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Teenagers in Treatment: A Message for Parents

By Tomretterbush @thomretterbush
Teenagers in Treatment: A Message for Parents Teens don't understand how hard some of decisions are that parents are forced to make.
When parents make the decision to place their teenager into some type of treatment, it can be a time of relief from what has been happening, but it can also be a time of grief and loss. Once things have settled down at home what is left for the parent is feelings of intense guilt. These feelings can become extremely painful.
Parents have time to start thinking of all the “should have, could have, and wish I would have” done this instead of that.
"If I would have been there more maybe they wouldn’t have needed treatment”. Parents start thinking of all the reasons this has to be their fault.
After the first few months the memories of how out of control your teenager was usually fades. This is when parents begin sending a lot of “stuff” to their teen. Most treatment facilities allow certain items to be sent to the teenagers. This is usually hygiene products, books, shoes, games, and puzzles. Some parents will send items that are approved but when the guilt is extreme the parent will send items that are not approved by the program. This can cause tension between the program and the parents when your teen is not allowed to have these items. When this happens the teenager benefits because teens have a way of figuring out that this can make the program and the parent begin to disagree and then the teen will continue to exploit this type of problem because it could lead to an early discharge. There are also those parents who begin to design their teens’ program. By this I mean, planning hotel and home visits before it’s planned, planning how long each phase of treatment should take their child instead of allowing the professionals to make these decisions. This is when parents will begin to complain about the treatment, staff or therapist.
Once parents begin to see their teenager listening and speaking to them in a civil manner, other thoughts begin to creep in. They tend to go like this, “I don’t know why they need to be there so long”, or “Why does my child seem to have such a hard time with the staff”? Parents begin to question the professionals they hired to help their teen. The memories of their teen fighting, using drugs, failing school, punching holes in walls, and running away or just staying out until they felt like coming home has faded. Parents begin to criticize the facility and the program. Some parents begin to tell the professionals how to do their job even though they have been trained as professionals on how to help at-risk teenagers. Some parents begin to second guess everything the program is doing. One of the hardest parts about sending your teenager to treatment is learning to trust the process. It took many years for your teenager to take on their behavior and it takes time to teach them the tools to live a healthy life.
Thumbs Up 4 One of the worst things a parent can do is take their teenager out of treatment before they have finished the program. Generally after a few months parents forget about the chaos and turmoil they were living with while their teen was at home and they start missing them and feeling guilty for sending them away. When this happens parents begin to think about bringing their child home. Parents begin to come up with reasons as to why they need to come home, Some of the reasons are; school is going to start again, summer vacation, holidays, or a family gathering. These reasons feel like valid reasons but generally the root cause is guilt.
Hopefully, your teens’ therapist has been teaching you the phases that happen to a teenager in treatment. In the beginning of treatment we see the disrespect, defiance, attitude, and other behaviors that you as a parent were seeing prior to sending them to treatment. About the middle of the program (4 months), you will begin to see and hear the child you remember, the one you actually liked. They begin to be motivated, have more energy, they can express their goals and dreams, and they are listening and talking more. During the end part of treatment is for practicing and teaching it to newer peers in the program. This allows the teen to internalize these changes, feel comfortable with them self, and gain the self confidence it takes to go home and face old friends.
Addiction on the MindWhen a teen is pulled in the middle of their program we generally see them self-destruct. This happens over and over again. When parents see the progress and then decide to bring them home for school, family vacation, or a holiday, generally you will see the teenager do OK at first but generally speaking the teen is not strong enough emotionally or mentally and they begin to spiral out of control usually within the first few months. Generally, the structure from treatment is what is holding your teen together and it takes time for your teen to practice these coping skills and feel confident in continuing these skills when they go home. Teens need time to know they can do this on their own at home.
I have worked with many parents that have pulled their teen before they were clinically ready to go home. Many of these teens were not able to stay strong enough to resist the temptations of their friends. Parents call to find out what else they can do for their teen or end up sending them back to a treatment facility. There have been times when the consequence for the teen ends up in detention or death. These consequences are the extreme.
Part of the process is allowing teenagers’ to work through their issues and learn how to fix their own problems. Parents need to remember that by taking your child early from treatment you have just sent them backward in their progress. Teenagers’ need to learn to solve their problems, and as parents’ you are not helping them by giving them an out. Teens need to take ownership of their life and realize they can achieve what they set their mind too.

As parents’ the best thing you can do is support their decisions whether they are bad or good choices. If your teen is in treatment the best thing a parent can do is let the teen know, you got yourself into treatment now get yourself out of treatment. This allows the teenager to take full responsibility for their life, learn and grow into healthy young adults and regain the confidence they lost. For parents you get to begin to let go and regain the relationship with your child that was lost by their choices and your reactions.

Written By: Kelly Miller
If you would like more information you can purchase my book, When Should You Send Your Teen To Treatment? A Parent Guide, by Kelly Miller MS, on Amazon Kindle or visit my website at to learn more. 
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Teenagers in Treatment: A Message for Parents

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