Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Posts Tagged ‘controlling’

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 »

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 »

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 »

What’s of interest to my readers?

Posted by Marcia on June 13, 2010

I recently spoke at the library and a private event and saw some familiar faces in the group. Mirroring other presentations, attendees were generally there due to pain and difficulties with their kids and they want help, they want to feel they are not alone, and several people expressed some interest in forming or having access to a support group. My purpose in speaking is to raise awareness, increase the dialog and, as any author, I want to sell my books.

I look at the statistics on my blog to see what’s of interest or what information you’re seeking. I look at the number of clicks on the pages and what topics have the most hits.

Learning about what’s important to you helps me determine what I’ll write about and what kind of guests I should approach to write for the blog. My 3 most viewed pages, other than the index page, are:

Did the Self Esteem Movement Create an Entitled Generation?
Parents Want to Return Adopted Child
My Book

Some of the most common topics people use in search engines to find the blog include the self esteem movement, family difficulties, difficult or troubled teens, adoption, and restraining orders.

The links people use from my blog also tell me something. I will interview or ask guests to write about restraining orders, the self-esteem movement, and then expand my resources page.

What’s of interest to you? What would help you? Can you help others? You can post a comment and it’ll go to me for approval. If you are just sending me a private note, just let me know as otherwise, I will publish it.

Posted in adopted kids, author, book talk, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, self esteem, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sue Scheff’s Blog for Parents of Troubled Teens

Posted by Marcia on December 20, 2009

You can find a few good blogs via trial and error, but I’d like to save you some time and direct you to some sites with great information. I’ll occasionally highlight a blog for you and hope you have the time to review and possibly subscribe.

I’ve been reading Sue Scheff’s blog and highly recommend her site. She has short articles that are useful and insightful. Her work is born of personal difficulties with her own daughter.

If you’ve found this resource useful or have another you’d like to spotlight, please comment below.

Posted in Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Was on Dr. Joel Wade’s Radio Show, KSCO AM 1080

Posted by Marcia on December 17, 2009

Last night I was a guest on Dr. Joel Wade’s radio show. He has experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Los Gatos and uses those skills as a Life Coach and author.

I called in early to be sure my sound was okay, and I had a chance to talk with Joel about his work and his radio show. He was very nice and it was easy to see how well he listened and how carefully he chose his questions. He had already read most of the book, so his questions during the show were completely on target and he cited specific examples from the book. We had a general discussion about parenting skills and teens, and it was interesting to learn from his style of interviewing. It was a pleasure speaking with him.

Joel’s website is www.drjoelwade.com, and at some time in the future, he hopes to have downloads of his shows. I hope he gets that running soon! Meanwhile, check out his book, etraining, ezine and other products on his website.

After the show, I wrote and thanked Joel for being such a gracious host. He wrote, “It was a lot of fun, and a very interesting conversation. You were a fantastic guest, and I think people listening got a lot out of what you had to say. I hope that a lot of listeners visit your site and read your book – it really is an excellent book, and a great resource for parents dealing with tough kids.”

This was a wonderful experience, and if you know of someplace I can speak in person, over the radio or on TV, please contact me.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, confidence, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mara: I felt like a failure.

Posted by Marcia on September 27, 2009

As a result of writing a book about parenting troubled teens, sometimes I find myself following developments in other’s lives. I’m hearing or reading real pain, anguish, and sometimes fear.

“Mara”, wrote that she felt like a failure. Her 17 year old daughter, “Jane” is depressed, skipping school, has abandoned favorite activities, and sleeps as much as possible. They’re working with a physician to get her up and moving around, experimenting with different anti-depressants, but there are other dynamics at work.

Mara’s husband is controlling and demanding, and when he can’t control Jane, he demands Mara do so. Of course, Mara can’t control Jane, and then she is berated and treated terribly by her husband.
Every day there’s another fight, and Mara never knows who’ll start the next argument, she only knows there will be one. She watches what she says and how she acts, but walking on eggshells for years at a time is not a reasonable way to live.

Over the years, Mara withdrew from family and friends, mortified that they might discover her horrible family life and judge her. She has defined herself as a wife and a mother, and because neither relationship is working, she felt she was a failure.

She remembers a time when she was delighted to be a wife and mom, thrilled with her child, and had dreams and hopes for a wonderful, close family.

The realities of her life and the crushed dreams of a good marriage and good relationship with her child had become too much for her. Mara writes that if she could have glimpsed her future, she would never have had a child.

She read my book at a time when she needed to know that nice people, good people, sometimes find their lives spinning out of control, and there are ways to gather oneself together and find solutions to problems. She reached out for additional help and has shared the truth of her family life with her parents and siblings. Instead of judging Mara, they are helping her.

Mara is in counseling and my prediction is that she will divorce her husband, wait until Jane has completed school, and then will tell her to leave the house. As she has been examining what went wrong, what she did right, what she would have done differently, she is also learning that she did not stand up for herself against her husband or her daughter. She is developing that ability to assert herself, and that’ll help her change her life.

Posted in out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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