Mental Health, Parent Support

Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Last night I was attending a Taco Tuesday women’s get together in my neighborhood. It was a night filled with good food, games, laughter, and some pretty amazing women.

My history with women wasn’t always pleasant. I found women to be catty, and backstabbing, and often out for their own good. Now I am not saying this is how all women are, it just seemed to be my experiences.

As I aged, I became wiser, less rigid and judgmental, and I also became more confident and a better judge of people. I found myself choosing to surround myself with some pretty fantastic women. Back when I lived in New Jersey I found a small group women with whom I bonded with on a spiritual retreat. We all clicked and to this day, despite the fact I moved across the country, I continue to feel as close to them as if I continued to live next door. We often referred to each other’s as “Sista’s” and yes that is how we spelled it. I am not 100% sure why, but I think that may have started because we performed a skit to the movie Sister Act and dressed up as Nuns or it could have been as “Sisters in Christ”. Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

So I moved to Utah, never thinking that I would find a group like that again. I was going to be open to new friendships, but honestly how likely would it have been for me to find that twice in my life.

Well I am overjoyed to say that I found a group of great women in Utah. How does this happen, am I so fabulous that people are dying to be my friend? Nope, not even close. I have figured out it has to do with a few simple things.

  • The First: The desire to be part of a group.
  • The Second: Give 100% and be vulnerable
  • The Third: Give much more than you take from the relationship.

Back to Taco Tuesday. One of the organizers of this event got up in front of about 35 women and explained with tears in her eyes why gatherings with women were so important to her.

She has a great husband and kids, but there is something about the power of women that is necessary for her. She also explained that sometimes the connection is not meant for you, but for you to pass along to someone in the future. She often jokes that the reason I ended up as her neighbor was because she needed me, little did she know how much I needed her.

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying my taco salad at a table where a teenage girl, about the age of 15 or 16 sat.

I laughed about how my anxiety was trying to convince me to bail on Taco Tuesday because I didn’t want to go in alone. I asked a friend for help and she offered to pick me up. And while some people might think my anxiety over such a simple thing is stupid and I should just get over it, it doesn’t work that way. I acknowledged my anxiety, I addressed it, and I worked through it with the help of others.

So after I finished telling my little story about how anxiety almost kept me from doing something I wanted to do, this young girl openly shared that she too suffered from anxiety and a few other things that always seem to hitch a ride on the anxiety train.

I gave her my full attention as I listened to her share what was going on with her life. As like many people with anxiety, we shared some of the same struggles; Adhd, anxiety, the inability to shut off our wandering minds, we wondered if everyone worried about stuff as much as we did, we used humor as a coping mechanism, and the list went on and on.

I shared some of my experiences as a teen, and the expression on her face was one of relief. She told me that while she could explain things to people she hadn’t found someone who truly understood it. We both described the inability to sleep at night because our minds raced, either anticipating the next day or re-living the one we just had, and the constant self doubt that plagued us.

All I kept thinking was, what would have happened had this dynamic young lady chose not share? She wouldn’t have learned that there are other people who understand what she is going through. Being a teenager is hard enough in this world without adding on diagnosis’. I didn’t solve her problems, because I can’t, however I did provide her with some comfort that it doesn’t always have to be this way. I also shared some tips and resources that I have gathered over the years.

We talked about sleep quite a bit, as it is so vital to being able to function, and it effects so many people, not just those with anxiety. I even shared my sleep routine, which to some might be weird, but includes; a sleep mask, a very cold room, some meditation, a scheduled sleep time and the mother of all things, a very expensive, but amazing weighted blanket.

I told her how impressed I was with her ability to be vulnerable and share with me, a virtual stranger. I shared that I only learned about my anxiety a few years ago. Had I chosen to share my feelings with people in my youth, things might have looked different for me. But you know what they say, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I was impressed with her ability to recognize it at a young age, and her desire to deal with it and ask for help. I was thrilled to see that she trusted her mom enough to share and confide in her, she has an ally in this journey.

Her mom made a conscious choice to listen and hear what her daughter was telling her. She didn’t dismiss it, she didn’t attribute it to hormones, she didn’t push her away and tell her to get over it, she didn’t think her younger kids needed her more. She listened and was ready to provide help.

Sometimes our kids just need us to listen and focus as much on what they are saying, as what they are not saying. As parent’s we have the tendency to focus on the parts that will set them up for the future, like school, staying out of trouble, sports, etc. Sometimes a parent needs to put all that stuff aside and focus on the core of the child. It is hard, very hard. I was the parent who was more concerned with grades, and appearances than I ever should have been. I got lucky, in that I learned our relationship trumps all else. Because I want my kid to trust me as much as this girl trusted her mom. For us, we are still working toward it, but it was very nice to see how it can be, it gave me the resolve not to give up.

