The "What If's" That Actually Happen...

Parents who have children, adolescents, or young adults who are struggling rarely get "time off" whether for a holiday, vacation, or any other routine break.  This is particularly true when, as mentioned last week, the denial issue remains front and center.  During those 2:00 a.m. think sessions that most parents have at one time or another, the "what if's" rear themselves and the thoughts of the worst case scenarios start their one-act plays in our heads.  It's just part of parenting, particularly when it involves a struggling child. This weekend, I spent hours on the telephone with clinicians on behalf of a young adult located across the country who was in dire trouble.  These clinicians were making decisions about this child (and yes, those in their 20's are still children) while this child's parent did little to question or challenge the clinical decision-makers.  Even though what was being said needed serious questioning and the need to put on the brakes was apparent, it simply did not happen.  And while I take no credit for any actions taken on behalf of a parent or child, it was only when someone (i.e. me) who was not wallowing in denial jumped into the equation that rational heads and thinking emerged.  The alternative would have been catastrophic for the young adult, both short and long-term.

Here's what needs to be said (actually, said again as it's messages I frequently convey) to parents:

  • Even though someone has initials after their name, this does not mean that parents need to follow their recommendations without questions being asked, a clear and thorough understanding of what is being said, and knowing the steps in the process.  Even then, the answer of  "no" remains a parent's right.
  • Every child -- whether 7 or 24 -- needs a parent advocate to help them maneuver through situations that are beyond their grasp, particularly in times of crisis.  Don't let a child's age be the determining factor in terms of whether they are "old enough" to handle whatever is coming their way.
  • Every parent *must* set aside their denial about the severity of the issue/s or situation and deal with the reality of what is before them.  Denial is a parent's worst enemy because it basically takes the need to mobilize -- and mobilize quickly -- off the radar screen.

So often I find myself counseling parents to "get it together" and to remember that the issue is not about them, but rather about their child.  It is this denial and the delay that accompanies it that creates greater issues and challenges, not fewer.   Parents must never forget that their role in advocating for their children requires a clear head, open mind, and strong constitution.  Every parent has it -- some just require a little "kick in the pants" to remember it.