Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Blogger Faith Blitman: Bullying Behavior

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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Loss, Regrets and Living an Honest Life

This has been a year of loss for me including several friends and now family members. Sometimes, just when you need something to remind you of important lessons, a friend sends you an article. I was sent “Top Five Regrets of The Dying” and recommend this page.

For those of us coping with difficult family relationships and troubled people, it's easy to focus on the pain and not view the other wonderful parts of our lives and the positive things we can do.

Are you honest about your hopes and dreams and who you really are? Do you express your feelings? Have you established and kept friends, and are you honest with those friends?

Once I was honest with others about my relationship with my son, I found support, understanding, and a whole lot of other people with their own family pain. It was so reassuring to know I was not alone, and it gave me additional courage to write the book, this blog, and reach out to others.

I know that what I read in that article was very true, and I hope it helps you or gives you something to think about.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping Perspective on Problems

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written, and I could go into lengthy reasons, but I will instead say we took a fantastic vacation, my old computer died, had to get a new one, suffered though re-doing each program and lost a lot of data. Meanwhile, I learned more disheartening and worrisome news about our son. Just when I think he’s on the brink of getting on-track.

One of the things I’ve been mulling over is that when you’re living in the same house where you have difficult memories, being concerned about your child, where s/he is, how s/he’s doing, what will be in the future, it’s hard to remove yourself from that spiral of thoughts, worries, re-plays of conversations/fights and missed opportunities, second-guessing and regrets. At least, that’s the way it is for me, so I assume it must be the same for many others.

Going away, being out of our environment and going to a foreign country with a different culture worked some magic in reminding me about perspective.

We live in California, and although there are older buildings and ruins we can visit, our area is mostly pretty new. It’s the Silicon Valley, focused on the now. Out trip to France reminded me of our distant past, of Western history and culture, and of the thought that we are still but specks on this planet.

Walking down the street and seeing buildings that have been occupied for a thousand years does tend to put things in place.

It was a good reminder for me that whatever we’re going through with our son, whatever you’re going through with your child or family member, there are only a few ways it can go. Things can stay the same, they could improve a little, or you can turn our relationship around so that it is fully repaired.

If I can hold on to that thought that things may change, that I can control and work on some things, and other things are out of my control, I will be okay.

I hope you can hold onto these thoughts during the holiday season, a really difficult time for many. Best wishes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Forwarding: Casting for a New Series for a Major Cable Network

I received the following flier and promised to pass it forward.
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NOW CASTING A NEW SERIES FOR A MAJOR CABLE NETWORK

Do you suspect your teen is going down the wrong path and engaging in
life-threatening activities, i.e drinking, doing drugs or engaging in
promiscuous behavior?

Is your teen failing all of their classes and busy hanging out with the
wrong crowd?

Do you know if your teen is bullying or being extremely aggressive at
school?

If you are at a loss of what to do with your out-of-control teen and would
like to get some assistance, we can help.

A Major Cable Network is currently looking for families and their teens
(ages 13-19) for a groundbreaking new series. We will be providing you
with a team trained in helping your teen get back on the right track.
Please send us an email sharing your story.

Email us at familycasting@rrstaff.com

***BE SURE TO INCLUDE WHAT CITY AND STATE YOU ARE APPLYING FROM IN YOUR SUBJECT LINE***
Also, please attach a current family photo and include: Names, Ages, and
the best phone number to reach you. Thank you for your time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Guest Blogger Faith Blitman: Help, My Child May Be Chemically Dependent: What Should I Do?

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. You can reach her at faithblitman@aol.com.

Despite warnings children may experiment with drugs for a multitude of reasons: curiosity, peer pressure, to escape anxiety and depression or simply to feel good. Some children who experiment with drugs ultimately become addicts, while others do not. While genetics play a role in addiction, there is no fail-proof, early warning system to alert the child who is using, that due to his or her unique vulnerabilities or proclivities, addiction may be imminent. The process of addiction is an insidious one – many who experiment do so to temporarily forget their problems but as the addiction gains momentum, it inevitably wreaks havoc on every facet of the user’s life. It also tends to wreak as great or greater havoc on parents’ lives who helplessly and painfully witness the loss of their child to drugs and alcohol. The bitter irony is that the addiction itself becomes far more deleterious and pervasive than the original problem which motivated the child to use drugs in the first place.

Drug addiction can be psychological, physical or both. Many recreational drugs attach to the same receptors as brain chemicals and act as disinhibitory agents. Normal behavioral control is undermined and suspended, accounting for many of your child’s mood and behavior changes. Drugs often hijack the brain (most notably, the prefrontal cortex), typically resulting in a severely comprised ability to carry out important survival skills such as planning, exercising sound judgment and resisting temptation.

As a concerned parent, it is helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms which are frequently associated with drug abuse . . .

Changes in Mood and Behavior including: mood swings, e.g. depression, mania, anxiety, isolation, paranoia, increased or inappropriate anger, relationship changes, increased secretiveness or lying, changes in sleeping patterns (up all night or sleeping excessively), changing friends

Problems in School or Work i.e. increased absenteeism, problems getting along with others, drop in grades or productivity, loss of interest in (class) work or extracurricular activities

Problems in the Home or Community – be aware of dwindling or missing prescriptions, alcohol, money, jewelry and other valuables, the presence of rolling papers, pipes, bongs, or needles, pills, powders and other unknown substances, car accidents, fights, legal problems

Traumatic Events – for example, a loss of a significant person through death, divorce, etc. , a history of sexual, emotional or physical abuse, witnessing a horrific event such as a murder, domestic abuse, etc., military combat (PTSD) can lead to using

Changes in Personal Appearance including glassy eyes, unkempt appearance,
changes in grooming, significant loss or gain in weight

Assuming your child is exhibiting at least some of these indicators, what should you as a concerned parent do?

