The roller coaster of adolescent treatment

debate small The roller coaster of adolescent treatmentI am the mother of a 16 year old son.  We are in the midst of trying to discern if Shelterwood would be the best place for our son right now.  We have reached a point at home that we feel unable to help him.  He is failing school (He is very bright), angry at God, angry at his family, and has been stealing money from us.  He has become verbally abusive to our whole family.  We have been through numerous counselors, a psychologist, his pediatrician, pastor, etc. and no one has been able to help.  He has been accepted to Shelterwood, but as a mom, I am so torn with sending him away.  I was hoping to be in touch with a few parents to see how they dealt with this decision, what behaviors in their child led them to this decision, how the child felt about being sent to Shelterwood, and ultimately the result.  How long has your son been home?  Were you able to get the family counseling from Shelterwood that helped restore the relationship between you and your son?  Was coming home difficult for your son, and have the changes he made there at Shelterwood continued as he has remained home?  Anything that you could tell me, pros or cons regarding your experience would be so helpful.  I know your heart has been where mine is now, and I think it would help if I could hear from another parent who has been there.

Thanks, Concerned mom

 

Hi Concerned Mom

You are in such a tough place and I ache for you because I’m sure every day for your family is a roller coaster ride from what you described. Yes, we were in a similar condition and made the decision around thanksgiving time, but I couldn’t let go of our “holiday”.  Our son told us he wouldn’t go there and we’d need to have him taken by cops (escorts), so we did just that and it worked much smoother than I could have ever imagined. We did exactly what the service said to do and it worked. Our son was surprisingly calm by the time they got him there and cordial to us until the counselor let us alone for just a minute or two and then he lashed out in hate. Didn’t know if he’d ever speak to us again, but we had to pursue this for our other child and for our marriage…

Ten months later and a lot of emotional work, a few bumps and he came home. It has been working and I would do exactly the same thing again. He graduated recently. It isn’t perfect, but we grow and work through things much better and he is scheduled to graduate high school in May and go on a mission trip to Nepal in July!!!

You have done so much for your son, if you can possibly give him the gift of a chance to go to Shelterwood, follow their system and heal, God will bless you in a mighty way. If you do decide to send him, DO NOT PULL him at any cost or problem. Please work through the bumps and commit to see it through. I watched too many do the opposite and so did our son. He even said in his parting speech, “stop asking your patents to pull you and succeed in this.”

I’ve probably left a lot out, but will pray for you and would definitely appreciate a call from you even if we cry together. It shows what a great parent you are because you are even investigating this!
God bless you!

Shelterwood Alumni

Parents Share Lessons Learned

Every day parents share amazing insights with us as a staff and we are always eager to pass along their wisdom to other struggling families.

1.  Letting your child struggle is OK.  A parent once told me that the most significant thing she learned while at Shelterwood was the value of letting her child struggle and experience discomfort.  Up to that point, she had believed the lie that “good parents do everything they can to keep their children from suffering any type of pain.”

2.  Don’t “major” on minor issues.  There are choices that each child makes that are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life!   Compared to all the self-destructive choices in the world, I learned at Shelterwood that my child’s choice to have long hair or a tattoo is not a reason to despair. It may even be a healthy way for them to assert their identity.

3.  Progress is happening even when I can’t see it.   I learned to embrace the absolute necessity for my child to make mistakes in order to grow. Every unwise choice is an opportunity, not a failure.  It may be one more step toward my child growing tired of his life and thereby letting go of patterns and choices that don’t work for him.

4.  Shelterwood has impacted my life as well.  God used this time for my own individual change that ultimately contributed greatly toward the progress and unity in my family.

5.  I needed others.  Prayer, dependency on God and healthy dependency on others was invaluable during this process.  We are not meant to have all the answers and to do it all on our own.  Reach-out, receive the comfort God has available to you from others and through Him.

What Do I Value?

soup girl Medium 257x300 What Do I Value?A group of university alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit an old professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests something to drink, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups — porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite — telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself, adds no quality to the coffee in most cases, just more expense and in some cases, it even hides what we drink.  What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups … and then began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Family life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of the lives we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.  Maybe it is time to spend a little more time and effort on the parts of our life that have meaning and connect us to those we love.