People often suggest, actually they don’t suggest it, they say it outright; that I talk to much, or share to much, or I am just too much. Yeah, they are probably right most of the time, but not last night.

I make the choice to share, because I never know who I might help by sharing the story of my struggle, it might be directly for them, or it might be for them to share with someone they know at a later date. My simple hope in sharing is; maybe there is just one person out there who may have the chance to avoid the struggles I have had. So yeah, I am a blabber mouth, but I like me this way.

Later that evening, I hoofed a 25 pound pink weighted blanket around the corner and knocked on their door. I handed it to her and said, “Try it out for a few days and let me know what you think?

I slept great last night, because I was under my own weighted blanket. I wonder how she did? It’s pretty amazing that by sharing stories and feelings, your own weights can be lifted.

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Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

Update on Shaming.

UPDATE: This article was originally published in October 2019.

I am not surprised it has grown so quickly, and not just because of this particular subject, but many of the subject I discuss. While this article was originally written with the focus on parents of children who have been placed in wilderness or residential treatment for mental health issues, it has become clear that all the issues that I write about span every facet of all relationships both those in our personal lives and work lives.

I do believe that this article in particular speaks to one of the most difficult areas for parents, both moms and dad, and it causes us to keep silent, having other parents judge and shame us. No more, I say.

I can say, that before our life took a tumble, I can recall specific instances where I chose to judge; What kind of mother fed her kids in the supermarket? Ah, that was before I had kids, now I am like, hey mom, do you want a bagel to give the kid? Let us be compassionate, open-minded, and supportive of all people.

Enjoy the article as a re-read or a read for the first time. I would love to hear your perspective on this issue, I actually mean it, so please leave your comments or thoughts at the end.

Unfortunately this seems to be an issue that all parents come face to face with at one time or another; however for parents of kids receiving any type of mental health treatment it hits deeper and hurts more. The issue is Parent Shaming, whether it is un-intentional or intentional- Stings, – a lot.

What kind of society have we turned into where people feel compelled, forced, duty bound, obligated, or required (pick anyone, they all work) to tell you what they think about a situation that you didn’t ask their opinion on and that has no direct impact on them?

My first post to this blog was exactly 7 days ago.  In that short time I have over 200 followers on my Facebook page. I have numerous emails and messages from people thanking me because they no longer feel alone.  I have business interested in my writing. My son has told me that he is proud of me.  His friends from treatment have read it and really like it. Most recent statement was “It’s awesome, Cheryl.  when are you going to write about me?”  And countless practitioners from the mental health field have applauded my efforts. 

I am proud of myself for having the courage to do this.  I have thought about sharing Me with the world in one capacity or another for many decades. I just didn’t know what I was going to share; but now I do, and I am doing it. 

I am not naïve, but I do choose to be vulnerable. I agree in the freedom of speech and opinions. However, what I do not agree with are people who must tell you what they think, it’s like a compulsion for them, they must do it. I do not recall a statue that states, “One must convey every thought that enters your mind to others”.  

I started a Facebook group months ago to support myself and other parents whose children completed wilderness and then advanced to a residential program.  There have been hundreds of parents in and out of that group and I can honestly say there has not been one incident of mean or catty behavior. 

When a member posted something controversial, the other members didn’t jump on him or malign him, they just ignored it.  So how did my Facebook group get so lucky to have 100% of our members treat each other so well?  We didn’t get lucky; we were just a group of parents who have been beaten down, and shamed, most often by the people closest to us, and we didn’t want anyone else to feel that way. It is called compassion, empathy, and sympathy.

I have heard countless stories from my Facebook members of people being “judgey” with their conversations. A comment made in haste doesn’t disappear, it lingers for days in a persons head, toying with their emotions and confidence.

Here is a tiny sample of some of the most insensitive things that have been said to my Facebook parents by non-treatment parents-they were talking about others people’s kids, not yours, right?

The kids are “bad” because they must have bad parents. * The parents didn’t try hard enough. * Mom should have quit her job. * Dad should have quit his job. * Those parents spoil that child. * The parents aren’t strict enough. * The parents are too lenient. * They have too much money. * They don’t have enough money. I could go on and on and on.