1) Approach your child with a caring and calm attitude. Your child’s life may well feel out of control to him or her so it is important for you to stay in control for the both of you. Do not confront until you feel calm. (Should you experience guilt, remind yourself it was your child’s decision to use, not yours.)

2) Confront your child with whatever evidence or suspicions you may have. Let him or her know that you are there to offer your love, support and help. Avoid giving the third degree or lecturing; your role is to build a climate of safety and caring, thus assisting your child to admit and share concerns about drug use.

3) Set firm and reasonable boundaries. Clearly delineate which behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable and inform your child of the consequences (both positive and negative), of their behavior. Consistency in following through provides clarity and stability for you and your child.

4) Denial is a major component of addiction. If you’ve confronted your child and he or she denies having a problem, a well-planned intervention which includes his or her friends, family and professionals may be advisable.

5) Seek professional assistance. Chemical dependency does not occur in a vacuum and affects the entire family. A skillful therapist can objectively assess your situation to determine which type and level of treatment is best suited to the needs of your child (in addition to your child attending Narcotics Anonymous and/or Alcoholics Anonymous). Moreover, a therapist can assist family members in establishing appropriate boundaries, by teaching effective coping skills and helping to identify and modify maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving.

6) Self-care is critical. In addition to therapy, spending time with friends or developing a supportive network is essential to your well-being. Many parents who have a chemically dependent child also reap tremendous benefits by participating in their own 12-step programs such as Nar-Anon (for friends and family concerned about a loved one’s drug addiction) , Al-Anon (for friends and family concerned about a loved one’s drinking), and CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous to help establish healthier relationships). Pursue hobbies, exercise, take classes and live your life. You will inevitably feel better and also be an even healthier role model for your child. In life, we cannot control other people, but we do control who we are and who we are can flourish despite adversity.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse Was Once a Little Girl

It’s well-documented and much too familiar. A creative, talented singer with drug and alcohol problems, in and out of rehab and then dead at 27. We all saw it coming but it’s still shocking.

She was once a little girl, wanted and loved and singing with her father at home. If you’re reading this blog, you likely know the experience of being with a child, holding him or her, reading and singing songs and playing together.

Even when you don’t know that that child will do in life, you want him or her to have a successful life, meaning being kind, happy and fulfilled, self-supporting and generous to others. You want that child to navigate safely through tempting and possibly dangerous situations.

In Amy’s case, according to Wikipedia, she was constantly singing and the teachers had a hard time keeping her quiet. When she was nine years old, her grandmother suggested she attend a theatre school. She was allegedly expelled at age 14 for “not applying herself” and getting her nose pierced.
I’m not sure when or why she started using and abusing drugs and alcohol, maybe in those early teen years, but it took over her life.

A couple of years ago, her father tried asking people not to go to her concerts, hoping that if the concerts were cancelled, she would hit bottom and go to rehab. It wasn’t in the interests of anyone else involved in her career (such as her record company, manager, agent and PR person) for her to miss concerts. They had a financial interest in her carrying on, even though it was clearly dangerous for her.

It was a desperate move from a distraught parent. It’s hard seeing someone you love go through personal difficulties of this magnitude.

Before I heard the news of her death, I had been listening to one of her songs and wondering what was happening to her. She was falling apart on her tours from all reports and it seemed evident she was in serious trouble again. The end of this story for Amy and her family is tragic. For some of the people who’ve read my book and read this blog, this event hits too close to home.

If you have someone in your life that is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, these things can’t be wished away. That person has to want to change, has to put in a lot of hard work and ongoing efforts such as going to meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous.

For family members, support, information and help is available through Al-Anon, based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I encourage you to learn about these groups and other options and gather the courage to attend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Parent’s Declaration of Independence by Theresa Froehlich

Today's guest blogger is Theresa Froehlich. She is a writer, speaker, Certified Life Coach, and ordained minister. She has been married 28 years and is the mother of two young adult children.

For parents in pain - whether it is the result of a child’s addiction, failure in school, estranged relationship, or failure to move forward with life - the most difficult challenge is managing emotions.

After my husband and I discovered that our daughter, eighteen-years old and a college freshman at the time, became an alcoholic, my range of emotions were all over the map: fear, depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame and despair. A year later, our son went off to college, crashed and burned because of his computer and online video gaming addiction. My emotional workout then ramped up to the post-doctoral level!

During the last few years, I have reflected a great deal on how parents in pain can manage their emotions, regain sanity, and get on with life. This strategy (more fully described in my book now being considered for publication) is based on our declaration of independence, the relentless detachment from the problem child.

