Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘estranged’ Category

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.

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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 »

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 »

Information About the Involuntary Psychiatric Hold

Posted by Marcia on March 14, 2011

I have blogs and websites with tools to analyze traffic, see what terms people are using that lead them to my sites and my book. I use analytics to learn more about what information you’re seeking, and I occasionally use that along with discussions, emails and calls to determine topics to present.

Due to the ongoing discussions about Charlie Sheen and similar or more extreme experiences of others, this article is devoted to a difficult subject: the involuntary psychiatric hold or commitment. Involuntary commitment is when a person is placed in a psychiatric hospital or ward against his or her will. This must be in compliance with the mental health laws, is usually limited in duration and requires regular reevaluation.

I will direct you to some informational websites to help you or your friends as I am not in a profession that deals with these matters: I simply know how to research.

A Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment#Alternatives has a good overview of the history of involuntary commitment and some information about the process in different countries.

In California, Section 5150 allows a qualified officer or clinician to evaluate a person and have that person involuntarily confined. There are specifics as to who is qualified to evaluate a person and what circumstances would lead to this decision. Generally speaking, the person must be a danger to self and/or others and/or be gravely disabled. There is a Wikipedia entry regarding Section 5150 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5150_(Involuntary_psychiatric_hold).

There is a brochure describing the California involuntary 72-hour and 14-day hold that explains the process and a person’s rights under the law. This informational piece was created by the California Network of Mental Health Clients in Sacramento. The brochure is at http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/502401.pdf and their number is 916-443-3232. They have provided additional resources if you need them.

The last topic I will mention is “conservatorship” or “guardianship.” You can read an explanation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatorship. In order to be another person’s conservator, you must have clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary to provide for the other person’s “physical health, food, clothing, and shelter” or that the person cannot “substantially manage his…own financial resources or…resist fraud or undue influence.”

I started this article by mentioning Charlie Sheen. It’s terrible to watch and I can’t imagine what this is like for the family and friends who love him. What would I do if I were in their shoes? I don’t know, and it’s hard for any of us to know from a distance exactly what’s going on and why. I can say this on the basis of my research – you don’t have to stand by and watch, and you don’t have to walk away because you don’t want to be enabling the behavior. A good psychiatrist and/or an attorney can help you sort through the options.

For those of you living in these extreme situations, I hope this has given you some information to consider and the courage to act. You will absolutely need courage and resolve.

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, conservatorship, danger to self, enabler, enabling, estranged, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, mentally ill teen, meth addict, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Section 5150, teen and addiction, teen intervention, Troubled teens, violence in mentally ill people, what drugs cost, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Parenting Troubled Adults and Notes about Charlie Sheen

Posted by Marcia on March 7, 2011

Even if you don’t read tabloids or view gossipy entertainment shows, it’s hard to avoid the train wreck that is Charlie Sheen’s current situation. The headlines generated by his behavior are dominated by stories of drugs and alleged violence.

I have seen several of his movies and watched Two and a Half Men occasionally. There’s no doubt this is a talented actor who can easily master drama and comedy and do it with style and charisma.

He reminds me of another actor with range, style, charisma and a terrible history, Robert Downey, Jr.

Information provided here is drawn from Wikipedia entries that have citations.

Both were born in 1965 and were born into show business families, and both started acting careers as children.

Downey has said that his father was a drug addict and introduced him to marijuana at age 6 and the two did drugs together, eventually Downey also drank alcohol to excess. He dropped out of high school to pursue acting. He was arrested several times, was put on probation and was sentenced to serve time in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. He went through rehab and rehab programs repeatedly until it “took” in 2001.

Sheen has been married three times and has five children. He was expelled from high school for poor grades and bad attendance. He has overdosed, been sent to rehab, allegedly threatened or hurt women in his life and created havoc in his life and in the lives of his ex-wives and children.

Last year, I heard an interview where Martin Sheen, Charlie’s father, said he found himself planning Charlie’s funeral at a certain point: the situation was serious and his son’s life hung in the balance. As a parent, that thought just struck me through the heart. It’s got to be one of the biggest fears of family members.

Sheen’s latest escapades have been blasted all over the news and he has been calling in or appearing on various radio and TV shows. It’s mesmerizing and appalling, and it’s sad to think that this dangerous situation serves as entertainment to many.

I’ve wondered how a person like Charlie Sheen can get into so much serious trouble and not have their children removed from the home. This did happen last week, but look at his severe and acknowledged history of substance abuse. At what point does social welfare step in and protect the children? Perhaps one of the social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists or attorneys who read this article can provide this information.

I have also heard talking heads who have not met Charlie Sheen speculate that he may be bipolar. (A good explanation of this disorder is available on Wikipedia. It doesn’t seem professional to speculate on someone you don’t know and haven’t examined.

Might there be underlying reasons for the extreme drug abuse experience by both Downey and Sheen? Maybe some of the same reasons we see in other addicted individuals.

I would look to their early years for behavior and decision making, see if they were in some pain that they wanted to dull or treat by taking drugs or alcohol. Some people who have disorders self-medicate to help get through the day, while others simply love the feeling of escape and find themselves addicted.

Addiction is complex and difficult, and I know from meeting recovering addicts that treatment is not easy and it truly is “one day at a time.” It’s helpful for family members to seek their own treatment, to understand how they are only in charge of their own feelings and reactions. You can’t change another person, and enabling another isn’t helpful to anyone. (Please see my post on enabling.)

How do you stand by as a parent and watch your child spiral out of control? Have you experienced this? What did you do? What worked for you and what did not work? Do you comments or insights to share?

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, enabler, estranged, forgiveness, listen to family problems, mental illness, out of control teens, parenting adult children, worried parents | 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 »

 
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