- “What am I supposed to do about my son?”
- “Why is this so hard?
- “Who can I talk to?”
Parent conference weekend just wrapped up at Heritage, which was a marvelous opportunity for parents to rub shoulders with others in their same boat. After a few hours spent together, learning and discussing this intensely emotional path, one father summed up the parent experience by saying “It’s like we’ve been given a golden ticket to an exclusive club – one we didn’t know existed.” The chuckles from the rest of the parents in the room made it clear that this description hit home for many.
Some teens in therapy latch on to the process immediately and positive evidence of change appears right away. Others minimize their struggles for weeks and even months. Some staunchly refuse to budge an inch for what feels like eternity while parents wring their hands. One successful young man, speaking in a student panel to parents this weekend, confessed “I pretended everything was fine for about 9 months before I let my guard down.” The gasps and chuckles from the room evidenced the diversity of parent reactions to this – some shocked that change could take so long, and others taking comfort in the fact that their yet-to-budge teen still had hope. Every path is different, and a certain magic happens from hearing other’s experiences and gaining a bigger, broader perspective with a glimmer of hope.
There is comfort and camaraderie available from others who have traveled a road similar to yours. One theme that arises in parent discussion groups is “Who have you told?” Many parents feel ashamed and hide the fact their teen is receiving intense treatment. Others open up to a small close group, and some boldly tell their story freely. All parents in group discussion share how refreshing it is to feel accepted, understood, and to learn from the experience of those who have traveled this road before. Parents encourage each other to let go of the guilt, hang up the phone rather than be abused anymore, heal through self-care, or simply take a guilt-free vacation. Hearing this from someone in your “club” makes it more digestible and more acceptable to let go, have a bigger perspective, and take care of yourself.
To anyone struggling with their teen, there is a club full of parents with experience and perspective waiting to welcome you to their fold. Certainly you didn’t want this golden ticket, but the benefits that come with club membership can be a silver lining to an otherwise tough life experience. Reach out to friends and family, open up to trusted friends about your experience, and/or seek out others who can support you and help you along the way.
In addition to Heritage parent conference and its effort for local Heritage support groups, there may be resources in your area for parent support. Try a google search, or below are just a few links that may help you get started. Gaining from others broadened perspective, brightened hope, and warm support will be worth your while.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – contact your local chapter to find out what is available.