1. I acknowledge that my child’s destiny is no longer bound up with mine.
2. I admit I am powerless to change my child.
3. I respect my child as the sole captain of her ship.
4. I choose to steer my own ship, and mine alone.
5. I refuse to let my child’s poor choices determine how I feel.
6. I refuse to view my child’s achievements as my source of joy; instead I give my child the credit that is due to him.
7. I respect real life as a competent teacher for my child, and therefore I can resign from being the teacher/leader.
8. I admit I have a journey of personal transformation to make, but I will not accept responsibility for my child’s poor choices.
9. I admit that I am also a learner, just as much as my child has been. Therefore, I deal with my own shortcomings and learn to forgive myself of my mistakes.
10. I rest in the confidence that God can do a much better job at changing people than I can, but I also accept God’s timeline as different from mine. Therefore, I suspend judgment, relinquish fear, and patiently wait for God’s timing.

What situation do you work with? What are the challenges you face in managing emotions? What strategies have you used?

I blog about these topics at http://www.transitionslifecoaching.org and would like to invite you to visit me there. Please join in the conversation so we can connect and support one another.


Search Amazon.com for parenting difficult teenagers

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another Father's Day

I posted last year about Father’s Day, wrote about missing my own dad, missing my child, and admiring my husband as a step-dad.

There is a pre-Father's Day interview on Yahoo News with the president. If the video is still up, it’s worth viewing.

He said that “fatherhood is ‘a combination of complete and total affection and devotion to that child, but also structure and limits and understanding that your child isn't your friend, at least when they're young.’ And he expressed the importance of teaching children values. Obama added that his own mother was a great parent.”

His parents divorced before he was three years old, saying, "You know, I can't say I miss my father, because I just didn't know him," Obama said. "And so, I don't have enough of an emotional bond there to miss him. I profoundly miss my grandfather. You know, I profoundly miss my mom. And my grandmother."

There is pain and loss when relationships are severed. Sometimes the person is missed, and sometimes it’s the idea of that person that is missed, maybe an idealization of what that relationship could have been.

If you’re struggling with a difficult relationship, are you sad because of what you miss about that person or the idea of what hoped for, or maybe both? Separating out those feelings can help you cope with loss or separation and can guide you into reconciling with that person if possible or finding peace with your feelings.

How are you feeling about your family today?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Couple and Their Daughter: Estrangement and Reconciliation

Last year, Stacy attended one of my talks and bought my book and she found consolation in it. She gave it to her husband, and he emailed me mid-way through the book.

“Ron” and “Stacy” married in their teens and had very little money and no emotional support from their families. They stayed in rented rooms and both worked two jobs for several years. He is mechanically inclined and earned his living at auto repair shops. He’d had little patience for school and used his high school vocational education to land a job at a gas station. Stacy completed high school and attended a vocational school in their early years together.

Stacy established herself in her occupation and Ron began to earn a good living as a mechanic. Although they were earning their own way, they had learned that education opens doors to promotions and better salaries. They felt insecure and inferior when running into old classmates or meeting new people. They agreed that the best way to get ahead in life is through a great education, and when their only child was born, they moved to a different community to get her into a better school system.

From the time “Mary” was little, education was stressed and there were educational toys, flashcards, games and activities designed to enhance her life. Her parents were focused on giving her the opportunities they felt they had missed.

Mary was an average student who wasn’t interested in most of her classes. She had friends and liked some activities, but did not have special hobbies or sports she enjoyed. It became a daily struggle between the parents and Mary, a constant nagging and bribing for her to do her homework. Each summer from 7th grade on was spent in summer school, not for enrichment classes but because she had failed basic courses.

They were able to have good times on weekends but dreaded school days and nights. They went to doctors, therapists and coaches, trying to find the right answer to help this child. Nothing worked because Mary did not want help.

On Mary’s high school graduation day, they were proud, excited, happy and relieved that this part of their struggle was over. They had hoped that she would go to junior college and work to help with the costs.

When they saw her after the ceremony, she told them she was leaving, that she’d be staying at friends, that any place was better than living with them, and she walked away. They were stunned.

What should have been an evening of celebration and happiness turned into a difficult and frightening eight years.

They thought she would come home that night or the next day, but she didn’t. Her friends said they didn’t know where she was. They contacted every person they knew. Finally, one of Mary’s friends called and said Mary was staying with a guy she had met. The acquaintance had asked Mary to call so her parents wouldn’t worry, but Mary refused, so the friend called.

Ron and Stacy went through everything in her room. As impulsive as this had seemed to them, Mary’s running away had been planned. Favorite clothes and her childhood bear were gone. They had saved enough money in cash to pay for several months’ rent if they needed it, but that had been taken, too. They found some unidentified pills but no other answers to the questions of what happened and why.

They called her friends regularly, some would answer; others would not. Some said they hadn’t seen her and seemed sincerely worried while others seemed to be lying and covering for Mary.

Ron and Stacy “went through hell” worrying about her, second-guessing themselves. They weren’t bad people: they worked, had friends and went to church. They thought their biggest difficulty had been fighting over school, but now they knew Mary had been taking drugs and lying about it and stole a substantial sum of money from them.

Stacy scoured the papers and checked online to see if there was some note about her daughter – maybe she’d be named in an accident, in a burglary, maybe she’d be in a photo taken at a street party. Maybe they’d find an unidentified female body, someone Mary’s size. She created accounts on MySpace and later Facebook to look for Mary and her friends.

There were no answers and no contact from Mary for years. They experienced anger over her betrayal and the emotional trauma of not knowing where she was and if she was alive. They went to a family therapist to talk about this grief and worry and to keep their marriage intact.

The pain lessened but it was always there. They gave up on finding her and felt they’d done all they could do by letting her friends know that they wanted to see her.