So why do I bring up this in my blog. Well, I received my first, let me say confusing communication via a private message. After I completed reading it, my first reaction was, “How dare you.” My almost immediate second reaction was, “Wow that person must be hurting a lot to lash out at me that way.” 

I employed empathy and not anger, because I think you will all agree with me after reading some excerpts, that anger is not what that person needs- he needs compassion. Oh I did respond and it was vicious I wrote: “Ouch. Thanks for your thoughts.”

However the “quirky” part of me wanted to respond to some of the content with the following :

Is writing this blog the best thing for your family Cheryl???.... Ah, yes.  When I am at my best, my family gets the best of me.

I thought moving to Utah was sort of a LIFE Re-boot for you and your family so I was really surprised to see that you are entrenched in writing this very intimate account of 16 yo’s  journey.Intimate is telling you what kind of underwear I wear; my writing is raw and honest.

I am concerned that despite your son agreeing to your writing it, he might not respond well, to some of what you have written later down the road.  You mean letting him know I loved him so much that I put everything on the line to help him and our family.

I wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t able to let you know how I truly felt about you writing it.  So, your writing was about making yourself feel better and not really about me or my family?  

I would have assumed you would want a fresh start, rather than rehashing a painful and dark time, that your family recently underwent.   Fresh starts does not mean ignore and hide from the past; it means addressing issues and moving forward.

I am also really concerned for your son 14 yo son  and think energy should be put into trying to make him as happy as possible rather than focusing solely on 16 yo and all that he has seemingly put you through over the years.   Parents are not responsible for their child’s happiness. My job as a parent is to provide a loving and stable environment for my children.  It is to guide them to make good and moral decisions; and when they don’t, stand by their side and support them as they deal with the consequences. It is unfair to ask a person to carry the burden of another persons happiness. 

Wishing you the best in whatever choices you make… they are never without consequences.    That was ominous, thank you.

I do find myself rather funny at times, not always, but sometimes. I try to laugh as much as possible, so I hope you are laughing right now with me.  So with all of this being said, my final comment is of this post is…

Be kind to people. You never really know the entire story. Replace judgement with compassion and empathy.  

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UPDATE:
I googled parent/mom shaming and below are the first four articles that came up, and while some are dated they are still very revelant today.  It isn’t just my perspective, it is real.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-survey-finds-80-of-mo_b_12614520

https://www.verywellfamily.com/dos-and-donts-of-mom-shaming-4137757

https://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/parents-perspective/gotcha-when-parents-shame-other-parents/

https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/inside-trend-parent-shaming/story?id=37752623

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Parent Support

Do you know how to give your child the gift of time and space…

This wasn’t the best of weeks with my teen. Something had been building within him, I could see it and feel, but I didn’t know what it was about, and I still don’t.

But it finally erupted and it was not pretty. There was some yelling, very harsh and hurtful words, some foul language being thrown about, which resulted in me losing control. And as soon as I did, I was awash with the feelings of shame and disappointment in myself.

I beat myself up. I worked so hard to not be the “old me”, the person who would retaliate just as quickly as it was lobbed at me.  I got worn down and let the nasty back in for that split second, and I had to sit with my uncomfortable-ness the entire day. I was just at my limit. Why did I have to continue to be the intended target of all his frustration and uncertainty. It hit me hard this time and I snapped.  I was now entering into a shame spiral. 

I dug deep and tried to channel all I had learned these past few years.  I immediately started to work “my process”, which can often include anyone of these go to’s for me: talking with my husband, a session with my therapist, some support from friends in the know, or reaching out to my parent coach.

This one was bad, I had to tap into all my resources in the same day. Shame will do that to a person, well at least it does it to me.  

Toward the end of the day, I managed to connected with one very wise friend who had traveled the same path as my family. He started to talk about all the good the boys gained from their experiences, even though they were tough, and now in retrospect that they see parts of their journey as memorable in a positive way. I then brought up the ill-fated subject of comparison.

I am well aware of Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and generally I agree that comparison will get you no where but deeper down the proverbial black hole.

However in this case, the comparison was to point out, even though today wasn’t my finest moment, look at what a difference a couple of years makes. Simply explained, today might be a 6 on the shit scale, but a year ago it was a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10.

I then commented that we gave such a gift to our kids when we made the decision to get them help outside the home, in both wilderness and residential care.  They were literally plucked up out of their lives and dumped in a new environment, an opportunity to have a redo.

They had a fresh start, no one knew of their past escapades, there was no history, nothing they were clean slates for the writing.  They also had no responsibilities like spouses, school, jobs, or family to worry about.  Their only job was to focus on themselves, their emotions, and getting to a place they could exist on a healthy platform. 

