The decision to enroll a child in a residential treatment center for troubled teens can be one of the most difficult of a parent’s life. Unfortunately, for some parents, that stress and worry can continue well after their teen is safely enrolled in a program — no matter how reputable the staff or beautiful the campus.
The good news is that this concern and separation anxiety is completely normal. For most parents, parenting across the miles is a new experience. To help, here are a few “Dos and Don’ts” to help navigate challenges many parents face while their child is in a residential treatment facility.
DO get to know the people working with your child. It’s critical that parents have a good rapport and foundation of trust with the counselors and staff who will care for your teen. It is challenging to relinquish control of your child to another person. However, it’s counterproductive to your teen’s therapeutic success — and your own peace of mind — to worry over every decision along your child’s care journey. This can be a tremendous source of self-created stress. You may not understand the process of your teen’s residential treatment center at first, but you should feel comfortable trusting your teen to their care and secure in the knowledge that they have your family’s best interest in mind. Taking the time to get to know the professionals at the beginning will greatly reduce your anxiety in the long run.
DO ask lots of questions. Don’t go in blindly — make a list of your questions and concerns and review them with your teen’s counselor or program director. Get an email address and phone number for someone at your child’s residential treatment facility who will be your personal contact for any issues that could arise. A caring and reputable program should take the time to let you express your questions and concerns and help you feel at ease.
DO be open to feedback about your family dynamic or other sensitive, family-centric issues. While your teen is the one receiving treatment, her problems are likely impacting the entire family. In addition, it’s important to look at how the home environment or family experiences may be contributing to your teen’s behavior issues. During the program, your family life is one of the factors your teen’s care team will consider — without assigning blame. Every piece of feedback or input is important — be open to the process.
DO participate in every way allowable. Don’t think that once your child is on campus, the residential treatment center will do all the work. Inject yourself in your teen’s care through phone calls, Skype, in-person visits, letter writing and family therapy. Stay active — you need to still be a primary positive influence on your child’s life, even while she is away from home.
DO take this opportunity to focus on your relationship. If your relationship with your teen has gone downhill and it seems like nothing but a series of battles, find the fun again. Entrusting your teen to a residential treatment program means you aren’t fighting the daily battles. Take this chance to build a new and improved relationship.
DON’T overcompensate. You don’t need to rescue your teen or “make it up to her” because you sought needed treatment for her problems. Don’t be tempted to buy her lots of things to compensate for the fact that she’s away from home.
Don’t overreact to your teen’s complaints or unhappiness — especially in the early days of treatment. Make her feel heard, but don’t be tempted to turn against the staff and treatment providers. You need to present a united front to your teen.
Don’t feel guilty for feeling relief that your teen is in treatment. You may literally be sleeping better knowing you won’t have to wait up for your teen to sneak back into the house or for a call from police. Chances are, you have been stressed and anxious for a long time as a result of your child’s behavior. Take comfort in the fact that your teen is receiving the care she needs in a safe and nurturing environment. Allow yourself to feel peace.
To learn more about ways to stay engaged while your teen is in a residential treatment facility, contact Compass Rose Academy today.