Stacy read my book and said learning about other parents and what they did or how they coped was helpful for her. It was comforting to know they weren’t alone and others had similar or worse problems.

Ron was partway through my book when their phone rang one evening and it was Mary. She wanted to meet them over coffee. They arranged a time to meet and the place, and the call ended.

Ron wrote to me and asked how to approach her, what to say, should they hug or what? It was the beginning of the weekend and they were to meet her on Sunday. Their therapist was away, there was no one to call. So they reached out to me.

I reminded them I’m a parent who wrote a book and I’m not a therapist. They just wanted to talk it over with someone who might understand their situation, may have thought it through. I have thought about what I might say to my son and how I might react, but nothing is certain on either side and it’s emotionally scary to extend oneself and risk losing that person again.

Here’s what I suggested: let her lead the way. Go to listen and not confront. Don’t run up and hug her, just greet her and see if there is a sign she wants to be hugged. It’s been 8 years and this is not a teen but a 26 year old woman.

They did let her lead the way so it was a rather short meeting, but now they are hopeful. It was hesitant and scary, and they didn’t hug when they saw her or before they left. They didn’t probe her to find out where she had been. Mary is hesitant and scared, but she had joined Alcoholics Anonymous and part of the program is to ask forgiveness of those you have hurt. Mary has agreed to go to family counseling with them. Ron and Stacy are hopeful but cautious: they’ve been wounded deeply and fear losing her again. There is a small light at the end of that tunnel, and I’m keeping this family in my thoughts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Made it through Mother’s Day: how’d you do?

I thought I should write an update following my last blog about Mother’s Day.

Much to my relief, it wasn’t too bad this year.

We spent the day with my wonderful mother-in-law. It was great spending the day with her.

Did I miss my mom on that day? Absolutely, but my world doesn’t revolve around sorrow – there are some trigger points for me to think about loss. It’s appropriate to think about people we’ve lost, especially on special days.

And then there’s my son. Still not talking and I really miss him especially on Mother’s Day, but I’m not devastated as I was in years past. My feelings float in and out of resignation, anger, calm, hurt and so on.

Overall, I am stronger this year. Someone asked me about coping with a severed family relationship, and I think it’s like with death in that it takes time to learn to cope and adjust to a “new normal” as they say.

I’m taking some positive steps and hear my son is doing the same. I started going to a support group to reinforce how not to enable, how to let some things go. I appreciate the group and when I go, I am going in to listen to others without thinking about writing their stories. Whatever I hear there is confidential. I can see that for a few years I’ve written other people’s stories and distanced myself from my feelings. Now it’s time for me to look inward without thinking about what I will write here. I know I’ll find more things to write about and so will my contributors.

If you found this blog or read my post as you were worried about Mother’s Day, tell me how you fared. Was it hard? Easier than it was? What tips can you share to help others?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dreading Mother’s Day? Me, too.

Last year I wrote about Mother’s Day and how I felt about it.

It hasn’t been an easy day for me in years. As I child, I remember looking forward to giving Mama something I had made, and even when I gave her simple beads on a string, she would beam and thank me and she’d wear the necklace. My mother was special, and she died at age 50. I’ve been without her more than half my life. I still miss her, wonder what her life would have been like, what our relationship would have been like had she lived longer. I especially missed her and appreciated all she had done once I had my own child.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this blog is an offshoot of the book I wrote, “Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens.” The book and this blog came about as a result of my experiences with my son. I’ve talked with many people over the years about difficult or troubled teens, and it helped me to know I was not alone. It also helped that I was an investigator, keeping my own emotions out of it.

This year, more than others, I’m dealing with those emotions. I still don’t talk with my son and it’s been exactly four years and one month since he lived in our home. I really miss the child I had and the time we spent together. There were issues along the way, but really, it’s been since he was 13 that he was someone with whom you could have a conversation. He is 22 now and I’m still hopeful that we’ll repair our relationship in the future.

For that repair to happen I have to grow and learn and he has to do the same. I’m doing my part and hoping for good things for him.

Now I want to say one final thing about Mother’s Day. This is the most painful and cruel day for a mom who has lost a child. My son had a friend who came to our home several times. In the brief conversations we had, I had a richer sense of who he was and what was on his mind than I had with my own son. He was a lovely boy and very close to his family. He died suddenly when he was in college, and it wasn’t due to horrible things you assume with kids that age – he simply died. An adult’s version of sudden infant death syndrome, I suppose. I felt terrible, deeply sorry for his loss, for the loss to his parents and family.

If you’re wondering how you talk with someone who is estranged from a child or worse, that the child has died, here’s what I would do. I would say to that person, “I was thinking of you and I’m sure you miss your child. Do you want to talk about it?” Just acknowledge the loss, the emptiness, and don’t pry. If the person doesn’t want to talk, he or she won’t do it, but the important thing is that you have let them know it’s okay to talk or not talk, that you’re there and you care.

Take care, friends.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Are You Bullied by Your Child?

As parents, we want our children to be respected at school and most of us would be upset if they were being bullied. We teach our children to stand up for themselves and we may enlist the aid of the teacher and principal. We don’t want children to be bullied, so why would we allow them to bully parents?

A father and teenage son were at a table in a restaurant near my friends. The son was berating the father, being sarcastic, talking back, insulting his father and using foul language.