We gave them the gift of time, space, and freedom to process, without distraction or concern for anything or anyone but themselves.   They needed our guidance and permission to be what some would consider selfish; only caring for themselves. They could explore every feeling and emotion that hit their brains and work the process as long as it took.  I will never be sorry for that.

Yesterday, I was jealous of that, truly jealous.  I would love to step out of my life and spend months working on me, without any external worries.  But we all know as parents, spouses, employees, that is not really an option and we will never have that luxury again. 

So while many parents would be horrified at what I and many other parents have resorted to for our children, it was clearly pointed out to me that we gave our kids a gift, lasting memories of clear thinking, bonded relationships, and the ability to rise from the ashes.  And without a doubt they and we are better for it. 

I realize now even back at home they need time and space to figure stuff out, and that may mean not talking to me for a day, or having the time to process thoughts and emotions without mom hounding them as to what is wrong. It might mean a gap year, or gap semester. Who knows, I certainly don’t. But I do know that allowing some space and time will rarely damage a relationship.

I am striving to provide space and time on a daily basis to my kids. I need to allow them down time in this crazy fast paced frenetic world of constant and instant access.

Do you provide space and downtime for your kids? And what about yourself? Take a day and see how much better it feels and then see if you can provide some of that grace to our over-stressed kids.

Sometimes it just takes someone else to share a different view to help you put things in perspective and so you can “snap out of it”, and get back on track.

Love you DW.   You continue to provide insight, peace, calm, and support. 

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Mental Health, Parent Support

The Parent Support Network on Facebook.

Join Facebook to read more about the lunacy, laughs, and sometimes horrors that are my life.

I share my stories of trying to raise teenage boys without losing my mind. No parent should ever feel alone. I am honest, raw, vulnerable and often humorous as I wade through what is my life.

Mental Health, Parent Support

When to ask for help, when dealing with teenagers?

Asking for help is not an easy thing for me to do, but I have learned it is a necessity for me to survive parenting.My social media footprint may lead some to believe that I may handle everything with calm and logic, unfortunately this is not always the case, and every so often there are times I struggle and have moments that render me useless and require me to reach out for help.    

The last few days have been very needy days for me.  It seems like I can hold my shit together only so long before I crack.  My definition of cracking means I retreat to my bathroom; I get in the shower where I can have a cathartic cry that includes ugly, loud, snotty sobbing. 

I adopted the bathroom as my “go to place” years ago as it has the essentials for a good stay.  I have water to stay hydrated, the toilet for when you have to go, and the shower which I can turn on to drown out any primal noises that erupt from deep within my core; or I can choose to get into the shower and let the water wash away whatever caused my melt down.

Yesterday I retreated to the bathroom.  Thus doing what I am constantly telling the kids not to do, took the longest shower and used up all the water.  At times I stood in silence, other times I just wept covering my face with my hands in disbelief that I am feeling this way.  I got my prune skinned body out of the shower, dressed and hopped right back into bed.  I decided I was going to spend the day there, maybe just feeling sorry for myself, I don’t know, I didn’t have a plan. 

I worked up the nerve and I sent out two texts;  to people that I trust with my entire being. The first one, couldn’t have been simpler it read…  “R U free?  I need to talk” and the other “Can you find some free time in the next day or so to talk with me?

I then got under the covers and turned on the television.  I have to say right after I hit send on both of those texts my first instinct was to somehow suck them back onto my phone.  I DO NOT, and yes that is capital letters, like to ask for help or want people to see me as “less than” capable.  I am the strong one, I listen and help others, and I am not the one who needs help.   Thank God, I am not enough of a moron to actually listen to myself, as I needed the backup of those two people in my life yesterday.  No, I was not suicidal or anything I just hit the wall of stuff I could handle.   

I snuggled down, pulled the covers up to my chin and started to watch the Chicago Fire, Med, and PD trilogy I had on my DVR.  I vacillated between watching tv and cat napping until both people reached out to me with back to back telephone calls.

My reaction to hearing each of the voices across the line was to burst into tears.  Did you ever have that happen, you think you are okay and then someone just says your name and you lose it?

Both conversations where short, but powerful and it helped me get out of my funk and move forward.  Both are parents who understand raising teens is hard, and both were profound. 

The first was a simple statement that clicked for me, “You are doing okay, stay the course”  I needed validation in my right to feel this way, and that I was doing the right thing. 

The second person said, “I am here, let it out, I will listen.  You are always helping everyone else, I am here for you.” 

