Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘Troubled teens’ Category

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.

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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 »

A Parent’s Declaration of Independence by Theresa Froehlich

Posted by Marcia on July 1, 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

 

Today’s guest blogger is Theresa Froehlich. She is a writer, speaker, Certified Life Coach, and ordained minister. She has been married 28 years and is the mother of two young adult children.

For parents in pain – whether it is the result of a child’s addiction, failure in school, estranged relationship, or failure to move forward with life – the most difficult challenge is managing emotions.

After my husband and I discovered that our daughter, eighteen-years old and a college freshman at the time, became an alcoholic, my range of emotions were all over the map: fear, depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame and despair. A year later, our son went off to college, crashed and burned because of his computer and online video gaming addiction. My emotional workout then ramped up to the post-doctoral level!

During the last few years, I have reflected a great deal on how parents in pain can manage their emotions, regain sanity, and get on with life. This strategy (more fully described in my book now being considered for publication) is based on our declaration of independence, the relentless detachment from the problem child.

1. I acknowledge that my child’s destiny is no longer bound up with mine.
2. I admit I am powerless to change my child.
3. I respect my child as the sole captain of her ship.
4. I choose to steer my own ship, and mine alone.
5. I refuse to let my child’s poor choices determine how I feel.
6. I refuse to view my child’s achievements as my source of joy; instead I give my child the credit that is due to him.
7. I respect real life as a competent teacher for my child, and therefore I can resign from being the teacher/leader.
8. I admit I have a journey of personal transformation to make, but I will not accept responsibility for my child’s poor choices.
9. I admit that I am also a learner, just as much as my child has been. Therefore, I deal with my own shortcomings and learn to forgive myself of my mistakes.
10. I rest in the confidence that God can do a much better job at changing people than I can, but I also accept God’s timeline as different from mine. Therefore, I suspend judgment, relinquish fear, and patiently wait for God’s timing.

What situation do you work with? What are the challenges you face in managing emotions? What strategies have you used?

I blog about these topics at http://www.transitionslifecoaching.org and would like to invite you to visit me there. Please join in the conversation so we can connect and support one another.

Posted in changing parent behavior, family difficulties, nagging the kids, online video gaming addiction, out of control teens, parent coping with disappointment in kids, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, teen alcoholic, Theresa Froehlich, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 »

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 »

Are You Bullied by Your Child?

Posted by Marcia on April 11, 2011

As parents, we want our children to be respected at school and most of us would be upset if they were being bullied. We teach our children to stand up for themselves and we may enlist the aid of the teacher and principal. We don’t want children to be bullied, so why would we allow them to bully the parents?

A father and teenage son were at a table in a restaurant near my friends. The son was berating the father, being sarcastic, talking back, insulting his father and using foul language.

My friends were shocked to hear a teenager talk to a parent like that. The father didn’t reprimand the son and didn’t do anything other than hang his head. Frankly, given the people I’ve interviewed and the people who have contacted me, I find this shocking but I am not surprised.

I imagine the father has been bullied by his child for years and did not address it when it started. When you overlook this behavior or give the child a “pass”, the child can assume it is okay to be disrespectful to parents. Bad behavior that is allowed will often escalate, and once escalated, parents may feel helpless to stop it.

Bullying comes in many forms, but experts agree that it is repeated behavior that is intended to intimidate, humiliate or demean another person. It is intentional disrespect. It may take the form of verbal abuse like the father and son in the restaurant. The bully has a pattern of behavior that may include yelling, intimidation or humiliation, criticism, insults or even personal sabotage. This emotional abuse and may escalate into damaging personal property or even physically harming family members with the idea of further intimidation.

Victims of bullies usually do not confront the bully or react aggressively. They may have different reasons behind their decisions not to confront, and it could be that they don’t want to stoop to the other person’s level. Maybe the victim is startled, upset or angry and decides to walk away; hoping that will prevent reoccurrence of bad behavior, but the bully sees this as a victory. You’ve just given your child a lot of control over you by not speaking up for yourself.

Whatever form it takes, the parents have to consider this to be intolerable behavior and must put a stop to it. Clearly define what bullying is, talk about it in your family, explain it will not be tolerated and the disciplinary action that will be taken to those who violate the family rules. Train your children about what is and is not appropriate behavior and what constitutes a healthier environment in the home. Teach kindness and sympathy, acknowledge and reward small steps in the right direction with praise and a hug.