My friends were shocked to hear a teenager talk to a parent like that. The father didn’t reprimand the son and didn’t do anything other than hang his head. Frankly, given the people I’ve interviewed and the people who have contacted me, I find this shocking but I am not surprised.

I imagine the father has been bullied by his child for years and did not address it when it started. When you overlook this behavior or give the child a “pass”, the child can assume it is okay to be disrespectful to parents. Bad behavior that is allowed will often escalate, and once escalated, parents may feel helpless to stop it.

Bullying comes in many forms, but experts agree that it is repeated behavior that is intended to intimidate, humiliate or demean another person. It is intentional disrespect. It may take the form of verbal abuse like the father and son in the restaurant. The bully has a pattern of behavior that may include yelling, intimidation or humiliation, criticism, insults or even personal sabotage. This emotional abuse may escalate into damaging personal property or even physically harming family members with the idea of further intimidation.

Victims of bullies usually do not confront the bully or react aggressively. They may have different reasons behind their decisions not to confront, and it could be that they don’t want to stoop to the other person’s level. Maybe the victim is startled, upset or angry and decides to walk away; hoping that will prevent reoccurrence of bad behavior, but the bully sees this as a victory. You’ve just given your child a lot of control over you by not speaking up for yourself.

Whatever form it takes, the parents have to consider this to be intolerable behavior and must put a stop to it. Clearly define what bullying is, talk about it in your family, explain it will not be tolerated and the disciplinary action that will be taken to those who violate the family rules. Train your children about what is and is not appropriate behavior and what constitutes a healthier environment in the home. Teach kindness and sympathy, acknowledge and reward small steps in the right direction with praise and a hug.

Children learn from the model you present and the way you talk with them, the corrections and guidance you give them. It’s in your family’s best interests to stop bad behavior, don’t let it slide and don’t avoid confronting it. Help your child to stop the bullying and stop being a victim.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Blogger: Family Member Asked for a 5150 for Mentally Ill Loved One

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.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: Fern Weis's Top 5 Parenting Tips

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.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Information About the Involuntary Psychiatric Hold

I have blogs and websites with tools to analyze traffic, see what terms people are using that lead them to my sites and my book. I use analytics to learn more about what information you’re seeking, and I occasionally use that along with discussions, emails and calls to determine topics to present.

Due to the ongoing discussions about Charlie Sheen and similar or more extreme experiences of others, this article is devoted to a difficult subject: the involuntary psychiatric hold or commitment. Involuntary commitment is when a person is placed in a psychiatric hospital or ward against his or her will. This must be in compliance with the mental health laws, is usually limited in duration and requires regular reevaluation.

I will direct you to some informational websites to help you or your friends as I am not in a profession that deals with these matters: I simply know how to research.

A Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment#Alternatives has a good overview of the history of involuntary commitment and some information about the process in different countries.

In California, Section 5150 allows a qualified officer or clinician to evaluate a person and have that person involuntarily confined. There are specifics as to who is qualified to evaluate a person and what circumstances would lead to this decision. Generally speaking, the person must be a danger to self and/or others and/or be gravely disabled. There is a Wikipedia entry regarding Section 5150 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5150_(Involuntary_psychiatric_hold).

There is a brochure describing the California involuntary 72-hour and 14-day hold that explains the process and a person’s rights under the law. This informational piece was created by the California Network of Mental Health Clients in Sacramento. The brochure is at http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/502401.pdf and their number is 916-443-3232. They have provided additional resources if you need them.

The last topic I will mention is “conservatorship” or “guardianship.” You can read an explanation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatorship. In order to be another person’s conservator, you must have clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary to provide for the other person’s “physical health, food, clothing, and shelter” or that the person cannot “substantially manage his…own financial resources or…resist fraud or undue influence.”

I started this article by mentioning Charlie Sheen. It’s terrible to watch and I can’t imagine what this is like for the family and friends who love him. What would I do if I were in their shoes? I don’t know, and it’s hard for any of us to know from a distance exactly what’s going on and why. I can say this on the basis of my research - you don’t have to stand by and watch, and you don’t have to walk away because you don’t want to be enabling the behavior. A good psychiatrist and/or an attorney can help you sort through the options.

For those of you living in these extreme situations, I hope this has given you some information to consider and the courage to act. You will absolutely need courage and resolve.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Parenting Troubled Adults and Notes about Charlie Sheen

Even if you don’t read tabloids or view gossipy entertainment shows, it’s hard to avoid the train wreck that is Charlie Sheen’s current situation. The headlines generated by his behavior are dominated by stories of drugs and alleged violence.

I have seen several of his movies and watched Two and a Half Men occasionally. There’s no doubt this is a talented actor who can easily master drama and comedy and do it with style and charisma.

He reminds me of another actor with range, style, charisma and a terrible history, Robert Downey, Jr.

Information provided here is drawn from Wikipedia entries that have citations.

Both were born in 1965 and were born into show business families, and both started acting careers as children.

Downey has said that his father was a drug addict and introduced him to marijuana at age 6 and the two did drugs together, eventually Downey also drank alcohol to excess. He dropped out of high school to pursue acting. He was arrested several times, was put on probation and was sentenced to serve time in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. He went through rehab and rehab programs repeatedly until it “took” in 2001.

Sheen has been married three times and has five children. He was expelled from high school for poor grades and bad attendance. He has overdosed, been sent to rehab, allegedly threatened or hurt women in his life and created havoc in his life and in the lives of his ex-wives and children.

