Year after year of living with a difficult child is exhausting. I used to comfort, perhaps delude, myself with the notion that by the time she reached her teen years, we would be ahead of the game with an established therapeutic foundation and that my child would “blend.” I quickly found out just how naive that notion was as the teen years only brought an increase in my child’s complexities as she blended less, not more. In her mind, rules were optional. Simple tasks such as: getting up on time for school, taking showers regularly, brushing teeth, and joining the family for dinner were fundamentals worth going to war over. “It’s not fair” became her battle cry as I tried to enforce boundaries. The house became a minefield of her emotional tantrums. She was a stick of dynamite with a very short wick. We walked on eggshells never knowing what would trigger her. It was a horrible way to live and parent.
I think back to the very serious and personal questions I had to ask myself about my child and my parenting at that time. How much is she hurting on the inside? How much are we all hurting, siblings included? How much longer can we continue to function like this? How much, if anything, is still within her control? How can our family system continue to carry on in this way? What can I do about the situation? How do I help her? How do I “fix” it? Can it be “fixed”?
None of us wants to imagine living without their child before the “typical” developmental progression. This decision is one of the hardest things emotionally about the choice to use an alternative educational environment. There is nothing more humbling as a parent than having to admit that you don’t possess the advanced skill set your child needs to help them when they are suffering. At the same time, there is no greater gift than to be able to recognize our own limitations and giving our child access to the resources that can make a difference.
If you are considering residential treatment for your child it is because your child is suffering and in crisis or is dangerously close to crisis. Residential treatment is about offering hope. Hope for self-discovery. Hope they can learn the skills they need to move forward. Hope they can live a better, brighter future. Treatment can connect your child and your family once again to that hope.
You have asked yourself the toughest questions a parent can ask. You have taken the next step and come to the courageous and loving decision that your child needs treatment. But remember, while it may be very expensive, it could turn out to be the best investment you ever make. With that said, it is expensive, and the question is how do you pay for it. I’ll tackle that topic in my next post.