Even as I type these words my eyes get a little wet, as I am so thankful that I have finally allowed myself to share my feelings without worry, because if I didn’t I would be losing the opportunity to have the one thing I needed the most for myself, which is the support of others.

I spent the remainder of the day in bed until my husband came home from work, at which time I felt like myself again.  I told him about my conversations and how I spent the day in bed.  His response; “That’s good I am glad you took care of yourself.”  His words were the tri-fecta of awesomeness for me yesterday.

Today I am back to feeling like myself, and I know it is only because I allowed myself to experience the vulnerability of needing people, asking for help, and showing myself some compassion.  Today, I am feeling like one lucky duck. I hope you are as well.

Parent Support

THANK YOU!!! I am thrilled to be able to say that the Parent Support Network blog has been viewed over 6,700 times in the last four months, by almost 3000 people. Thank you for the continued support, interest, and feedback. Cheryl

Parent Support

Why does my teen have no sense of time???

The definition of “on-time” and “late” has not changed the last time I checked. I understand that on-time for me means 10 minutes early, and I will acknowledge that the true definition of “on-time” means; at or before the appointed time and “late” is anything after the appointed time. Fairly simple concept I would think.

In order for me to ensure I am “on-time” especially going to a new location, it requires some planning or anticipating on my part.  I ask myself a few simple questions;

  • Where do I have to be? 
  • What time am I supposed to be there?
  • How far is the drive?
  • Do I have to park the car and walk?  How far would that walk be?
  • What time of day am I traveling?  Will there be traffic?
  • What is the weather like? Will is slow me down?

At my age these questions are rote, and it takes me all of a minute to cycle through them to determine the time I will leave one location to get to another location.  I often add about 10 minutes of wiggle time in case something pops up, but hey that is just me.

So why is a bug up my ass today about being on time; because it is a concept that seemed to completely vanish from my child’s vocabulary and brain.  Yesterday was a two hour delay in the schools due to the weather.  That means it gave my child two entire extra hours to get himself together to get to school on time, seriously how could one be late with that window, right?  Yeah that is what I thought.

Well, not setting the alarm clock and oversleeping is probably the first step.  My child rolls out of bed at 9:08am for a start time of 9:30am.  He missed his ride so now I have to drive him to school, which is about 17 minutes away on a regular day, and now there was snow on the ground.  I tell my son I will be in the car waiting, I do this to provide a sense of urgency to him, and more importantly so I do not continue to have my blood pressure rise as he moves around the house like a sloth, a sloth in slow motion mind you.

9:50am, at 9:50am, it is 39 minutes later that my child ambles to the car and climbs in.  He had that cowboy slow motion saunter down pat.  He sits down and mumbles, “Sorry” as I am throwing  the car in to  reverse and pulling out of the garage before his door is even closed.   We drive in silence, which is a good thing because I am seething.  I am seething not because he is late for school AGAIN, that is on him and he will have to deal with the consequences of that in school. 

I am irritated to say the least because he showed no sense of urgency to get himself together to get out of the house quickly, never considering that it is an inconvenience to me to have to wait for him and drive him.

What is rattling around in their brains that causes them to get derailed for 39 minutes in their bedroom when the only task they have to complete was to get dressed.

Seriously, 39 minutes to put on sweatpants, sweatshirt, socks, sneakers, and brush his teeth.  In 39 minutes I could have taken a shower, dressed, cooked dinner and thrown in a load of laundry and had time to spare.  I wish I could see what he was thinking like on the cartoons that have the little bubble above their heads.  So frustrating!!!! 

So I reached out to some of my friends for solace, they had none, and could only offer their own stories about their sons.  It appears that time stands still for a large majority of the male adolescent population. 

Some boys think they can walk home at 10:56pm and get in the door for their 11pm curfew when their friends live a mile away.  They show up late, and you ask them when they left to get home, and in all seriousness they think 4 minutes was enough time.  There must be a magic teenager world where time stands still for a select lucky few.  

My kid is always the last to saunter out the door, into the car, or wherever he needs to be.  I get exhausted watching him move so slowly, as I think it must take a ton of energy to function in slow-motion.  Though when he is late for something he wants, like hanging out with friends, going snowboarding or whatever, he turns into an adult all of a sudden stressing the importance of not being late.  I give up, I truly do.

P.S.  I got so wrapped up in writing that I was 15 minutes late meeting my friend Erica for coffee this morning.  I had to do the shame walk and explain that I was late because I was writing a piece about being late.

Share the funny stories of your kids “slothiness”, I really need to know it just isn’t in my house.