Last year, I heard an interview where Martin Sheen, Charlie’s father, said he found himself planning Charlie’s funeral at a certain point: the situation was serious and his son’s life hung in the balance. As a parent, that thought just struck me through the heart. It's got to be one of the biggest fears of family members.

Sheen’s latest escapades have been blasted all over the news and he has been calling in or appearing on various radio and TV shows. It’s mesmerizing and appalling, and it’s sad to think that this dangerous situation serves as entertainment to many.

I’ve wondered how a person like Charlie Sheen can get into so much serious trouble and not have their children removed from the home. This did happen last week, but look at his severe and acknowledged history of substance abuse. At what point does social welfare step in and protect the children? Perhaps one of the social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists or attorneys who read this article can provide this information.

I have also heard talking heads who have not met Charlie Sheen speculate that he may be bipolar. (A good explanation of this disorder is available on Wikipedia. It doesn’t seem professional to speculate on someone you don’t know and haven’t examined.

Might there be underlying reasons for the extreme drug abuse experience by both Downey and Sheen? Maybe some of the same reasons we see in other addicted individuals.

I would look to their early years for behavior and decision making, see if they were in some pain that they wanted to dull or treat by taking drugs or alcohol. Some people who have disorders self-medicate to help get through the day, while others simply love the feeling of escape and find themselves addicted.

Addiction is complex and difficult, and I know from meeting recovering addicts that treatment is not easy and it truly is “one day at a time.” It’s helpful for family members to seek their own treatment, to understand how they are only in charge of their own feelings and reactions. You can’t change another person, and enabling another isn’t helpful to anyone. (Please see my post on enabling.)

How do you stand by as a parent and watch your child spiral out of control? Have you experienced this? What did you do? What worked for you and what did not work? Do you comments or insights to share?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Disclose Family Estrangement or Difficulties

A few of my readers have asked me to address this topic. In my book, the first chapter is devoted to three estranged families. The other families have repaired relationships, but they went through some period of difficulties.

Before you talk with anyone about your situation, consider the reasons for disclosing any information, and that will help you determine what you want to say and which people you can trust, which ones you should avoid.

What would be the reasons to talk about your family situation? One reason for me was that it was more helpful to lead an honest and open life than to keep my pain hidden. I learned that when I shared selective information honestly, I received help and support and kindness through what has been a challenging time. If you live in a small town or have a certain network of friends and family, they may have observed your problems and have been worried about your family.

The most important lesson for me was that I could be honest, protect details of the situation, receive support and learn that I was not alone. That’s a big thing, knowing you’re not alone. It’s helpful no matter what you’re going through in life.

If you decide to talk with others about your family difficulties, be prepared for a wide range of responses. Some people will be sympathetic and share their own stories. Others will want to be your therapist/coach. We all dread those who may judge you harshly, even though your situation may be extreme and may include violence in your family. The truth is, it’s hard to know with some people how they’ll react, but for the most part, you know your family and friends.

The chosen confidants would be people you know are supportive, good listeners, and respectful people. They have to be people you can trust.

The people to avoid are fairly easy to pick: the ones who are usually judgmental, gossipy and/or critical. You know who that is, don’t you?

Because this is information you’re volunteering, you can also pick the time and place in which to share. It should be private – don’t put yourself in a position where people can eavesdrop. And if you find you’re not ready to share yet, don’t do it. This is your information, your pain, and you are not obligated to share anything.

You should be comfortable and ready to share, and that means being prepared for questions. Some people have a lot of questions, others just listen. For those who have questions, consider what kinds of questions they may ask so you’re ready to respond. It’s helpful to provide some resources such as books or websites. This helps demonstrate you’re not alone and gives others additional insights.

If they ask what they can do to help, let them know. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk with, someone to say “I understand” or someone to just say “I’m thinking of you.”

If you’ve been in a difficult family situation and decided to share this with others, what was your experience?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Teens, Drugs and Consequences

Our guest blogger is Asher Levine, and his website is www.cleanbreakinterventions.com.


Asher Levine has experience in interventions, wilderness therapy and assessing teens for substance abuse issues. He supports families who are committed to seeking treatment for their teen. Asher created the "Clean Break" program to support high school and college students during Spring Break by hosting destination sober spring breaks.

In this article, we are referring to the teen as “he” as a matter of convenience: the teen in trouble could well be female.

Just as “love” and “money” are terms we understand, “consequences” is one of the universal languages that can be communicated with most if not all teens. We have all been faced with consequences both natural and logical at one time or another whether it’s being late for something because of procrastination or wearing two different color socks! When I go to schools and speak on substance abuse and addiction, the first thing I ask is: “Who has ever had a consequence”? Most of the hands go up but everyone acknowledges in some form of communication that they know what I’m talking about.

The point of discussing consequences with teens and parents is that experimental drug users and addicts need consequences or else why would they stop using? I ask the students if you came into school late everyday and no one said anything to you and you got a “A” for tardiness on your report card, would you keep coming to school late? The answer 99% of the time is “Yes”.

It’s the role of parents, siblings, friends, caregivers, etc. to create and force those consequences. If a teen has been caught using any drug and his parents ground him and a week or two later he is caught again and the only consequence is a short period of being grounded -- the teen can live with that penalty. The teen’s perspective is “I will take my chances.” The scary thing is wondering what other decisions the teen is comfortable making, knowing that his parents are aware of the drug use.

