18% of applicants. The rest can sue the school district, or request help from another state dept, CRSA. However few people know it exists and they will not accept cases when another state dept. has taken responsibility. For those forced into relinquishment, the process is futile.

In June, HFS agreed to license RTCs as PRTFs so they can accept Medicaid. Chaddock, where our son Dan resides, is one seeking to be licensed this way. One week later, another family was forced to relinquish, and another may relinquish in October. The other parent relinquished in the spring. She has two adoptive sons. The states attorney is threatening to terminate her parental rights. He does not think that a single parent can manage a boy with schizophrenia and bipolar. Currently she visits her son twice weekly.

A few weeks ago, I met with Michael Gelder from our Governor’s office. While he and HFS Director were mortified at what is happening to us, HFS continues to move at a snail’s pace. First meeting, they agreed to license the RTCs as PRTF. Second meeting, they are talking a year or so to make it happen, and acknowledged that they have talked about it for 10 years and done nothing. Simultaneously, Michael Gelder agreed to ask Governor Quinn for an Executive Order for an official task force to resolve this issue.

I’d like to ask for support and encouragement from all of you. Many of our allies and support systems have deserted us as a result of taking this step. I have been a little “email lonely” this weekend, but it gave me time to redirect and refocus.

I have no idea what is going to happen moving forward. I only know that my son deserves treatment and his parents.

I received two emails regarding an Oprah show on this topic last week. One from Darcy Gruttadaro, senior attorney from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and one from Mental Health America in Virginia. I don’t know who they will select to be on the show. This is a risky venture as it places families in a vulnerable situation subject to be under attack by those who are unfamiliar with the seriousness of this situation. We can all pray that whoever is selected will focus on the issues and approach it in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner.

I’ll keep you all posted. Jim, me, and the rest of the kids appreciate your support.

Toni Hoy”

Posted in adopted kids, defiant adopted kids, family difficulties, return adopted child, Toni Hoy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Dore Frances’ Radio Show 8/30/10

Posted by Marcia on August 26, 2010

I’ll be on Dore Frances’ “Family Solutions Today” live radio show on Monday. You can listen live (call-in to talk) or download from iTunes later.

Details and a link are on her press release. http://tinyurl.com/29v3qxv

Posted in adopted kids, alcoholic father, author, book talk, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, juvenile hall, kid on meth, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

How do you feel about Father’s Day?

Posted by Marcia on June 20, 2010

This blog is devoted to people who are struggling with their children’s behavior, but today I’d like to open the discussion to additional situations.

My dad died when I was almost 13, and Father’s Day since that time has been…odd. When my son was young, this day became something to celebrate again. His dad and I separated when J. was small, and again it was odd for a few years. I married Bill and then J. had Father’s Day with his dad and then with Bill. There seemed to be a lot to celebrate, but it lasted only a few years.

In his teen years, J. was more sullen than most, difficult at best, unpredictable: would we see the charming and funny son or the one with the quick temper?

J. has not lived with us for 3 years, and the last year he was at home was very rough. We don’t speak, although I hope he’ll be ready to have some kind of a relationship soon.

I’d love to celebrate the efforts my husband made in being a step-dad. It’s probably one of the more difficult and thankless family roles you can be in, and he did try to be a good father-figure. At a certain point, I think he felt it was wasted energy, but he still tried. Being the step-parent means you have rules in your head but sometimes the kid/kids don’t think you have the right to enforce the rules. You’re not the “real” dad.

I know what a “real” dad is as far as biology is concerned, but being a real father is more than biology. It’s caring about that child, loving the child no matter the circumstances, guiding the child and knowing that the child may fall and you’ll have to determine if you help that child get up or watch the child help himself/herself. That’s what parents do.
Some dads have to give their kids “tough love” and watch them fail, take drugs, go to jail, be estranged, and hope for better days.

Today I honor all of the real dads out there.

Here are some questions for you, and I hope you write some responses. What’s your best memory of your dad? What did he teach you? If you’re in a difficult situation, how do you cope?

Posted in adopted kids, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, confidence, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, Father's Day, feelings about Father's Day, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What’s of interest to my readers?

Posted by Marcia on June 13, 2010

I recently spoke at the library and a private event and saw some familiar faces in the group. Mirroring other presentations, attendees were generally there due to pain and difficulties with their kids and they want help, they want to feel they are not alone, and several people expressed some interest in forming or having access to a support group. My purpose in speaking is to raise awareness, increase the dialog and, as any author, I want to sell my books.

I look at the statistics on my blog to see what’s of interest or what information you’re seeking. I look at the number of clicks on the pages and what topics have the most hits.

Learning about what’s important to you helps me determine what I’ll write about and what kind of guests I should approach to write for the blog. My 3 most viewed pages, other than the index page, are:

Did the Self Esteem Movement Create an Entitled Generation?
Parents Want to Return Adopted Child
My Book

Some of the most common topics people use in search engines to find the blog include the self esteem movement, family difficulties, difficult or troubled teens, adoption, and restraining orders.

