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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Summary of July-31-2004 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 31, 2004

Eight parents (representing seven families) joined us for coffee and donuts on July 31st. Most of the families still have a son or daughter in placement. One has a teenager whose whereabouts are unknown, one has a son just released a few days ago from Rehab, and one has a son who is going three months of successful probation and recovering from heroin addiction.

Parent1, a first-time member of our group, provided the role-play. Parent1s’ role-play involved confronting his son (played by me) one month after “my” release from rehab. Certain signs of “mental relapse” were starting to manifest. For example, I displayed a defensive attitude: I was argumentative; I claimed that my parents were driving me to use drugs by trying to work my 12-step program for me. Oh, yeah, and my dad (Parent1) had found a number on his phone bill to my former drug dealer!

Parent2 volunteered to be my “mother” in the role-play. She was very intense and I think everyone agreed that both volunteer parents did an outstandingly realistic role-play. This helped bring up much group discussion. At the end of the role-play, I was allowed to go to an underage club with a buddy from my narcotics Anonymous group, but I had to agree to come home by curfew and to attend a “family meeting” in the morning.

Later in the group we redid the end of the role-play differently. Parent1 took Parent3 (standing in for Parent2) outside in the hall to collaborate. Parent1 told me to sit tight and wait. I sat there fuming, making cell phone calls to my buddy complaining about what jerks I had for parents. Then they returned and told me that they both decided that I was not to leave the house tonight. I was pretty mad, but they made it clear that it as not up for discussion. I was grounded. And to top it off, they took my cell phone!! The role-play ended with me pacing the floor and swearing.

Cathy asked this good question after the second role-play. What if I left anyway? Well, if I leave I’m placing myself outside of parental control. I’m on probation. My Probation Officer must be notified and he must intervene. There is now an opportunity for me to learn by having consequences for my poor choice.

TIP: It is best not to threaten that you will call the Probation Officer. Your son or daughter should know that you call the Probation Officer regularly (perhaps daily) and it goes without saying that you would tell the PO.) You may be asked, “Well, I suppose your going to tell my PO?” Simply, say, “I talk to your PO all the time. Are you asking me to lie to him? I won’t lie or cover for you.” This is another good reason to make it obvious to your son or daughter that you are in regular contact with the Probation Officer.

Congratulations to our actors, Parent2, Parent1 and Parent3. Thanks to Parent1 for coming up with this great role-play that demonstrated that we know when something is wrong, but we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough to act on, that there is nothing that we can do. And our kids complicate things by coming up with stories that explain everything. It’s not a crime that at we want to believe our kids, but let’s not forget that they just came out of a drug rehab and really might not be trustworthy.

Doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something when that “parent sense” goes off. If things start to feel bad, things are probably worse than you suspect.

Remember these rules of thumb:

1. If you don’t trust that your son or daughter is going to go where they say, don’t let them go out.

2. If you see signs of a “mental relapse” e.g., irritability, defensiveness and/or manipulative behavior, and perhaps have reason to believe that they are in contact with old peers, then there is no need to wait for the actual relapse. Intervene. Sanction if appropriate. Be creative. Doing nothing is not a good thing. Doing something is often so much more important than doing exactly the “right thing.” If you are unsure what to do, talk it over with a close friend, a spouse, another parent from group, or, of course, with your Probation Officer.

3. As parents, you have much more power than you realize. Even if your child was not on probation, you can still be in control of your own home. And of course, especially if he or she is still on probation, you have considerable power. Parental power is not so much to “make him or her change.” Parental power is in your ability to send very powerful messages about what you accept and what you refuse to accept. Of course, the only way your message gets heard is by taking action, not by just talking.

If you couldn’t make it, you were missed. We hope you will come to the next meeting on August 14 and let us know how things are going with «FIRST».

Our thoughts and prayers that Bryan will be found soon go out to Mary. Many parents shared that they too have gone though having a run-away young person. Some of the ideas they offered will hopefully help.

Remember, parents are welcome to participate in role-plays but no one is pressured to do so. Be advised that adult language is often used in the role-plays.

If you have not yet attended the Parent Survival Skills Training, see the next page for information about what goes on at the meeting.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365
cc: Probation Officer «Current__PO»

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Summary of 7-17-2004 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 17, 2004

Seven parents (representing four families) joined us for coffee and donuts on July 17th. Most of the families still have a son or daughter in placement. Parent2 has a teenager whose whereabouts are unknown.

Parent1, a first time member of our group, provided the role-play. Parent1’s role-play was challenging and J. did a marvelous job of demonstrating defiance. The role-play was as follows: I was the parent and J., was my daughter and she refused to turn off the TV and go to her room.

After I turned the TV off, she got up and turned it back on. Finally, I stood up and confronted her face-to-face and she stood up and went to her room. After the role-play Parent1 had a good question. What if she didn’t get up and move when I face-to-faced her and demanded that she do that? What then?

The short answer is that the parent insists that they go now, not later, and the parent “assists” them if necessary, e.g., takes them by the arm and marches them up to their room. For the most part, we underestimate the power of a determined parent. Other things also have to be taken into consideration, however, and as Jane pointed out, “that’s not me, I could never handle things like that.” Perhaps that would not be Jane’s choice to have a rule that at a certain time of the night the TV must be off and everyone must go to his or her room. There are more ways than one to skin a cat and it depends a lot on the circumstances of the cat and the personality of the skinner. Another factor that we did not discuss is the consistency with which those non-negotiable rules are enforced. You can’t just enforce a rule some of the time. When you practice consistency 100 % with non-negotiable rules our youth tend to accept the rules (as they do in the rehabs in which they presently reside.) Thanks to Parent1 for a great role-play that instigated discussion.

If you couldn’t make it, you were missed. We hope you will come to the next meeting on July 31st and let the other parents know how things are going with «FIRST».

If you have not yet attended the Parent Survival Skills Training, see the next page for information about what goes on at the meeting.

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