Many of the families Iâ€™ve worked with feel that they have lost everything. They are financially tapped out. Their basic assumptions about family, love, success, and life have been turned upside down. They feel betrayed and embarrassed and sad and angry. How does a family rebuild in the wake of trauma, or addiction, or mental illness, or betrayal, or loss? A little bit every day. If you can do that, you can find your way forward a step at a time. You can heal. You can hope.
Through the process of treatment we came to understand at a very deep level that weâ€™d made the right choice. We were saving our daughterâ€™s life, our familyâ€™s healthâ€¦and maybe even our marriage. But in retrospect, we wish weâ€™d had other parents to talk to prior to enrolling Rachel. Parents who were a few clicks further down the road who could help normalize the process and give us some assurance that we were doing the right thing.
Much to the frustration of those engaged in treatment, families are designed to resist change. Families are what scientistsâ€”and family systems therapistsâ€”call â€œself-regulating systems.â€ Since self-regulating systems prefer stability (homeostasis), the self-regulation response automatically resists change. This can be tricky during family therapy the point of which, of course, is to facilitate change!
If your child is away in treatment, you may still be suffering from the sleep distress that was a part of being vigilant and worried. If so, nowâ€™s the time to reclaim your right to a good nightâ€™s sleep! Your child is safe and, for the time being, itâ€™s someone elseâ€™s job to be vigilant around the clock. A huge part of every parentsâ€™ job when their child is in treatment is to prepare for their return home. Youâ€™re a better parent (and employee, and friend, and everything) when youâ€™re taking good care of yourself. Sleep is at the core of self care; so nowâ€™s a great time to practice good sleep habits. I joke that learning to fall asleep and stay asleep has saved me thousands of dollars in carpentry, refrigerator repair, fly trapsâ€¦oh and plastic surgery. So if youâ€™re a light sleeper, an insomniac, or curfew cop on sabbatical, here are some things Iâ€™ve learned that will help you sleep like a baby.
We all experience lapses in self control. For a teenager who is struggling with other emotional issues, however, even a small lapseâ€”whether in the form of procrastinating, eating something not on the diet, or engaging in a compulsive behaviorâ€”can create a sense of defeat, adding to her feelings of depression and worthlessness.
Many experts agree that the negative effects of anger can be minimized by addressing the emotion in an honest, non-reactive manner. While ranting and raging tend to actually increase, rather than alleviate, anger (according to some studies), the healthy expression of anger can actually reduce its intensity and keep it from festering. In fact, the healthy communication of your full range of emotionsâ€”including angerâ€”can be a critical part of your difficult teenâ€™s healing process.