Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘restraining orders’ Category

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 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

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 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 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 »

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 »

Parent’s Path to a Restraining Order

Posted by Marcia on October 28, 2010

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,


The following note was written in response to a comment made on my post at’s-restraining-order-against-his-son/.

We have five kids; the two oldest are my husband’s, and yes, Robert had some issues, a little more than “teenage” ones, but nothing like this. The others, nothing to speak of….

Sadly, Ben is my own son, although my husband is his stepfather and has been since Ben was four. I was very glad to find your blog, and know I’m not the only one. I mean, I know that, intellectually, but – and I can say that here, Jennifer and others like her just don’t “get it”. Besides the counseling, they seem to think it’s the parents’ fault. Believe me: I dealt with a lot of social workers who outright said the same things.

The social workers kept telling us we were too strict. I was honestly puzzled. How can things like keep your room clean, be here for dinner, be home by 11 p.m., keep us informed of your whereabouts, do your laundry once a week, take a daily shower, and help out around the house be “too strict”? The whole thing about drove me crazy. Eventually, they started to see the light…sort of!

My son was just shy of his 15th birthday when he started skipping class – never a stellar student due to lack of effort, he was bringing home Ds and Fs. One C. He started running away, cursing us, causing damage in our home, and filed several false reports of abuse against us, which were investigated and found unsubstantiated. We sent him to counseling, then military school. He did pretty well, grades came up, politeness returned, behavior improved. Until he came home. He seemed to think he could do whatever he wanted. After a summer visit for a week at Grandma’s, he went on a hunger strike, ended up in the psych ward and then outpatient therapy.

There were questions about a fire at school, alcohol, then he ordered tasers online and used them on other students. Expelled, he returned home just after he turned 16. He didn’t want to go to the alternative high school, and frankly I wasn’t thrilled either. He said he’d work, get his GED, and start community college classes in the fall.

Within a month after returning home, his verbal abuse picked up, he ran off a few times, and then assaulted me. We already knew most of the police force, due to numerous calls before he went away to school, and since, and he was taken to detention. For three weeks. He came home, on probation, and was well-behaved for 24 hours. Within nine days, he was removed again to detention.

He called me that night, at midnight. He asked me to pick him up and I said no. The next morning, he told the detention officers that my husband had beaten him and they put him in a shelter for a month, then foster care. The family court judge realized what was going on and kept my son in care for six months. The rest of us, including our now-12-year-old, tried to recuperate. We all went to counseling. My son was tested, found to have antisocial tendencies.

He came home in October, a month or so before he turned 17. Things were fine for a few days, then got worse, same stuff all over again. He was put on anti-violence meds by a psychiatrist. He lasted, at home, until February of this year. He ran away, was gone for a week, two hours from home. His probation officer insisted he come home. He couch-surfed, he broke into our house a few times, knowing we weren’t there. We finally went back to court, re his probation, and the judge put him back in detention for three days. Then he ended the probation, and told my son there was nothing more we could do for him; he did order him to comply with treatment, and my son did so for a few days or a week. At one point, he stood outside our house, after threatening us, for a solid hour, ringing the bell, beating on the doors and windows, and yelling and cursing.

Several times he went to the family farm, engaged in vandalism, wild parties with girls and alcohol, guns, fires in the buildings, etc. When he first went to “live” there, in the old garage, it was because we’d had an episode at home and he took off. He went first to the police station, told them I’d hit him with a laptop, and when they refused to do anything – knowing he was lying – he went to the ER and told the same story. Again, nothing, so he hotlined me. The investigator came out, talked to me, talked to my son, told me he should never come home.

The last straw was this past May. My son came home occasionally, to ask for money usually, but this time he demanded it and refused to leave unless I gave him some. He was violent, threatening, and not only refused to leave when requested, but blocked the door so I couldn’t leave either.

I filed for an order of protection, the temp [temporary order] was granted; my son came by the house a few days later, and I told him to leave and he asked if I had a PO [Protective Order]. I said yes, and I showed it to him. He turned around and left, went to the police station; they called and asked for info, which I gave. He went to stay with his former foster parents.