Book Reviews

couch reading sm 300x196 Book ReviewsHere are a few book reviews of various titles that I have read recently.  Some of them are better than others but each of them have something to offer.  Even if you don’t agree with a particular author, reading at least makes you think and take account of your own approach to parenting.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart  – Tedd Tripp

Dr. Tripp has written a great book for parents of young children struggling to find a framework through which to view their child.  With a distinctively Christian worldview, he tries to establish a foundation for Biblical childrearing.  Tripp highlights the often forgotten notion that behavior is an outflow of the heart.  Readers are challenged to look beyond behavior and focus on heart change and connecting with their children at a deeper level.  At times, however,  it appears overly simplistic and fails to provide clear real world direction for captivating the hearts of teens lost in our current culture of computers, drugs, and sexual temptations.

Connecting: Healing For Ourselves and Our Relationships.  – Larry Crabb

Dr. Crabb is a well-established Christian author.  In his recent writings he has worked hard to uncover the power and authority of the Christian community to bring healing to the deep pain of individuals.  While the rest of the world is focused on identifying psychological disorders and providing treatment strategies, Dr. Crabb is resurrecting the power of connection and the value of relationships.  He wants to empower each of us to invest in the lives of others.  He, unlike so many others in his profession, wants us to recognize that we don’t need professional training to connect with the deep soul wounds of others and in fact it is simply the connection that can bring healing.

Dr. Crabb believes that we can experience the healing power of God through others and that connecting plays a powerful role in addressing the core issues that lie beneath all of our personal, emotional, and psychological problems.  His work is a powerful paradigm shift from the current ‘how to’ manuals on the selves today and may unintentionally serve as a blue print for many of the Christian programs that work with teens.

Loving Your Child Too Much  – Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy

Clinton and Sibcy highlight three common ways that parents show their children love: overindulging, overprotecting, and over controlling.  While love is an obvious requirement of parenting, it is often difficult to find balance in parenting styles.  My wife and I enjoyed discussing the various pitfalls of undisciplined love and it helped us recalibrate our own expression of love to our kids.  While it might seem simplistic, the truths are profound and Biblically based.

She’s Gonna BLOW! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger  – Julie Ann Barnhill

Okay, I admit it. I have an anger problem. I have no idea where it came from, but it is undeniably here. And truth be told, the problem reared its ugly head only after I had kids. Go figure. Kids have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in all of us and my worst was ugly…not abusive, but ugly. Even though I don’t consider myself a “yeller,” my facial expressions and body language frequently seem aggressive, even when I don’t mean them to. I know that I have high expectations of myself and everyone around me, but when I started to transfer this message to my kids, I knew I needed some kind of help and advice. That’s where this book comes in. This is a book for any mom who has ever “blown it” and yelled at her kids only to feel guilty and defeated once again…and again…and again. Julie courageously shares a lot of her own personal failures and successes as a mom and encourages those of us who want to stop the hollering and negative interactions (and the subsequent damage) in our homes. The book helps us understand where the anger may be coming from, our personal warning signs, possible unresolved issues, and provides a Biblical basis for change and practical tools to build a more peaceful home. Her sense of humor, honesty and conviction that mom’s can change make this book an amazingly easy read. The practical advice and Biblical truths presented in such an honest way made me feel empowered and resolved to make some changes. We highly recommend this book for any mom who knows that SHE is the one, not her kids, who needs a TIME OUT.

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle  – Shannon Ethridge

It happened almost overnight. My usually kind, loving, sweet daughter had turned into a moody, weepy, hard-to-get-along-with stranger. It struck me that her hormones must be beginning that decade-long rage that I thought was still a ways off. Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge helped me to understand that my daughter was not weird and I was not imagining things; she was a sponge, soaking up from me and her environment what it means to be a woman. Her getting social cues from me is scary in itself, but her getting them from the media, etc. is terrifying.

This book is set up in two parts. The first one is for moms (or dads) to read alone. It gives insight into how to handle sex education with your daughter and stresses the importance of doing so before it’s too late. Ethridge covers everything from pornography to menstruation to homosexuality, subjects which I had no idea how to bring up. The second half of the book is read with your daughter. We have enjoyed reading together about the changes that are just around the corner and other basic things about sexuality. Ethridge includes some really creative activities to do together that give the child a tangible lesson on the ideas covered. What I appreciated most about this book is that it stresses how a girl should expect to be treated by boys. The “princess” and purity concepts come out loud and clear and I can tell that my daughter feels special when we read it together.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has a daughter ages 10-13. It takes the embarrassment and the awkwardness out of the “the talk” and makes your daughter feel like the special child of God that she is.

