Last night I attended my first parent group as a parent. Professionally I am a clinical psychologist and have been doing parent groups on and off for years for those parenting teens with eating disorders. This all came to a halt a couple of weeks ago when I started a two year sabbatical from working to be home with my own three adolescents. So when word got out that a parent support group was starting at my 15 year old daughter’s alternative high school, I thought Why not go? After all, you can never get too much support while parenting teenagers.
The group facilitator, a school co-director and talented adolescent therapist, introduced the idea of letting your teen sort things out by themselves. We all went around and talked about how difficult it is to see your kids suffer, how everything in your being wants to take their pain away even though logically you know that struggle is part of life, a valuable part of life. All of the nine or so parents there could relate to this concept. It might help for you to know that all forty of the teens at the school (tiny, I know) are there because it did not work out in “regular” schools, whether public or private. The students at this wonderful, creative, wacky, nurturing, and sometimes counter-culture school did not fit in socially, have learning differences, have had some trauma, or struggle with anxiety or depression to some degree. These are kids (and parents) who have already been through a lot. I am one of those parents. Continue reading →
Transformative experiences mark the entrance from one phase to another. There are many such experiences that you can try to prepare for. Having a baby, getting married, and moving out of your parents’ home. Some preparation is possible, though many feel that despite knowing ahead of time of the change to come, despite in many cases even making the choice to venture into new territory, they still feel unprepared. Other events come as a shock, like a death or a natural disaster or even the revelation that your child has special needs. They are completely unexpected. One’s life is changed for better or worse and often in combination.
I hope you’ll excuse me for being a bit off-topic with this post. A mother from Riverton, Wyo., with a 21-year-old autistic son called me at work the other day to inquire about possible grants for her son’s new business. Her son, Leonard, had discovered a passion for carving walking sticks from downed tree branches. He’s started his own businesses, Autisticks (nice play on words), and it’s been going great guns, with most sales coming by word-of-mouth. As Leonard’s mom, Debra Williams, told me the story of raising her son, it reminded me a lot of the personal stories we’ve been telling on these pages (and in the book). He’s easy to love, but…. Debra has always been on the lookout for a positive outlet for her son’s obvious talent and enthusiasm. Carving and decorating these walking sticks seems to be the answer. Links to a newspaper article and a radio interview can be found at my work blog, wyomingarts. Happy new year, everyone.
Transformative experiences mark the entrance from one phase to another. There are many such experiences that you can prepare for as much as possible. Having a baby, getting married, and moving out of your parents’ home. Some preparation is possible, though many feel that despite knowing ahead of time of the change to come, despite in many cases even making the choice to venture into new territory, they still feel unprepared. Other events come as a shock, like a death or a natural disaster or even the revelation that your child has special needs. They are completely unexpected. One’s life is changes for better or worse and often in combination.
I decided to survey my children (ages 11, 14, and 16) about significant events in their lives that have catapulted them from one stage to another. Their responses spoke deeply to who they are. My almost 17 year old son smiled and said “It would have to be before this past summer and after this past summer.” What came to my mind when he said this was the upsetting realization that occurred at the beginning of the summer that he had gotten involved in drugs and alcohol and the wake-up call this provided our family, the rally to put together a treatment plan for him, the dramatic constriction of his freedoms, the huge amount of time we have spent together since, and the activities that were put together that involved him doing volunteer work and leadership training and going away to a wonderful camp. My boy is sometimes overly optimistic, like when he says it will be no problem for him to get caught up on his school work despite his unmedicated ADD (“I got it covered mom”), but his response to this question spoke to how valuable this optimism can be. For him, this summer saved him and uplifted him and transformed him and he already remembers it fondly.