What’s my role as a Parent with my child in Treatment?
Having a child in residential treatment, no matter if you are living across the country or in the same town is very difficult for everyone that is involved. The focus in a treatment center is mainly on the child that is in treatment and it seems that the parents often feel left out or lost at times. I know that parents usually want to be as involved as possible with their child and their treatment. This can be very difficult depending on the individual’s and the family’s past and current circumstances.
Feelings of worry, loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. can often creep in and affect you as a parent when your child is away from home. These are pretty common and normal feelings that individuals have. With a child that has struggled for some time, there is a myriad of emotions that can be felt.
Because a parent’s core emotion for their child is normally unconditional love, we want only the best for our children. At times we have to reach outside ourselves and get professional help from those that are trained and have experience working with the issues that children and families face. There is nothing wrong with getting outside help for children that have struggled in one way or another and do not have a solid foundation. As a parent with a child at Logan River Academy, remember that we are working with you to help you, your child and your family create the most successful opportunities possible moving forward.
I’d like to share an experience that I have had with a parent of one of my students, (we’ll call the student Tyler). Tyler had been here at Logan River Academy working on himself for several months. He was getting ready to do his first home visit. This was a great opportunity to see how everything would go outside the environment that we have here at Logan River Academy. I got together with Tyler and his parents and we set up some boundaries and rules, as well as some fun things that they wanted to do as a family. Tyler went home for the weekend and came back from his home visit thrilled. He expressed how well the visit had gone and that it was a problem free experience. My response was not what he had expected when I said, “Dang it, I was hoping for at least one problem to happen!” As we talked I went on to explain that I was really happy that he had such a great visit, but at the same time, when there are problems or issues that happen, we get to see what he has learned put into practice and if he was able to problem solve with his parents.
As this comic suggests, if we implement the same solution over and over that doesn’t work, and are not willing to make any change, we end up with the same results, (there is not some magical result that will happen).
As Tyler’s mom is learning, sometimes things don’t have to be perfect or go exactly as she wants them to. One important part of your child’s treatment is looking at yourself as a parent and seeing what types of adjustments or changes you are able to make as well.
As Tyler and I talked with his parents and we did family therapy that week, Tyler’s mom suggested that because she was so worried about everything going perfect that she tiptoed around every possible problem so that there was no arguing or fighting. She felt that she had messed up the whole visit. I let both Tyler and his mom know that the visit went great, they did a wonderful job, and that we don’t expect things to go perfect. I expressed to Tyler’s mom and dad that it is okay to have problems. We want to be able to learn to handle problems differently from how they were handled before. I continued to explain that our ultimate goal is to help Tyler be able to be back in his home environment, be able to have problems and situations happen, be able to problem solve with his parents or whoever is involved, see what skills Tyler can put into action, and create balance in the lives of the individuals and family system as a whole.
Balance is extremely important and as parents, finding a balance between you and your child is crucial. As your child grows, knowing how to create new boundaries with your child and letting them be involved in their own decisions and consequences is difficult. It is fairly common to give our kids more restrictions and boundaries as they grow older. This restricts freedoms and commonly causes them to rebel or be oppositional, which then back-fires this more restricted process that we are trying to implement. Once the child is an adult he or she will be on their own without any parental restrictions, but with societal restrictions. It is key for them to learn how to make decisions, problem solve, etc. Teaching children the skills that they will need to succeed is vital so that as they get older they have fewer restrictions and more privileges to help them understand how to succeed in life when they are on their own.
So back to the initial question, what’s my role as a parent with a child in Treatment?? Here are some ideas or suggestions for while your child is in treatment as well as after they return home.
1 - Support your child.
2 - Give them opportunities to build trust.
3 – Work on communicating effectively.
4 - Take a course or get advice from a professional counselor that works with families.
5 - Work on yourself and the barriers that you face when working with your child.
6 -Be open to making changes or adjustments to parenting styles.
7 - Don’t be too hard on yourself or blame yourself, but make self adjustments where they are needed.
8 - Set up limits and boundaries. Be positive but firm with them.
9 - Evaluate if you are an enabler and stop enabling.
10 - Recognize that there are going to be disagreements and problems.
11 - Don’t expect perfection all of the time.
12 - Make sure you know how to problem solve appropriately depending on the age and maturity of your child.
13 - Allow your child to have part in the discussion and they will be more likely to follow through, set your child up for success.
Jeffrey Openshaw LMFT