Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘estranged from parents’ Category

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.

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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 »

Another Father’s Day

Posted by Marcia on June 19, 2011

I posted last year about Father’s Day, wrote about missing my own dad, missing my child, and admiring my husband as a step-dad.

There is a pre-Father’s Day interview on Yahoo News with the president. If the video is still up, it’s worthwhile viewing. http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_theticket/20110617/ts_yblog_theticket/obama-says-no-more-children-for-first-family-doesnt-miss-his-father

He said that “fatherhood is ‘a combination of complete and total affection and devotion to that child, but also structure and limits and understanding that your child isn’t your friend, at least when they’re young.’ And he expressed the importance of teaching children values. Obama added that his own mother was a great parent.”

His parents divorced before he was three years old, saying, “You know, I can’t say I miss my father, because I just didn’t know him,” Obama said. “And so, I don’t have enough of an emotional bond there to miss him. I profoundly miss my grandfather. You know, I profoundly miss my mom. And my grandmother.”

There is pain and loss when relationships are severed. Sometimes the person is missed, and sometimes it’s the idea of that person that is missed, maybe an idealization of what that relationship could have been.

If you’re struggling with a difficult relationship, are you sad because of what you miss about that person or the idea of what hoped for, or maybe both? Separating out those feelings can help you cope with loss or separation and can guide you into reconciling with that person if possible or finding peace with your feelings.

How are you feeling about your family today?

Posted in changing parent behavior, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, Father's Day, feelings about Father's Day, forgiveness, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, listen to family problems, missing our son, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Couple and Their Daughter: Estrangement and Reconciliation

Posted by Marcia on June 1, 2011

Last year, Stacy attended one of my talks and bought my book and she found consolation in it. She gave it to her husband, and he emailed me mid-way through the book.

“Ron” and “Stacy” married in their teens and had very little money and no emotional support from their families. They stayed in rented rooms and both worked two jobs for several years. He is mechanically inclined and earned his living at auto repair shops. He’d had little patience for school and used his high school vocational education to land a job at a gas station. Stacy completed high school and attended a vocational school in their early years together.

Stacy established herself in her occupation and Ron began to earn a good living as a mechanic. Although they were earning their own way, they had learned that education opens doors to promotions and better salaries. They felt insecure and inferior when running into old classmates or meeting new people. They agreed that the best way to get ahead in life is through a great education, and when their only child was born, they moved to a different community to get her into a better school system.

From the time “Mary” was little, education was stressed and there were educational toys, flashcards, games and activities designed to enhance her life. Her parents were focused on giving her the opportunities they felt they had missed.

Mary was an average student who wasn’t interested in most of her classes. She had friends and liked some activities, but did not have special hobbies or sports she enjoyed. It became a daily struggle between the parents and Mary, a constant nagging and bribing for her to do her homework. Each summer from 7th grade on was spent in summer school, not for enrichment classes but because she had failed basic courses.

They were able to have good times on weekends but dreaded school days and nights. They went to doctors, therapists and coaches, trying to find the right answer to help this child. Nothing worked because Mary did not want help.

On Mary’s high school graduation day, they were proud, excited, happy and relieved that this part of their struggle was over. They had hoped that she would go to junior college and work to help with the costs.

When they saw her after the ceremony, she told them she was leaving, that she’d be staying at friends, that any place was better than living with them, and she walked away. They were stunned.

What should have been an evening of celebration and happiness turned into a difficult and frightening eight years.

They thought she would come home that night or the next day, but she didn’t. Her friends said they didn’t know where she was. They contacted every person they knew. Finally, one of Mary’s friends called and said Mary was staying with a guy she had met. The acquaintance had asked Mary to call so her parents wouldn’t worry, but Mary refused, so the friend called.

Ron and Stacy went through everything in her room. As impulsive as this had seemed to them, Mary’s running away had been planned. Favorite clothes and her childhood bear were gone. They had saved enough money in cash to pay for several months’ rent if they needed it, but that had been taken, too. They found some unidentified pills but no other answers to the questions of what happened and why.

They called her friends regularly, some would answer; others would not. Some said they hadn’t seen her and seemed sincerely worried while others seemed to be lying and covering for Mary.

Ron and Stacy “went through hell” worrying about her, second-guessing themselves. They weren’t bad people: they worked, had friends and went to church. They thought their biggest difficulty had been fighting over school, but now they knew Mary had been taking drugs and lying about it and stole a substantial sum of money from them.

Stacy scoured the papers and checked online to see if there was some note about her daughter – maybe she’d be named in an accident, in a burglary, maybe she’d be in a photo taken at a street party. Maybe they’d find an unidentified female body, someone Mary’s size. She created accounts on MySpace and later Facebook to look for Mary and her friends.

