Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tough Love is Misunderstood: Loving Your Teen To Death

Face the issue, don't ignore it.
After watching Dr. Drew on HLN last week, as he explained to his guest (a mother) that has a young adult struggling with alcoholism, ‘she can’t save him‘,  and having that thought process is not helping him.  Only he can help himself.   Many parents have a misconception of Tough Love, as Dr. Drew explained.  You can literally love your child to death. You can actually do more harm when you believe you are helping or saving your child.

Parent Denial: It Only Hurts Your Teen and Puts Them at Serious Risk

Parents in denial is probably one of the most common threads many teens have while they are smoking a joint or popping a pill – even downing the cough syrup.  Many parents think their teen is not the bad child – it is the ones they are hanging with – or simply doesn’t exist.

Being a parent in denial doesn’t help anyone, not even the parent.  Since eventually it does catch up with you and you find yourself dealing with a teen that is escalating out of control or worse, on a road to becoming an addict.

We hear these common excuses from parents when they call us for help:
  • My teen is so smart! His/her IQ is superior, but they are not working up to their potential. (Also known as, underachieving)
  • My teen is so beautiful/handsome – good looking – even has many friends. (Of course, the peer group has changed and you don’t know why.)
  • My teen is very athletic! He/she made the varsity team at a young age, has won all sorts of awards, but now has dropped out (or kicked off a team) and has zero interest in this sport. (Major red flag).
  • It’s not my kid, it is the kids he/she is hanging out with! (Really, do you understand your teen has free will and is choosing to hang with these kids?)
  • It’s only pot! (Really, do you realize that marijuana today is not like generations prior.  Marijuana is being laced with higher levels of PCP, as well as even heroin).  It is not only pot, it is serious.
The irony of these comments are,  they are calling us, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, for help, but when we recommend resources,  many fall back to their “hope and a prayer” that this is only a phase. While some teens do straighten up, most don’t – and the problems get worse.

Typical teen behavior?  Maybe, but do you want to risk not getting them help if it is more than typical teen behavior?

Major misconception of parents: Almost all parents that contact us have that next Einstein or Dan Marino (the mother on Dr. Drew last night even used the most common phrase, ‘my son is highly intelligent’, which may be true, but using drugs or other substances is not too smart), but the fact they are either changing friends, smoking pot, not attending classes or school at all, wanting to drop out of school all together and just get a GED, are all signs you are heading down a very negative path. This road usually escalates before it gets better.

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As a mother that dealt with a challenging teenage daughter, I know the feeling of facing the fact you can’t do this alone.  My daughter was that athlete, she was popular, she was beautiful and I always said – “well, at least she never did drugs.”  Boy was I wrong.

In my book, Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen, published by Health Communications, Inc, I wrote my thoughts and feelings at the time my daughter was 14 years-old.  However when you reach the chapter she wrote, you soon realize that mom (myself) didn’t know it all!

When local therapy isn’t working, you exhausted all your local resources, you have now come to realize an intervention is needed.  Residential therapy is a big step, both emotionally and financially.

Another major misconception among parents is they are looking for a Military School or Boot Camp to straighten up their teen.
  • Military Schools are a privilege and honor to attend.  Your child needs to be accepted usually with an essay of why they want to attend as well as a good GPA.  If your teen is forced to attend and gets expelled, you will very likely forfeit your tuition.
  • Boot Camps and Wilderness Programs are short term programs that offer short term results (if any at all).  Many parents believe that 6-8 weeks is going to resolve a year or more worth of issues.  These types of programs are band-aids that quickly fall off shortly after the teen arrives back home.  Most Wilderness Programs recommend a Residential Therapy program following their 6-8 weeks.  Consistency is key, finding the right program from start to finish has proven most beneficial.
Looking for the best residential program and/or school for your individual teen is challenging.  It is critical we don’t place your teen out of their element.  Finding the right balance make take time, but it is worth it and can lead to a brighter future for your child.

Learn more about residential programs by visiting

Most importantly, don’t be a parent in denial – be proactive!

I will Blog more about how to find sound residential therapy as well as letting you know, you are not alone!
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