Intervention strategies

As a parent myself, I recognize that it is my responsibility to provide an emotional, physical, spiritual, safe environment for my child at all cost. Just because my children know what I do for a living, it does not mean they are vaccinated from using drugs or becoming addicts.

When we’re in a car and come to a sudden stop, we instinctively reach our right arm over to stop our kids from going forward as if it will keep them from going through the windshield. We have innate instinct to physically and metaphorically reach across and protect our kids.

When putting out a fire we have to take away the oxygen and handling addiction is similar. If the lunch money or allowance you’re giving to your child becomes the fuel for their addiction then the parent needs to take away the money. This includes lunch money. You can provide food for them at home and let them make it. Using lunch money for drugs is the most popular option for teens to get drugs. They come home after school to eat and therefore have traded lunch for access to a bag of marijuana or a handful of pills. By Thursday or Friday of that week they can sell or flip drugs like flipping a house. Once this process happens they are in business.

How many lunches do they sell to get some drugs?

Most Loritabs or “tabs” as they are referred to, cost $3 and a 10 mg would cost $6-$10 = 2-3 lunches.
Marijuana “blunts” cigar with the tobacco removed and replaced by marijuana can be purchased for $3 = 1 lunch.
Xanax or “benzo” can be purchased for $3 and a 2 mg bar can be bought for $6 = 1-2 lunches.
Oxycontin “oxy” is usually a much higher price approx. $1 per mg and they typically come in 40 mg and 80 mg. = 10-20 lunches.

Signs of Use

If your teen is taking Loritab, Darvacet, Percoset, Heroin, or Oxycontin (Opiates), you will notice withdrawal symptoms very similar to the flu. A teen will complain of aches, leg and stomach cramps, sweating, nausea, goose bumps, pin pointed pupils, constipation leading to long periods of time in the bathroom, will be hunched over and usually talk as if he is sick. These symptoms can be mistaken for the flu or stomach bug, however if your child is displaying these symptoms frequently and is missing school or is frequently in the nurse’s office, you should follow up. A user’s diet will include lots of snacks, chocolates, energy drinks to replace the electrolytes from withdrawal, and will not eat full meals. You will notice weight loss and abnormal sleep patterns.

Marijuana users will usually hide out and stay away from family so their cover is not blown by smell/odor of the drug. Some kids will use lots of cologne and eye drops to mask their use. A teen might change clothes frequently or use layered clothes such as a hooded sweatshirt. They might also ask for $3 or $5 here and there.

Some teens will leave for school early and smoke before school in a designated spot close to the school. 4:20PM is the universal pot smoking time and April 20th (4/20) is the universal pot smoking day so be aware of these times so you can confront or give a urine screen.

Parents also need to be proactive in not participating in a “text” only relationship. You can tell so much from a phone conversation i.e. the tone in their voice, background noises to detail location and who they are with. You can hear truth or a lie, also inquire about concerns. Teens are more likely to say things in a text that they will not say verbally. Also listen to your kids’ vocabulary. If they’re using they will be preoccupied with drugs and the lifestyle.

I don’t believe all teens that use drugs are addicted, however I do believe it requires immediate intervention and each day your teen goes without treatment is a day his addiction will progress.


www.tellmeaboutyourself.info

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do you know the next Jared Lee Loughner?

I haven’t posted for awhile as I wanted time to mull over the January 8, 2011 shooting in Arizona.

Like many people, I feel that the yelling and disrespect shown to others creates a climate in our society that is not only unpleasant: it’s dangerous.

That said, I do not hold anyone responsible for this shooting except Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old charged in this shooting that killed 6 people and injured 14 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As the news unfolded, we began to get a clearer picture of Jared and his mental illness. The life incidents that happened to Jared would, in an emotionally and mentally healthy person, be a chance to demonstrate resilience, to learn and grow from being hurt, being fired, being rejected.

Jared’s parents are Randy and Amy Loughner, an apparently very private couple: even their neighbors didn’t know them and no friends have come forward. Jared dropped out of high school and started developing behavioral problems with a change in his personality. (It is logical to assume his problems led to his dropping out of school, but I don’t know this as fact.)

High school classmates saw his life unraveling: he abused drugs and alcohol and his behavior and conversations became bizarre. A friend’s father felt uncomfortable around him, friends turned away.

Court records indicated he had 2 offenses in 2007 for possession of drug paraphernalia and defacing a street sign, and he completed diversion programs for each.

In 2008, the U.S. Army rejected Jared as “unqualified” for service. During the application process, he had admitted to marijuana use on numerous occasions.

Jared started taking classes at Pima Community College, and from February to September 2010, campus officers talked to him on 5 occasions as he was disruptive in class and at the library. A teacher and a classmate indicated they were fearful he would commit a school shooting.

In September 2010, college police discovered his YouTube video in which he said the college was illegal according to the United States Constitution. He was asked by administrators to leave school and return only if he obtained a mental health clearance. They wanted a professional to say that Jared did not pose a danger to himself or others.

Jared had a job at Quiznos but was fired: the manager said Jared had a change in his personality. Jared volunteered at an animal shelter but was asked not to return.

Even with this pattern of deep problems, rejections, being fired, being told he needed help, Dr. Laura Nelson, deputy director for behavioral health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the state had no record of Jared seeking mental health treatment in the public system.
The night before the shooting, he left a message on his friend’s voicemail along with a Myspace post saying goodbye.

