The decision of placing your child in treatment may likely be the toughest decision you've ever made. Emotions and stress run amok. The pressure to make the right decision for your child is overwhelming. Since there are no quick fixes or easy answers, how do you get through this time? How do you de-stress and decompress? What can you do to make it easier on yourself and help your child? Chunk it down into manageable pieces. Here are five specific things you can do to eliminate that feeling of being on an emotional roller coaster.
1.) Recognize That You Are In Control Of Your Life: With all the emotional turmoil, tears, fears, worry, hand-wringing and frustrations that have invaded you and your family's life because of your child's out-of-control behavior, you may not feel that you are in control. Certainly, there are circumstances that you cannot control, but you always have control over how you deal with events and circumstances. It's a matter of reacting vs. responding. For example, when your teen launches into a screaming tirade and your reaction is to escalate it with rants and raves of your own, versus thinking before you speak and responding in a normal tone of voice. Always being in a reactionary state will fuel stress and keep life in an upheaval. You have control over your emotions and you get to choose. By merely reacting to events and circumstances, you give up control. The reactions control your life, but by responding instead of just reacting, you are in charge. No one can make you do anything you don't want to do, nor can they make you feel anything you don't feel. You are in control.
2.) Trust Yourself: Pay attention to your gut instinct, that quiet place within. Whatever name you give it, listen to it. It's there as your own personal compass. It will never fail you. Ever had the experience of going against that feeling? How'd that work for you? Ever have the experience of trusting that feeling? That worked better, didn't it? It always does. If you're not used to accessing your own personal beacon, start paying attention to it. It serves all areas of your life. It's a skill you can fine tune and become more sensitive to. Nowhere in your life will that be of more importance then as you make your way through the haze of confusion you feel when dealing with a struggling teen. Take the time to quiet your mind and shut out other distractions. Learn to listen to that quiet voice within. Sometimes you might not like the answer you get, but it is important to pay attention to it nonetheless. Ignoring your natural knowing can set up bigger hurts and/or disappointments and stretch out the learning curve on lessons you need to learn.
3.) Do Your Homework: Living in the information age can be a double-edged sword. Never before has there been a time when you could gather such vast amounts of information, so quickly. The huge arena of resources and solutions available can be overwhelming. One option that might serve your family well is to enlist the aid of an Educational Consultant to help you sort through all this information. From their experience of working with program staff, and making on-site visits to many schools and programs, they are in an excellent position to offer direction and clarity. They are there to help you determine the best option for your family, but you need to do your part as well. Be open to their coaching. Listen for the purpose of learning and understanding. You are in new territory, but you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
4.) Partner With Your School: Having explored your options, you've made careful decisions and chosen a placement for your child. From day one, commit to work as a dependable team member with the school or program. The adage, "United we stand, divided we fall" applies here. As parents, you've undoubtedly had the experience of your children playing Mom against Dad for their own purposes. All kids do it at some point. Now it's been necessary to 'extend' your family to include the professionals at your child's school, because you need their help. This is one of those areas where trusting yourself comes into play. You trusted yourself to choose this program, now align with them and make sure your child knows you are all working together and that you support each other. Before placement, you tried many different things to get your child's behavior turned around. Now you've asked your child's school for their help and they have a lot of experience to draw on. Use it. Rely on these professionals who are dedicated to helping your child and your family. Follow their direction. Be teachable. Model respect for your child by abiding by the rules and guidelines they have set in place. There's a reason they are there. Be an asset to your sSchool. Create a united front for your child.
5.) Be Open to Change: Your child is just one member of your family. You are another. You all interact and influence each other's lives. As the parent, you're hoping your child will grab this gift for a chance to begin anew and make changes that will benefit their life from this time forward. It's real easy and real tempting, to put the entire focus on them. But if you want to make a real impact on your child, support them with love, but put the focus back on you. Be courageous enough to openly identify what you can change to create a better outcome; a better relationship with your spouse, your child or the other children at home. What can you do to be a happier, more contented you? Your happiness is not dependent on whether or not your child ever makes any turnaround choices. It's not their job to make you happy. They are working hard enough on their own. Don't put the pressure, spoken or even hinted at, that they are responsible for your happiness too. If you want to gain the respect of your child, be willing to look at your own life, choices and actions. Be willing to own them, just like you're hoping they will do. Set the pace for them. Get over the thought that this makes you bad, wrong or stupid. That will not help. Rather, openly look at what's not working and create the kind of life or the kind of relationships you want. Get involved with your school and their program, for it will be a valuable resource for you on your own journey. It takes courage to do this, but it also takes caring enough about yourself to want to be your best self. No different then you want for your child.
This may be one of the most challenging times in your entire life, but being aware of what you do have control over, and letting go of what you don't, will greatly reduce the crazy-making stress you've been enduring. And as you progress, take the opportunity to "pay it forward" by sharing encouragements and the lessons you learned with other families in your school. It will affirm and anchor what you've learned and how far you've come. It feels good to give back. You can make it through this and come out better than before.
About The Author: Glenda Gabriel 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.