The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife  – Stormie Omartian

Both of these books have been sitting on my bedside table for years now. I need them. Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for my kids or my husband. These books have so many ideas that no matter what my children are facing, I can find a chapter, a prayer and some Biblical promises to comfort me. Whether my husband is having trouble at work, with finances, fatherhood, or (and this rarely happens), problems with his marriage, I can open Stormie’s book and get some direction, help, and the occasional challenge. She likens not praying for your family to sending them out into a battlefield without armor, something none of us would ever do. And yet, when we don’t pray for them, we leave them vulnerable to pain, attacks, and failure.

The books are divided into 30 chapters, one for each day of the month if you so choose. Each chapter gives insight into Stormie’s journey as a wife or mother, tells what she learned from that experience, suggests a beautiful prayer that includes much Scripture and ends with some verses or promises that she refers to as “power tools.” These books are a great asset to anyone who recognizes the power of prayer, but is not always sure what to pray for.

Teaching kids how to deal with their feelings

Well, the holidays are coming to a close and what we looked so forward to a few weeks ago flew by too quickly. Of course, vacations are like that. We plan and get excited, then we snap our fingers and it’s over. Suddenly we’re all planning to go back to work and school. We call it “going back to reality,” but it’s really just going back to life. Teaching our kids how to handle the “Disney Land to work” transition is a valuable life-long lesson.

I read a study once that 80% of people go through some level of depression after the holidays. No wonder. We plan and look forward to the lack of responsibility for weeks, even months. Then the break begins. We sleep late, have meals prepared for us, see movies and get hundreds of dollars of gifts. Then, the clock strikes midnight and we’re back to being responsible again. We have to get up early, fix our own breakfast and pay off the bills for the money we spent.

As a kid, I still remember that fun, exciting drive every summer heading east on I-20, driving from Fort Worth to Georgia for summer vacation with family. I also remember that long, boring drive heading back west on I-20 to Fort Worth after the vacation. It reminds me of the Norman Rockwell print “Going and Coming.” It’s two pictures, one headed out to vacation and one headed home. I love the detailed contrast between the excitement of heading out and the exhaustion of driving back.

It’s important that we process through these emotions and teach our kids how to talk about their feelings. These four suggestions might help:

1. Remember that vacations are not reality. It’s so easy to compare the holiday to the day-to-day. But that’s comparing apples with onions. Not having responsibility is always fun for a while. But in the end, we all find true fulfillment in having a goal. Though we complain about our work and about school, deep down we need that purpose.

2. Keep up with those you love. We all spend extra time with family we normally aren’t around during the week. Don’t let too much time pass before you re-connect with those brothers and sisters you were sad to leave. These days, with twitter, Facebook, and texting, keeping up with each other is easier. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep relationships healthy.

3. Count your blessings “one by one.” I love that old Baptist hymn. It reminds us to count our blessings so that we can “see what God has done.” That is so important to do during and after the holidays. Everyone secretly compares to the relatives and we usually come away feeling inadequate. “Their kids are better behaved than ours; they make more money than we do; they seem happier than we are.” It’s okay to learn and grow from others, but comparison usually leads to envy and envy leads to jealousy and on and on. Realize the blessings you do have instead of what you don’t possess.

4. Live like there’s no tomorrow. A good friend reminded me of that challenge this week. Too often I fret and worry about what might be. Too often I worry and fret about what was. The Bible challenges us repeatedly to set my sights on today. When I correctly focus on today, it’s awesome whether I’m working or vacationing.

Ward off those post-holiday blues and embrace the excitement of another day of life. Live life to the fullest, whether you’re at Disney world or at the desk.

Student Story in Westword Magazine

Screen Shot 2014 12 15 at 7.23.38 PM Student Story in Westword MagazineThe following article appeared in the Westword magazine, a Denver area arts and entertainment magazine. Heather Cameron attended Shelterwood as a student and then returned to serve as a mentor to other struggling teens.

“Heather Cameron heard the sound of the gunshots that killed her mother. On Saturday, April 20, 1996, the twelve-year-old was waiting for Debra Cameron — Debbie, to her friends — to return from a charity auction at Garland Country Day School, where Heather was in the sixth grade. Debbie had called a little earlier to say she was on her way home and to ask her daughter what she wanted to eat. So Heather sat on the couch of her mom’s loft in the Neusteter building, watching MTV and thinking about dinner.”

You can read the entire article by Clicking to Continue

Westword Magazine, Nov. 23, 2006