With your child in treatment, it is absolutely essential that you are in alignment with program staff because you are an essential part of the team. From the get-go, seek to become aware of your own patterns of behavior that have contributed to the break down in your family. Continuing those patterns can slow or even sabotage your child's progress. Though the child is the one in a treatment program, parents who actively address this as a family process will set the tone for optimum success. Do you realize you are the most influential person in your child's life? With laser determination, heighten your awareness and accountability as to how you are showing up. Are your choices contributing to or sabotaging your child's success? Be willing to take your own inventory and honestly look at what is working and what is not working towards your goals. You can't change what you won't acknowledge.
The following are a list of issues parents create, often unintentionally, that undermine their child's program.
Time frames: Set any time frame for your child and he/she will be focused on 'waiting it out' instead of issues that demand change. It is critical from the outset that your child hears clearly from you that he/she is there until graduation. Period. Do not waver unless you want to undermine the progress and work in opposition to the staff. If you feel yourself wavering, talk to someone who can really help: a staff member or another supportive parent, but never, ever with your child.
Become a Special Case: Disregarding program protocol will instantly broadcast to your child that since the rules and standards don't apply to you why should they apply to him/her? Ask yourself how that is going to work for you when he/she returns home? Be clear that your child will know the guidelines better then you do and will pay very close attention to whether you follow them or not. It's also taxing on the facility when parents try to operate two programs: the one they enrolled their child in, and the one parents try to create by 'special casing' their child.
Blow off your involvement: An effective and honest program will expect parent involvement: online parent support services, parent workshops/seminars, family conferences, scheduled phone calls or even local parent support groups. Your efforts and your involvement send powerful messages to your child and are key to getting your family back on track.
Negative talk: If you have an issue with the staff or questions about the program, don't discuss them with your child. Doing so will setup blockades of disrespect and resistance, and will undermine authority.
Money references: No way around it, treatment for a child with special needs is costly. There is no benefit in discussing the financial cost, or strain, with them. For starters, don't expect your child to care or even relate to how taxing it may be on the family. It will not motivate him/her. Rather, he/she often see it as "a way to get back at you" or drag things out so you'll think the program isn't working in the hopes you'll pull him/her early. Bottom line, even references regarding program costs are counterproductive to your child.
Dangle carrots. Comments like "I sure hope you'll be home by Christmas," "we'll buy you something if you make your next level," or "work hard to come home for our family trip to Disney World" are guaranteed to slow your child's progress. You might think it will motivate him/her, but you would be wrong. Your child will merely wait you out. Also stop to think about all the motivational-carrots you dangled prior to placement. If that tactic had worked, he/she would still be at home.
Dissing your Ex. Taking shots at your ex-spouse to your child is destructive. Don't use the details as a means to earn your child's approval. Comments like "I was going to come visit you, but you know how difficult Mom/Dad can be" are inappropriate. Whether your child admits it or not, it is hurtful and distracting. Your child still needs your encouragement to have the best relationship possible with both parents. Most likely your divorce played some part in the trouble your child got him/herself into. If there's something that needs to be said about the divorce, step out of your own ego with something like, "I am sorry. I can only imagine how tough this has been on you. I hope you never have to experience a divorce personally. Learn and grow as much as you can, so you can do better then we did. Mom/Dad is still a great person and regardless of our differences, we stand united with you in this process."
One last note, setbacks are part of the process of change. Like all of us, your child's most valuable lessons will come via what he/she learned from setbacks and recognizing different choices he/she makes. Your child will naturally create that for him/herself, and it will be valuable. Let your child's lessons be his/her own. Become conscious of your actions and/or words that can sabotage and undermine the lessons and progress. You wouldn't knowingly set out to sabotage, yet if you are party to any of these behaviors you can count on setting up your child's resistance, while handing him/her ammunition for excuses, and the process will take much longer.
Change needed to happen or you never would have picked up that "500 lb. phone" to make The Call. Bottom line, it will take as long as your child needs. Keep your eye on the big picture. Ultimately, your child needs the kind of changes that will generate the self-direction and self-correction necessary to sustain and support a happy, healthy, successful life. He/She also needs you to be part of the solution so that the home he/she returns to is ready to support the changes he/she has made.
About the Author:
Glenda Gabriel, Glenda@corebb.com, is a strong advocate for parent's rights and the parent-choice industry. In addition to being the mother of a program graduate, she's worked for many years developing vital parent support services for structured residential boarding schools. Glenda is the Content and Development Director for Core Solutions. www.CoreBB.com, Everett, WA, 360-333-3193.