Children learn from the model you present and the way you talk with them, the corrections and guidance you give them. It’s in your family’s best interests to stop bad behavior, don’t let it slide and don’t avoid confronting it. Help your child to stop the bullying and stop being a victim.

Posted in bullies, changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, emotional abuse, enabler, enabling, family difficulties, family violence, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, rewarding good behavior, teen intervention, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger: Family Member Asked for a 5150 for Mentally Ill Loved One

Posted by Marcia on March 31, 2011

Our guest contributor has a family member who is mentally ill. In this post, “Linda” describes what it is like to take care of “Joe” and the time she had to request a 5150 for him. The 5150 is an involuntary psychiatric hold that I wrote about previously.

Marcia, you always have a very helpful nonjudgmental commentary that can be very useful for people struggling with tough decisions, ethical dilemmas, and multi-layered situations, and thanks for that.

I wanted to say a few words which I think may be helpful for some to hear, although opinionated as is my nature. I have a family member, “Joe”, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and taking anti psychotic meds.

I admit it is hard to be “your brother’s keeper” even for loved ones. Their outbursts and behavior can wear you down and make you feel unappreciated, angry, and sometimes even unsafe around them.

And just like addictions, brain disorders are something that one seems to want to have a lot of empathy for those who fall prey to, but it’s not always easy. I sometimes feel guilty if I do something that makes Joe upset or can feel like I’m violating him with my firm “it’s good for you” nature.

I have had to 5150 my family member not by my authority but by insisting the boarding house where Joe lives call it in. In fact, the attending physician who monitors my relative’s case in this county said it’s not illegal for patients to decide to stop taking their meds so the psychiatrist could not compel him to do anything including taking his prescriptions to avoid severe symptoms such as hearing voices and deep paranoia.

I was frustrated because I felt the system was doing nothing preventative; it was going to be all punitive. I felt that the professional caregivers were doing nothing to avert an impending disaster. I knew in my heart that Joe needed to stabilize on medicine and get a restart in a controlled environment, and my fear was that Joe was going to hurt someone or get arrested, both of which has happened in the past.

I tried to convince Joe to self-commit, but he refused. So I discussed the behavior with the home, and we concluded there was danger to others and Joe needed to go into a hospital for a short stay. It was not to teach him a lesson or mess with him – which is sometimes hard for the afflicted to perceive – and then they go ballistic.

But after months of visiting Joe’s social worker and medical team and trying to intervene and lean on the team to suggest group therapy and talking to the licensed board and care residence to monitor the medication better, it didn’t seem that I was getting anywhere and all the advocating can take a toll. (I might add that I do not have a conservatorship and Joe needed to sign a waiver at the clinic, so they would discuss the case with me. He had signed it during his “better days” so it was in effect later when he was not agreeable.)

Just like Charlie Sheen who seems to have an ongoing struggle, my family member has repeated incidents, and it burns me out. Many people call Charlie Sheen a jerk and let me tell you, people with these problems can be, but they do deserve our compassion, not help avoiding the consequences of their actions, and if you have the strength to give, they will be better off with your efforts on their behalf.

Even though we don’t want to let our love ones down, I want to tell people out there that it is ok to take a breather; turn your back if you can’t deal with their problems at that moment. Long after Joe got out of the hospital from that particular 5150 in better condition as a result of the stay, he continued to manifest behavior that violated me, so I made the decision to cut ties. I needed to for a few months not to talk to him, to concentrate on my life, and rejuvenate so that I could come back more refreshed and in a healthy state of mind for myself.

I didn’t know if or when I was going to come back because I felt a lot of anger over the way I was treated after I had “helped” him repeatedly, and I felt abused when he was so hostile in return. It was emotionally painful to do this during the holidays and his birthday, causing me guilt because I do feel a responsibility to contribute to better his quality of life and safety.

After “the breather” though, I’m not angry anymore, and I just called up to see how my family member was doing. There was no apology from him, but I didn’t need it. I accept that’s who he is and now with my new self protecting boundaries in place, I can be kinder and able to offer advice that may be well received or not, but continue to be a support to him by just showing my love and concern.

Posted in conservatorship, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 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 »

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 »

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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