There were no answers and no contact from Mary for years. They experienced anger over her betrayal and the emotional trauma of not knowing where she was and if she was alive. They went to a family therapist to talk about this grief and worry and to keep their marriage intact.

The pain lessened but it was always there. They gave up on finding her and felt they’d done all they could do by letting her friends know that they wanted to see her.

Stacy read my book and said learning about other parents and what they did or how they coped was helpful for her. It was comforting to know they weren’t alone and others had similar or worse problems.

Ron was partway through my book when their phone rang one evening and it was Mary. She wanted to meet them over coffee. They arranged a time to meet and the place, and the call ended.

Ron wrote to me and asked how to approach her, what to say, should they hug or what? It was the beginning of the weekend and they were to meet her on Sunday. Their therapist was away, there was no one to call. So they reached out to me.

I reminded them I’m a parent who wrote a book and I’m not a therapist. They just wanted to talk it over with someone who might understand their situation, may have thought it through. I have thought about what I might say to my son and how I might react, but nothing is certain on either side and it’s emotionally scary to extend oneself and risk losing that person again.

Here’s what I suggested: let her lead the way. Go to listen and not confront. Don’t run up and hug her, just greet her and see if there is a sign she wants to be hugged. It’s been 8 years and this is not a teen but a 26 year old woman.

They did let her lead the way so it was a rather short meeting, but now they are hopeful. It was hesitant and scary, and they didn’t hug when they saw her or before they left. They didn’t probe her to find out where she had been. Mary is hesitant and scared, but she had joined Alcoholics Anonymous and part of the program is to ask forgiveness of those you have hurt. Mary has agreed to go to family counseling with them. Ron and Stacy are hopeful but cautious: they’ve been wounded deeply and fear losing her again. There is a small light at the end of that tunnel, and I’m keeping this family in my thoughts.

Posted in apology, behavior of someone using drugs, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, forgiveness, listen to family problems, out of control teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Made it through Mother’s Day: how’d you do?

Posted by Marcia on May 19, 2011

I thought I should write an update following my last post about Mother’s Day.

Much to my relief, it wasn’t too bad this year.

We spent the day with my wonderful mother-in-law. It was great spending the day with her.

Did I miss my mom on that day? Absolutely, but my world doesn’t revolve around sorrow – there are some trigger points for me to think about loss. It’s appropriate to think about people we’ve lost, especially on special days.

And then there’s my son. Still not talking and I really miss him especially on Mother’s Day, but I’m not devastated as I was in years past. My feelings float in and out of resignation, anger, calm, hurt and so on.

Overall, I am stronger this year. Someone asked me about coping with a severed family relationship, and I think it’s like with death in that it takes time to learn to cope and adjust to a “new normal” as they say.

I’m taking some positive steps and hear my son is doing the same. I started going to a support group to reinforce how not to enable, how to let some things go. I appreciate the group and when I go, I am going in to listen to others without thinking about writing their stories. Whatever I hear there is confidential. I can see that for a few years I’ve written other people’s stories and distanced myself from my feelings. Now it’s time for me to look inward without thinking about what I will write here. I know I’ll find more things to write about and so will my contributors.

If you found this blog or read my post as you were worried about Mother’s Day, tell me how you fared. Was it hard? Easier than it was? What tips can you share to help others?

Posted in changing parent behavior, cope at the holidays, enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens, 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 »

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 »

How to Disclose Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on February 23, 2011

A few of my readers have asked me to address this topic. In my book, the first chapter is devoted to three estranged families. The other families have repaired relationships, but they went through some period of difficulties.

It’s helpful to talk with a therapist or join a parent support group to talk about your experiences and your feelings, and they can further guide you about discussing the issue with family and friends.

Before you talk with friends and family about your situation, consider the reasons for disclosing any information, and that will help you determine what you want to say and which people you trust, which people you should avoid.

What would be the reasons to talk about your family? For me, it was helpful emotionally to lead an honest and open life rather than to keep my pain hidden. I’m careful about details to protect some family privacy, and I’m very careful about what I let the gossips hear.

I learned that when I shared selective information honestly, I received help and support and kindness during this challenging time. If you live in a small town or have a certain network of friends and family, they may have observed your problems and may have been concerned about your family.

The most important lesson for me was that I could be honest, protect details, receive support and learn that I was not alone. That’s a big thing, knowing you’re not alone. It’s helpful no matter what you’re going through in life.

If you decide to talk with others about your family matters, be prepared for a wide range of responses. Some people will be sympathetic and share their own stories. Others will want to be your therapist/coach. We all dread those who may judge you harshly, even though your situation may be extreme and may include violence in your family. The truth is, it’s hard to know how some people will react, but for the most part, you know your family and friends.