With all the signs: problems at high school and community college, drugs, drinking, being fired from a job and volunteer work, rejection by the Army, disturbing private texts and public videos, friends and parents of friends seeing problems – how is it there was no help for Jared?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thinking a lot about all of the people murdered and wounded that day and the ongoing trauma to their families. I’m also thinking that if Jared had professional help, this may have been prevented.

One interview with a psychologist was asked about Jared’s parents, and she said there could be a few scenarios at home but we’re not sure what happened. In some similar cases, there is mental illness in one or both of the parents. Another possibility is that the parents took him to therapists but he stopped at some point. The final option is that the parents didn’t know what to do, were at the end of their rope, maybe they were afraid of him. I don’t know what was happening in Jared’s home and none of us know that part of the puzzle.

Just three years earlier at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (“Virginia Tech”), Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many other people before he committed suicide. Some of his history seems similar to Jared’s. The Virginia Tech Review Panel said Virginia Tech administrators failed to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel also pointed out gaps in mental health care and privacy laws that left Seung-Hui’s condition untreated.

Wouldn’t you think that following Seung-Hui Cho’s rampage, all schools would be alerted to do more to protect the greater society? Sometimes the schools have to step in when the parents can’t or won’t.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more shootings like this. Unless we deal frankly and effectively with the heart of the problem, we are all endangered. A percentage of our population is seriously mentally ill and they are underserved with resources. Family and friends do not always know how to help, when to report someone, where to turn.

Some of the parents who find my book and blog and write to me need to stop and think about their own kids. Is there something you need to act on or are they facing normal teenage angst? There is also a difference between the angry teen who yells and punches the wall versus the mentally ill teen who is rambling incoherently and has inappropriate verbal outbursts.

If you’re seeing bizarre behavior, when that’s combined with drugs and/or alcohol, when your child’s friends drift away or if you have warnings from school, you must take action.

If your child’s friend is going down that path or your student is acting in a bizarre fashion, use the resources at hand. Don’t be afraid to speak up: you may be saving the life of that child and the lives of others.

I have a list of resources on my blog and encourage you to review the list, make the call if you need to on behalf of your child or your child’s friend.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Resources

I'll add useful websites, mailing lists, blogs and books and invite you do the same. Let's help each other.

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NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Al-Anon/Alateen
Website: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org
Telephone: (757) 563-1600

Association for Experiential Education
Website: http://www.aee.org

CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Website: http://www.chadd.org
Telephone: (301) 306-7070

Healthy Communities Initiative
Website: http://www.hci-rtm.org
Telephone: (610) 891-6286

Narcotics Anonymous
Website: http://www.na.org

National Association for the Mentally Ill
Website: http://www.nami.org
Telephone: (800) 950-NAMI (6264)

National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs
Website: http://www.natsap.org
Telephone: (928) 443-9505

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
Website: http://www.ncadi.samhsa.gov
Telephone: (800) 729-6686

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Website: http://www.nida.nih.gov

National Mental Health Information Center
Website: http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov
Telephone: (800) 789-2647

National Youth Network
Website: http://www.nationalyouth.com
Telephone: (800) 789-2647

Parent Project®
Website: http://www.parentproject.com
Telephone: (800) 372-8886

Parenting Teens
Website: http://www.parentingteens.com
Telephone: (877) 375-6498

Struggling Teen
Website: http://www.strugglingteen.net
Telephone: (877) 375-6498

Teenage Problems
Website: http://www.teenageproblems.net

The International Network for Children and Families
Website: http://www.incaf.com
Telephone: (877) 375-6498

BOOKS

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5 Tips to Strengthen Any Family Celebration by Margit Crane, M.A., M.S., M.Ed

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

Divorce Poison by Richard A. Warshak

Don’t Divorce Us! Kids Advice to Divorcing Parents by Rita Sommers-Flanigan, Chelsea Elander, and John Sommers-Flanigan

Families on the Fault Line by Lillian B. Rubin

Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family by Dr. Phil McGraw

Field Guide to the American Teenager by Michael Riera, Ph.D., and Joseph DiPrisco, Ph.D.

Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D.

How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can’t by Dr. Neil I. Bernstein

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Real Boys Workbook: The Definitive Guide to Understanding and Interacting with Boys of All Ages by William S. Pollack, Ph.D. and Kathleen Cushman

Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying by Michael Riera, Ph.D.

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens by Marcia Stein (Click here for the ebook.)

Stress Less, Soar More: 1-Minute Tips for Parenting Gifted Teens by Margit Crane, M.A., M.S., M.Ed

Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence by Kenneth V. Hardy and Tracey A. Laszloffy

The Difficult Child: Expanded and Revised Edition by Stanley Turecki and Leslie Tonner

The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Depression by Rebecca Rutledge, Ph.D.

The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine

Uncommon Sense for Parents With Teenagers by Michael Riera, Ph.D.,

What it takes to pull me through: Why Teenagers Get in Trouble and How Four of Them Got Out by David L. Marcus

Why Do They Act That Way?: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by David Walsh and Nat Bennett

BLOGS

Help for Struggling Teens and Families: Observations and Discussions with Jeff Brain, MA, CTS, CEP

Support for Families with Troubled Teens

INTERNET RADIO SHOW

Dore Frances, Troubled Teen Help