The links people use from my blog also tell me something. I will interview or ask guests to write about restraining orders, the self-esteem movement, and then expand my resources page.

What’s of interest to you? What would help you? Can you help others? You can post a comment and it’ll go to me for approval. If you are just sending me a private note, just let me know as otherwise, I will publish it.

Posted in adopted kids, author, book talk, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, self esteem, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s “enabling” and why is it harmful?

Posted by Marcia on May 22, 2010

I don’t follow a lot of celebrity gossip but sometimes hear about something that strikes me, especially when it pertains to my interest in dealing with difficult offspring.

This week I was channel surfing and landed on a Larry King show about Lindsay Lohan. I’ve seen her in a couple of movies and this is a talented young woman. She could have a long future in the entertainment business if she survives this stage of her life. She’s apparently had a lot of different problems, and because she is famous, it unfortunately plays out in a very public way. I suspect that compounds the access to trouble and it’s immediately noted whenever anything questionable arises.

The guests on Larry King said she is estranged from her father but close to her mother. Apparently, her father had his share of problems and is now clean and sober. He has been asking for help, asking his daughter and the courts to send her to a treatment facility, asking that the family go to therapy together. The guests indicated that the mother is not on the same page.

I’m sure someone out there follows celebrity gossip and knows more, but only the individuals involved know the whole story.

The details of this case are less important to me than the fact that this is a family that needs help.

It struck me when two of the guests said that when the parent who is close with the child is an enabler, it’s hard to change the pattern.

So what’s an “enabler”? This is a person in the troubled person’s life who contributes to that person’s bad behavior, alcoholism or drug addiction. It could be a family member or close friend who means well but winds up causing more problems by rescuing, lying for, making excuses for the troubled person. These people mean well, they want to help but wind up causing additional problems.

There are two interesting websites about this topic:
http://mental-health.families.com/blog/are-you-an-enabler
http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/counselingarchive-enabler-and-codependency.asp

I don’t know the Lohan family but I’ve heard similar stories from people who’ve talked with me about their kids and the family dynamics.

Do you/did you have enabling or codependent behavior in your family and what will you/did you do about it?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, confidence, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Speaking at Campbell Library 5/13, 7 pm

Posted by Marcia on May 12, 2010

I’ll be speaking at the library Thursday night and I’ve really been looking forward to this opportunity. A PDF flier about the event can be viewed here.

The last time I spoke, we had around 20 people in the room. Most of the people had a son or daughter who going through a terrible time, and the adults were worried about how to handle the situation.

I can’t provide the answers, just some experiences from my life and the interviews from my book. I also mention some of the calls and emails I’ve received. There’s some comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this situation, and it’s helpful to know many kids grow out of that terrible stage and that there is help.

If you’re in the Silicon Valley, I hope you can come to this event. If you know of another venue interested in this topic, please contact me.

Posted in adopted kids, author, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, confidence, defiant adopted kids, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger Barbara Neafcy, RN: Everyone is a Victim

Posted by Marcia on April 30, 2010

I exchanged several emails and talked with others regarding the recent return of the adopted boy to Russia.

Barbara Neafcy is an RN who specializes in the care of disabled children. She is a public speaker on FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and is married to an adult with FASD, Stephen Neafcy, who is author of “The Long Way to Simple” a book that describes what life feels like from the perspective of one who has it. This book is the recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award.

“Reports on CNN indicated the birthmother was an alcoholic and that his behaviors fit the behavioral profile of someone with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). I feel strongly that we need to educate our adoptive parents on two levels. If this mom understood what services were available for her new family, this outcome might not have happened. If she had been informed at the outset that her new son had been exposed to alcohol in utero and has abnormal brain development as a result, she may not have signed the papers. If she did sign to become his mom she probably would have taken the commitment very seriously and worked with professionals to improve the child’s chances for a successful life.

This is a tough situation for child placement agencies in Russia. What it would require is honesty on their part toward the parents, and a likely significant reduction in adoptions, which they desperately need for their kids!

94% per cent of individuals with FASD have some form of mental illness. In those who are shuffled around in foster care or orphanage type settings, the incidence would be much greater.

This mom was alone and scared with her experience and reacted in a state of panic. The result is that the worst possible scenario occurred for her son. He was rejected again, as he has felt all of his life. If he has attachment disorder, his resistance to all bonding will grow more rigid and thicken the fortress walls he has built around himself.

There are only victims in this very sad story, but the greatest victim from conception to today is that little boy who has no clue what love can do for him, and hasn’t the healthy neurotransmitters to help his thinking. Society around him is likely to suffer from the anger and bitterness he will carry everywhere with him.

The interesting thing is, FASD is the most prevalent and preventable disability that exists on the planet today. In fact, it is 100% preventable.

For more information about FASD please visit http://www.come-over.to/FASCRC/. This site contains worlds of information and insights on this troubling disorder, offering hope for those who have it or love someone who does. My husband’s book can be seen at www.betterendings.org and at www.amazon.com.”

Posted in adopted kids, defiant adopted kids, FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, out of control teens, return adopted child, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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