The chosen confidants would be people you know are supportive, good listeners, and respectful people. They have to be people you can trust.

The people to avoid are fairly easy to pick: the ones who are usually judgmental, gossipy and/or critical. You know who that is, I’m sure.

Because this is information you’re volunteering, you can also pick the time and place in which to share. It should be private – don’t put yourself in a position where people can eavesdrop. Pick a day that doesn’t have significance for you or the other person: holidays, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries are not times to talk about these matters. If you find you’re not ready to share yet, don’t do it. This is your information, your pain, and you are not obligated to share anything.

You should be comfortable and ready to share, and that means being prepared for questions. Some people have a lot of questions, others just listen. For those who have questions, consider what kinds of questions they may ask so you’re ready to respond. It’s helpful to provide some resources such as books or websites. This helps demonstrate you’re not alone and gives others additional insights.

If they ask what they can do to help, let them know. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk with, someone to say “I understand” or “Do you want to talk about it?” or someone who will say “I’m thinking about you.”

If you’ve been in a difficult family situation and decided to share this with others, what was your experience? What worked well, what would you change if you could?

Posted in estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, out of control teens, Parents and teens, restraining orders, sadness at the holidays, signs of drug use, teen and addiction, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

How I’m Coping During the Holidays

Posted by Marcia on December 20, 2010

I previously wrote that it’s not easy making it through the holiday season when you have problems in your family. Many shows represent some ideal we’d like, not the reality that a lot of people live.

I’d like to share how I’m getting through and hope you share your tips, too.

For the past 3 ½ years, I have been estranged from my son. I miss him like crazy and do have hope for the future, but that doesn’t make it less hurtful, stressful, sad, difficult, and so on. I wrote him another note recently and hope it’s given him something to think about, something to keep the door open.

When people ask me what our family is doing, I talk about what my husband and I are doing, using the generic “we.” “We’re going to a movie.” “We’re having dinner with Mom.”

For those who know me and ask about our son, I say that he has other plans. If they know me well, I’ll just say we’re still not speaking and change the topic.

Now here’s how I’m coping: I’m taking deep breaths, doing things I enjoy doing, keeping up with family and friends. Sometimes I allow myself a little time to wallow in sadness or self-pity, whichever hits me, but I try really hard not to stay there.

I do things for other people and write encouraging notes to clients and friends. Helping others really helps me get my mind off of myself and it does something good for another person.

What are you doing to cope?

www.tellmeaboutyourself.info

Posted in apology, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, forgiveness, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, missing our son, Parents and teens, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Holidays are Tough for a Lot of Families Struggling with Strained Relationships

Posted by Marcia on November 23, 2010

For everyone going through the holiday season without the “normal” family, this one’s for you! This time of year is filled with possible joy and emotional pitfalls.

Many television shows, commercials and many movies celebrate the sentiment of being surrounded by a warm and loving family. We all feel things differently, and for me, the greeting card commercials with all of the images of family and love wound me. I miss our son.

I’ll watch Modern Family or some other show with people and their quirks and love, but intentionally sappy family stuff isn’t what I want to see right now. I want to protect my own emotions.

These shows and commercials shape our view of the way things are or should be, and if our own families aren’t like that, there’s something wrong with us.

I know many people with happy families that are functional, at least for the most part. Then there are all the other people I know: single, widowed or divorced, people with unhappy and strained relationships with family members, and people like me, estranged from their children. There are a lot of people who are alone, hurt, angry, afraid and worried.

Each time I read or hear about some teen or young adult who is in trouble, I think: maybe there is a heartbroken parent at home. I’m not naïve – some families have a history of violence and many repeat those patterns, but I believe that most parents want their kids to be okay in this world. We want them to be educated, have good jobs, form good relationships and make good choices. We want them to be happy and successful.

If you’re fortunate to have an intact family with good relationships, I’m very happy for you! I hope you can extend understanding and sympathy to those who don’t have this. Extend a hand, a shoulder, a tissue to someone who feels emptiness and loss, and withhold your judgment. You rarely know what’s really happening in another person’s home.

For those of us who are just getting through the holidays: hang in there, try to do things you enjoy, visit kind people, volunteer somewhere, get out of your own way and start walking toward accepting the situation and developing hope for the future.

Many people wrote to say that my book has helped them, and there are several ways you can purchase it. You can read more at www.tellmeaboutyourself.info.

If you need personal help, please review the resource page . For personal help, the United Way site links to organizations around the country. If you go to www.211.org, you just insert your zip code and find an agency near you.

Best wishes for a better future for all.

www.tellmeaboutyourself.info

Posted in adopted kids, cope at the holidays, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, help at the holidays, holiday season sadness, Parents and teens, sadness at the holidays, Troubled teens, worried parents | 1 Comment »

 
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