Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘teens and consequences’ Category

Guest Blogger Faith Blitman: Bullying Behavior

Posted by Marcia on December 23, 2011

Faith Blitman, M.A. is a Psychotherapist and Certified Drug and Alcohol Assessor in Philadelphia, PA. She provides individual, group and family counseling as well as drug and alcohol assessment and counseling. Faith Blitman, M.A. and Brian Loughlin, M. Ed. work in LINKS, a family reunification program within the Family Service Association in Bucks County, PA. For questions or additional information, please feel free to e-mail either faithblitman@aol.com or bloughlin@fsabc.org.

According to Stan Davis, a school counselor and bully prevention expert in Maine, a bullying incident occurs every seven minutes. He further speculates that adults intervene in only 4% of school incidents and peers intervene in 11% of these incidents. Bullying is pandemic and can take many forms: (1) Physical – hitting, kicking, punching and shoving; (2) Verbal – insults, name-calling, threatening, disparaging a person’s race, sexual preference, religion, etc., (3) Indirect – spreading gossip/rumors, attempting to turn one’s peer group against them, shooting hateful looks, telling malicious lies; and finally, the deliberate omission of a person from their peer group with the intent of engendering feelings of rejection; (4) Cyber-bullying – sending hurtful text messages, e-mails and instant messages as well as posting injurious information on web pages and sites; (5) Reactive bullying takes place when an individual impulsively acts out of frustration, typically in response to an episode of stress. This particular type of bullying may be the most difficult with which to deal since the person behaves in the dual role of bully and victim.

The causes of bullying behavior vary from individual to individual. Sometimes bullying is learned at home and can result from a lack of supervision, warmth or attention, by reinforcing inconsistent boundaries and rules, as well as by observing parents and older siblings using bullying techniques as a means of managing conflict. Moreover, such parents tend to also incorporate emotional outbursts and physical discipline as corrective measures for their children’s behaviors. Sometimes people require learning new parenting skills since the only tools in their armory are the ones they have learned from their own parents. Hence, the cycle of bullying may be inadvertently passed from generation to generation without benefit of additional intervention and learning. Bullying behavior can also be generated when a person has been bullied by classmates and learns how to express aggression in this manner. Finally, some individuals seem to have a genetic predisposition towards bullying behaviors. Nonetheless, regardless of the cause(s), counseling can help.

The effects of bullying can be profound: damaged self-esteem, anxiety, depression, toxic shame, absenteeism from school, and rage along with a strong tendency to want to exact revenge on perpetrators. Some victims feel so beaten down from this abuse that they simply withdraw from life, relying upon alcohol and drugs to medicate their intense pain or engaging in other addictive/compulsive behaviors. Some who are feeling discarded and uncared for may become pregnant as a desperate means of securing love into their lives. Most significantly, there has been no shortage of reports in the news recently of pre-teens and teens who have been so distraught by bullying, that they saw no escape from their agony but to end their own lives.

There is yet another subset of children who have been bullied who tend to identify with their aggressors, and in contrast to the aforementioned victims, act-out their rage by joining gangs, engaging in criminal acts and frequently perpetuate the bullying cycle by later abusing their own spouses and children. Some of these individuals have been responsible for mass causality school shootings. Since the bully has markedly more power than the victim, the longer bullying ensues, the greater grows the imbalance of power.

Regardless of how any act of abuse presents itself, children need to be well-educated regarding what constitutes bullying, how they should conduct themselves if they or a friend are being victimized by a bully, and to whom they should report these abusive acts. Most researchers quickly point out that bullying behaviors remain consistent if there is no intervention. Nonetheless, when an appropriate and consistent intervention is applied, negative behaviors have been reversible. In addition, it is critical that parents, teachers, and other stewards offer validation and attempt to build as trusting and caring a relationship as possible, so children feel comfortable sharing their concerns. After all, it is every child’s right to feel safe and valued in the world, and it is up to adults to help make that happen.

What can a concerned parent do?

• Be supportive, encourage openness when speaking with your child.
• Express your concerns with your child’s teacher, guidance counselor or principal (making certain to talk this over with your child before taking action).
• Encourage your child to talk to you and other adults at school.
• Ask your child’s school to educate students about bullying.
• If the bullying/victimization behaviors continue, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling.

Posted in bullies, bullying, Faith Blitman, family difficulties, family violence, listen to family problems, out of control teens, parent coping with disappointment in kids, Parents and teens, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Amy Winehouse Was Once a Little Girl

Posted by Marcia on July 25, 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 well-documented and much too familiar. A creative, talented singer with drug and alcohol problems, in and out of rehab and then dead at 27. We all saw it coming but it’s still shocking.

She was once a little girl, wanted and loved and singing with her father at home. If you’re reading this blog, you likely know the experience of being with a child, holding him or her, reading and singing songs and playing together.

Even when you don’t know that that child will do in life, you want him or her to have a successful life, meaning being kind, happy and fulfilled, self-supporting and generous to others. You want that child to navigate safely through tempting and possibly dangerous situations.

In Amy’s case, according to Wikipedia, she was constantly singing and the teachers had a hard time keeping her quiet. When she was nine years old, her grandmother suggested she attend a theatre school. She was allegedly expelled at age 14 for “not applying herself” and getting her nose pierced.
I’m not sure when or why she started using and abusing drugs and alcohol, maybe in those early teen years, but it took over her life.

A couple of years ago, her father tried asking people not to go to her concerts, hoping that if the concerts were cancelled, she would hit bottom and go to rehab. It wasn’t in the interests of anyone else involved in her career (such as her record company, manager, agent and PR person) for her to miss concerts. They had a financial interest in her carrying on, even though it was clearly dangerous for her.

It was a desperate move from a distraught parent. It’s hard seeing someone you love go through personal difficulties of this magnitude.

Before I heard the news of her death, I had been listening to one of her songs and wondering what was happening to her. She was falling apart on her tours from all reports and it seemed evident she was in serious trouble again. The end of this story for Amy and her family is tragic. For some of the people who’ve read my book and read this blog, this event hits too close to home.

If you have someone in your life that is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, these things can’t be wished away. That person has to want to change, has to put in a lot of hard work and ongoing efforts such as going to meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous.

For family members, support, information and help is available through Al-Anon, based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I encourage you to learn about these groups and other options and gather the courage to attend.

Posted in adopted kids, behavior of someone using drugs, danger to self, family difficulties, out of control teens, parent coping with disappointment in kids, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, signs of drug use, teen alcoholic, teen and addiction, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Guest Blogger: Fern Weis’s Top 5 Parenting Tips

Posted by Marcia on March 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

Teens, Drugs and Consequences

Posted by Marcia on February 8, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intervention strategies

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

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

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

How many lunches do they sell to get some drugs?

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

Signs of Use

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

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

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

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

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

www.tellmeaboutyourself.info

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

 
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