I was granted the RO [Restraining Order], but the permanent [order] stated no communication whatsoever; the temp had, as I requested, allowed phone contact. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, filing the paperwork, then going to court. After about a month of my occasionally texting him to make sure he was okay, he blew up and told me to kiss off. I keep up, sort of, on FB [Facebook] and via his sisters. I continue to pay his medical insurance and co-pays, etc. Not sure where to go from here on out.

Ironically, we have five kids and two grandkids and have never had these kinds of issues. I’m also a professional writer/editor and my specialty is, naturally, parenting. Jennifer reminds me of many social workers and students who think everything should be hearts and flowers and rainbows and teddy bears and, if you throw enough counseling at someone, they can be “fixed.”

Sometimes, there is no “fix.”

Posted in estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, family violence, file restraining order against son, missing our son, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

Article: Parent Obtained Restraining Order Against Son

Posted by Marcia on October 11, 2010

I sent out a request to hear from parents who had gotten a restraining order against their child. I received the follow message and I have changed the name of the son.

“Here’s what happened that led up to getting a restraining order last year against my then 20 year old son, “Rick”.

Since he was 14 or so we knew he was drinking and smoking and doing drugs. He had problems already and the drugs and everything made the situation much worse. We took him to therapy and wanted to send him to a therapeutic boarding school but couldn’t afford it. Our part of the country doesn’t have much to offer as far as family help.

He was stealing from us and I mean he took from our wallets, stole the change bottle, took some of my jewelry and sold it. We didn’t know what would happen next. He had took $1,000 or more and that’s just a guess.

My husband bought a safe and we put our wallets and any items of value that we could fit in there. It was ridiculous to have to remember to get your wallet before you go out the door, but at least we knew where our money was.

I heard therapists telling us that we were part of the problem, but I was viewing it that this kid was the problem and we were just good parents who wanted to see him outgrow this and still be in a safe environment. I was scared that if we kicked him out of our house that he might live in the streets or even die. I also felt that we would be branded as horrible parents once he was out, but till then it was our dirty family secret all of the tings that went on at home.

All through his teen years he would be very disrespectful to us and would call us terrible names and if we tried to talk to him, he would yell at us or stomp to his room. Once at his room he might put a hole in the wall or throw a chair. I was afraid of him and afraid to be alone with him.

The last day he was at home, I asked him if he had seen a box I knew had been delivered for my birthday. It was a present from my mom and she sent very expensive things. He said it hadn’t come but the UPS tracker said it had. He went to his room and I started looking through the trash. That’s the thing: he lied and stole and was never good at hiding his tracks.

I found the box and the packing slip said there was jewelry enclosed. I was furious and had really had enough. I called my husband and he came home early.

We confronted Rick and he took his almost full can of soda and threw it at me and then he hit me, punched me hard in my cheek. I was in a lot of pain and just knocked to the floor from that punch. My husband and Rick started pushing each other. Finally Rick was pushed out the door and my husband locked it. Rick was banging on the door and threatening us.

My husband called the police and they came out to talk with us. They were really fast, but the few minutes until they got here were terrifying. I didn’t know what Rick would do and was scared my husband would have a heart attack.

The police said we should file a restraining order. Because there was still time that day, we went to the court and filed the papers. The papers weren’t difficult, but the emotions that went into that day were horrible. We were granted the order and had Rick served. He has to stay away from our home and not contact us, but we could call him if we want to.

We got all new locks and increased our security. We don’t ever park our cars outside and I worry about running into him somewhere. I’ve seen some of his friends and hear he’s out there wasting his life and staying in seedy places. I hate being afraid to run into him.

I am sad, angry, depressed and ashamed and even though I want to talk with him it’s very dangerous. I think one of the worst parts is that when you have this child and you love him, you have a dream about what your life will be and now that dream is blown apart. It won’t ever be all right in our house.”

If you are interested in more information about restraining orders (in some states, “orders of protection”) you can check with your local police or courthouse.

Posted in enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, family violence, file restraining order against son, missing our son, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: