Quote of the Week

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

Back to Shopping for a School! By Lindy Lou; A PSST Parent
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some days, it’s just hard.

We are school shopping again (not for clothes but for a school).

The school records are such a mess. My son has attended five high schools in the past four years and has been in summer schools in three juvenile detention locations over the past two summers.

I know that I just had that file with the final grades/transcripts from each school a few months ago and now...

...it is nowhere to be found.

So in trying to find it, I am digging through boxes that contain the records of everything that happened at each school, mental health placement and court case.

The papers trigger vivid memories of the drugs, the violence, the daily failures to attend to school work or even attend school, the attempted therapeutic interventions, the years of driving to visit him where ever he was.

How tempting it is to just throw my hands up and say I have endured enough, I have done enough. He is turning 18 soon, isn’t this supposed to be over then?

The painful memories these papers hold have me curled into a ball on the floor rocking myself for comfort.

When I come across the little hand written note from him thanking me for ‘believing in him when it didn’t look so good’, it too was a rough emotional jolt. Did I need that reminder of how important his parents' love is to him when I am busy feeling frustrated and angry?

I reach out to someone for a little help, for I cannot open one more file of memories.

Thankfully, the guidance counselor from his last school faxes me the copies of the other schools' transcripts.

Such relief. I can put the boxes of days gone by away, throw some water on my face and head out the door to see if the next school I talk to can help this young man to graduate.

In his own way, he longs for normalcy and so do I.

So do I.

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Back to Shopping for a School (continued) by- Lindy Lou; A PSST Mom
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Believe it or not, a few hours later, my son had a wonderful little breakthrough. I picked him up from work and we went directly to a school to tour it. He was obnoxious and oppositional as usual with the very helpful school secretary. I was puzzled, for this was a school he said he wanted to attend. After we got home, and he puttered about the house for a bit, he approached me and asked if cyber school was off the table. No, I replied, it is never off the table. He began to ask very specific questions about how cyber school worked and talked about how he too was worried about the social distractions of a school keeping him from doing the work he needed to do to graduate. Could he just attend a cyber school and go to work for more hours? Hope rushes into my soul and lifts my spirits. With the ankle bracelet to help him keep to his resolve, this could work. Of course, he could change his mind a dozen more times, but such a sign that he might be serious about his goals is very welcome indeed. summary here

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Living with Beaver: The Downslide Continues by June - A PSST Parent
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beaver reached puberty with a bang……as did his friends.

For fun, they would go to the local supermarket and steal things. Nothing big, of course; just things they ‘wanted’ and did not have the money for at the time. Beaver wanted to fit in so badly with his friends, he was often the one sent to get the items.

June was very surprised when she received a telephone call from Mr. Whipple, the owner of the grocery store, saying that Beaver was there for stealing a pack of gum and “would she please come and pick him up and sign some papers?” Needless to say, June was very embarrassed and angry at Beaver. How could he do these things? Didn’t he know better? Didn’t she teach him better? Wasn’t he a scout?

June drove to the store in her jet van, and went inside to speak with Mr. Whipple.

She was ushered into the ‘inner sanctum’, where it was dark, cool, and smelled a bit like spoiled cabbage. June had to sign a paper that stated Beaver was not permitted back into the store unless his parent accompanied him. Beaver had his picture taken and placed on the ‘wall of shame’, so all employees would be on the lookout for his criminal face.

After these things were completed, June and Beaver left the store and entered the car. Beaver was deeply upset, both by being caught and doing the deed in the first place. June asked Beaver to explain what led up to the incident and he (unfortunately) did.

June drove down the road and listened to the story pouring out of Beaver’s mouth. Instead of going home, she drove to the police station. Beaver was not thrilled when June pulled into the police station parking lot, and even less when she told him to get out of the car and come with her inside.

Once inside, June requested to speak with an officer. The officer did not understand why June was there, even after she explained that her son was just caught stealing gum and wanted her son told in exact terms what would happen to him if he were charged with the crime vs. the store handling it themselves.

The officer did the job, but frankly - between you and I – the lesson June was trying to get across could have been achieved by him writing “I will not steal” 500 times, for the little the officer told Beaver.

June had wanted a retired Marine and instead got Mother Theresa in a uniform.

June has found out that being a single parent is not the easiest thing when faced with a situation like this. There is no one to turn to and ask, “Well, what do you think we should do?

This especially is the case when the child's other parent feels that you are the cause of everything that goes wrong in the world. This was exactly what June heard from Dick when she told him what little Beaver had done.

Dick was even angrier when he heard that June had taken Beaver to the police station for a little dose of reality.

Afterward, at home lying in bed, sleepless; being a single parent is a crushing reality. You can always call your friends and talk out issues, but the bottom line is you are alone with your problem(s). It is very difficult to just “put your big girl pants on” and get on with it.

In the next room, Beaver sleeps the deep sleep of a child. How can that be, June wonders?

Not for the first time, June wishes she were a child again. It seems so much easier than being a parent.

Little did June know that the fun was just beginning...

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Posted by:Rocco--Friday, August 27, 2010

Good News

Our son Cisco has relapsed again.

Good News because…

… Cisco stayed clean for almost eight months. This is the best he has done in almost four years.

… we have a great support team from Allegheny County Probation, Wesley Spectrum and Gateway that Cisco could not dupe.

… Sally and I were able to stand up in court in July and request that Cisco’s probation be extended for an additional six months.

… Sally and I and our support team were "On Alert" and aware that Cisco was beginnig to slip up.

… Cisco’s probation officer’s intuition finally said “I am NOT comfortable with this! Let’s get him to a safe place before he really falls flat.”

… after Rocco escorted Cisco to Shuman Center, we did find evidence that Cisco had plans to escalate his addictive behavior.

…when Cisco tried his best manipulation tactics during our Shuman visit both Sally and I were able to get up, end the visit and walk out without feeling guilty.

… Sally was able to call up the strength before his hearing and tell Cisco, to his face, “No, you are not coming home and I am not sure that you are ever coming home this time.”

… our support team has found another place for Cisco to work through his behavior issues and to continue with his recovery and that the Hearing Officer agreed.

… Cisco will be away from the people, places and things that he can’t resist on his own.

…Cisco has, as Lloyd put it so well, manipulated himself into a higher level of treatment.

Good news because we also have a lot of encouragement from our friends and fellow parents at PSST and at Gateway Parents Night groups.

It is not that we do not feel bad for Cisco. As I told him on the ride to Shuman “We are not doing this to just to punish you. We are doing this to keep you clean and to help you with your recovery.” I would also like to note that Cisco did not in any way resist going to Shuman.

Sally noted a little irony that our first visit with Cisco will occur on our 33rd anniversary. This is also the third anniversary of Cisco’s first cry for help. We spent our 30th anniversary in the AGH emergency room following Cisco’s first overdose. We wish we knew about PSST then.

Hopefully our actions today might eventually lead to a lot of anniversaries of Cisco’s clean time.

For all of you PSST parents – stick with it. It takes time but it is worth it.

For any of you who have not attended a PSST meeting yet – give it a try. There is no cost and no commitment. All you have to lose is a few hours of your time, the chaos in your home, a lot of sleepless nights, and the feeling of loneliness, helplessness and guilt.

PSST’s Goal is to empower the parents of teenage substance abusers and/or Juvenile Court Youth with the support, information, skills and techniques a parent needs to help a teenager save his own life. Over the years, we have collected practical, hard won information that parents need based on our direct experience with teenagers who are facing alcoholism, addiction, probation, and out-of-home Court placement. Our meetings and this blog are open to all parents who are serious about making a difference in their children’s life.

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Dr. Max Explains It All To You: Diagnosis: W.I.S. - A post by Max, a PSST Mom
Posted by:Sally--Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dr. Max Explains It All To You: Diagnosis: W.I.S. - A post by Max, a PSST Mom

Our older son Michael was discharged from 24 days of in-patient 1 week ago today. While he was in, I took little comfort in the fact that he was safe, clean, learning, and working on himself. I had the opportunity to be more care-free, do more for myself, take a thorough, badly needed mental holiday from him. But that is not how my brain operates. I worried, not as much as if he were still hanging out, but still worried, because I suffer from WIS, or "What If Syndrome".

I have always been this way: I am anxious by nature.

But I have learned this about myself over the years by working with a great therapist, and having more life experiences to draw on. I work very hard on a daily basis to keep it in check. I know it will never go away, but rather, ebb and flow depending on how serious life circumstances are at the moment. The most damaging thing the syndrome does is deter your vision from the here and now. If you stay in the moment, or force yourself to re-focus on the now, WIS miraculously dissipates.

I had a golden opportunity to recharge my battery but didn't. I didn't think I had the stamina to practice my anti-WIS program.

Clearly, I had relapsed.

When a WIS sufferer doesn't practice the program, rational thought goes out the window in two forms. One is "Hyper Vigilance", as in if I concentrate REALLY HARD on everything in this situation, I will nip it in the bud - or prevent it from happening - or 'do it better than last time’.

This will, in some cases become the second form, called "Magical Thinking", as in - I will be so prepared for the next disaster it won't hurt as much as it did the first few times.

Both forms are sneaky and can mislead a person into believing their own un-true thoughts, because anxiety takes away the energy they need to work their program.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Does any of this have an obvious parallel?

Even if you aren't by nature anxious as I am, when something is wrong with someone we love, WIS can get you. Mind you, my husband Mel is not a sufferer. It seems that more women than men get WIS, but there are no concrete studies. But like many chronic diseases, it can be managed if you are willing to take the following steps:

Pray/meditate/talk to your higher power to be granted the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, that you will have the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Repeat as often as necessary throughout the day.

Focus - If you find your mind spinning forward, pick a spot on the wall wherever you are and force yourself to focus for a few minutes. Think of nothing else but that spot. Let yourself be hypnotized for the moment. Take some deep soothing breaths, and go back to whatever it was you were doing.

Call Someone - If you are too far along in your WIS attack, call someone - a PSST friend, your partner, or other person who knows your situation, and has the good sense to talk you down with rational thought.

Avoid people, places and things that can trigger a WIS attack.

Common examples are:

1. People: well meaning but grossly under-informed family members (usually in-laws!!) and friends who will say things like "I knew someone just like that. He's in jail now, but...."

2. Places: a graduation party where everyone says "you have an 18 year old, right? Where are they going to college?" Feeling the need to answer this question several times in a public place with a smile on your face can make a WIS sufferer start to spin like a top.

3. Things: This is a tricky one. For me, it would be going into my son's room and looking at old things like stuffed animals, baby pictures, old school projects while thinking: "If I had just done __________ earlier, none of this would have happened" or "I now can see by looking at all of his things, his decline actually started ___________ , and I somehow missed it."

As you can now see, this is all Magical Thinking. And it is in the past, which cannot be corrected. So have a good cry if you need, but no good will come of torturing yourself with the "what ifs" and "should haves".

Another situation that can cause WIS is miscommunication. As noted in Lloyd's latest post, WIS gets dissipated when parties speak to one another for clarity of a situation or verbal exchange.

Since most of us have a team of people working with us to help our child, we can get differing messages, and often skewed messages when our child repeats what he heard someone say. To help me work my program, I have no qualms about calling or emailing the therapist, PO, or case worker for clarity.

When I have the facts, I become less of a WIS.

That said, the above professionals also have differing approaches, and sometimes they even seem contradictory. This is a sure trigger for WIS, because you may start to think "If I don't do exactly what Lloyd, Kathie, Deb, Tom, Dick and Harry say, my child will relapse, and I will be responsible".

The coinciding subconscious thought may be "If I am not able to follow to the letter all of this advice, I must be a bad parent".

This is the dreaded Hyper Vigilant Magical Thinking COMBO.

My personal way of managing HVMT (combined type) in this case is "take what works for you, put the rest in the tool box for later use."

All information from a trusted professional is valuable in some way. Knowledge is power. Add to this knowledge tricks from PSST and the therapist and you are no doubt doing the best possible job for your kid.

Be open minded to all points of view.

The therapist often comes from the perspective of empowering the teen, so the therapist may ask us to "back off" or they may back up what a teen has said.

Since we are so used to being manipulated by the teen, we get WISSY.

But as Lloyd noted, following a therapists' advice does not mean you are giving the kid too much power as in the past. It may mean that you need to find "the courage to change what you can". But, being knowledgeable and empowered (as the mom in Lloyd's post was) gives parents the courage to say "I'm not comfortable with that"!

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What to do when your teen beats you up with words from his therapist? Part II
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This is a two-part post. You might want to read part 1 first.

4. Don't rely on your teenager's therapist for all your support:
This a very stressful job: parenting a teenager who is beginning or perhaps well on his way to having a drug problem. You will be faced with expert manipulation. You need all the support that you can get. Allow that your teenager's therapist is one important slice of the pie of support that you need. Next, make sure that you are in a good support group and that you get to know some other parents who have similar struggles. There you will find the big slice of the pie.

Next, use family members, private therapists, school counselors, clergy and Probation Officers. Have a list of emergency phone numbers and use that list when you are feeling down. It doesn't have to be a true emergency- just a bad-day-I-feel-horrible emergency. Likewise, be there for other parents because you will find that when you "give it away-you keep it." (12-step saying). You may want to work a 12-step program and find support there. In the end, your teenager's therapist is only one source of hope and strength; therefore, if you receive what you interpret to be criticism from your teenager's therapist it doesn't tend to be as overwhelming.

5. Try some of what your teenager's therapist is advising, but try it on your terms:For example, we hear this one a lot:

Teen: Carol says you have to work your own program!

What's going on here? It must be important because we hear it often. It usually is accompanied by:

Teen: You need to back off and let me work my own program.

If we hear it all the time, let's take a closer look. Parents have had a teenager who has been out of control, using drugs, have had their emotional apple cart upset for the whole family. Once things are stabilized and the teen is more or less abstinent or even serious about recovery, the parent finally has the luxury of dealing with some of the feelings that have been on the back burner. It's been compared to Post traumatic Stress Syndrome that people who have been victimized or perhaps been to war. Later, when they are in a safer spot, they have all these issues. Additionally, parents are naturally fearful of a return to horrible way things used to be. The combination can cause overreactive parenting. Take a deep breath. Everything is not an emergency and micro-managing a teen in every regard, can sometimes make things worse.

Does that sound like a contradiction? I think it does sound like one because if you have ever been to a PSST meeting, you will know that we are "Ball Control" people. We believe that good tight parental supervision is one of the main ingredients to helping your teenager make good decisions. We recommend that if you don't trust that your teenager is going where he says he is going, doing what he says he will do, and spending time with approved peers, etc., then keep him home. That is micro-managing; however it is all done with an eye towards safety from drugs and alcohol. In other areas, you can back off and let your teenager make mistakes.

For example, does your teen want a GED instead of a High School Diploma? You may feel strongly that he needs a High School Diploma. This is one place where you can back off and let your teen make mistakes, if indeed that is a mistake because it certainly is not one for everyone. Education is important but it is an area where you can let your teen make a decision provided that he is really going to pursue his GED, pass it, and go onto some other sort of post-high school educating. Probably there is no loss in this for your teen but their may be big loss in it for you as a parent. Where's your day to see your teen walk the stage? Still, if you micro-manage this one, which has little or nothing to do with drugs then it may be counter-productive and cause resentment. There has to be some area where your teen can make big decisions about his own life.

For example, does your teen want to date someone that you disapprove of? Perhaps the reason that you disapprove has nothing at all to do with alcohol or drug abuse. OK, this might be a good time to not give advice. Let him make his own mistake. Rule of thumb: If it has to do with drugs and alcohol- keep good tight parental supervision. If it has to do with anything else- back off and let your teen make his own mind up and learn from his mistakes and from his successes.

Teen: I broke up with Chelsey.

Mom: You did! But I thought she was the best thing to happen to you? She is so sweet!

Teen: I knew you'd say that. I expected you to jump me over this, but it's my life.


Mom: You know, you're right Bill. You know me so well; you knew I would be disappointed, didn't you?

Teen: Yep. I know how you are.

Mom: Well, I'm taking Carol's advise on this one.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Your therapist told me I need to back off. It's your life isn't it?

Teen: Yep.

Mom: And if you need advise I'm sure you can talk this over with your sponsor or with your friends. Because I like Chelsey, I wouldn't even be a good person to discuss this with.

Teen: Right.

Mom: Well, honey I'm sure you're making the best decision for you right now and I know you'll make the right decision in the end. If that relationship isn't right for you then get out.

Teen: I'm just surprised that you said that.

Mom: What did you expect me to say?

Teen: Oh the usual- that I'm a quitter and that I really need to stick with it if I'm going to give it a chance. I'm just surprised that you didn't say all that.

Mom: Yes me too. But you know all that stuff I was going to say about how if you only treated her better, blah blah blah- who needs to hear all that crap! I think your doing fine.

Scenario 2:

Teen: Mom, I'm going to drop out of school- I want to get my GED.

Mom: You're kidding!

Teen: Nope.

Mom: You know that a High School Diploma is better?

Teen: See, I knew you'd jump me over this.

Mom: You did?

Teen: Yep

Mom: So, you anticipated heavy disapproval from me, huh?

Teen: Of course.

Mom: Have you thought this though?

Teen: Yep.

Mom: Have you discussed this with anyone?

Teen: Yep.

Mom: Who?

Teen: My counselor, my sponsor, my Probation Officer and my friends.

Mom: OK, good. I'm glad you thought it through.

Teen: What?

Mom: I'm glad you have given this some thought.

Teen: Really?

Mom: Yes. It's a tough decision and I just want to know that you have thought it though. How will you get the GED?

Teen: I am signed up for night classes at the GED prep center. They will pretest me and when they think I'm ready I'll take it.

Mom: Good. And after GED?

Teen: I want to go to Not High VO-Tech. They have a great Electrician Career program and later I hope to get into a Union.

Mom: OK, I see you have really studied up on this.

Teen: Yep.

Mom: Is there anything I can do to help?

Teen: Just don't ride me about it.

Mom: OK- you're right you don't need that.

Teen: Really?

Mom: Yep, I need to back off. You're therapist said so too the other day didn't she?

Teen: Yep.

Mom: Well, maybe she's right. I'm going to try that.

Teen: Who are you and where is my real mother?


Our teenagers are at a point where they require more independence. The presence of the drug and alcohol issues make it necessary to exert parental control, but when we see that they are making good decisions about drugs and alcohol, about who they associate with, about where they go etc., then we need to find windows of opportunity to back off and let them make their own mistakes. Let's trust that in the end our teens, if they stay off the juice, will make good decisions although they won't do it just like we want them to do it. That's OK. That's better than OK- that's helping our teenagers to grow up but grow up without substance abuse.

The thing to keep in mind is when you are able to take the therapist's advice, let your teen know you are doing that. That helps to take the wind out of your teenager's sail when he wants to drone on and on that you "never take Carol's advice." You can take Carol's Advice about many things. Some things won't feel right and you are not going to take any advice that you feel undermines your position of authority especially when you feel that your teen is in danger.

Still, remember that power works best when you don't actually use it. Once again, it sounds like a contradiction but it really isn't. We want to keep our kids off of drugs. When that's going well- back off. When that isn't looking to good, jump in with both feet and mix it up. If it doesn't have to do with drugs, back off. If he wants to go to a party where there will be drugs and alcohol, maybe that is not a good place to back off. If, on the other hand, he wants to spend 200 bucks of his own hard earned money on a frivolous cause then back off. Let him make some mistakes. Just don't let him hurt himself.

If you have had this kind of trouble, please leave a comment. If you are a professional reading this, you may have a different slant and please share that with us as well. Perhaps you have more to say on this subject then you care to write in a "comment." Then, by all means, send your post to sallyservives@gmail.com. or lloyd.woodward@alleghenycourts.us.

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What to do when your teen beats you up with words from his therapist? Part 1
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Either your teen twists things that his therapist has said, quotes the therapist out of context, or perhaps accurately uses the therapists words to pull the carpet out from under you. It happens. Sometimes you are working hard at changing and trying desperately to be a stronger parent so that you can regain control of your teen (one who may have still been using drugs and/ or alcohol recently) and you feel undermined by the "expert therapist" who is working with your teenager. Here's a step-by-step guide.

1. Have a one-on-one chat with the therapist. It is not sufficient at this point in treatment, and by that I mean any point in treatment where you feel undermined, to just have a family session. There are things going on in your family session where the therapist is busy maintaining a rapport with your teenager (which is of great import) and therefore, may not be able to focus entirely on what you are saying. Therapists naturally look for compromises but what you need at this juncture is for the therapist to hear something like:

Mom: I like the strong relationship you have with Henry, but I have to tell you that I feel undermined.

Therapist: You do? Can you tell me more about that?

Mom: Well, you told Henry that I overreacted to the whole incident yesterday; now that's all I hear from him when I'm trying to confront him, "Even Carol says you overreact Mom! You know what Carol said, I've been working my program longer than you've been working yours! I've started step two and you haven't even started step one in your NARANON program. She said that you need to back off- I need to make mistakes- and you need to work your program and quit trying to work mine. If you would Just Listen To What Carol says Mom" and I want you to know that he yells that last part at me.

Therapist: I didn't know he was going on like that.

Mom: Oh yes, and now everything I say, to him, is just an "overreaction" and I find it difficult to continue to supervise him because, lets face it, you have Expert Status with our whole family. What you say to him is a close to what God might say (in his mind) so let me ask you, how do I compete with that?

Therapist: Well, it's time to back off and let's see how he does.

Mom: OK, look. I've had him in three inpatient programs, he used marijuana only two weeks ago after being released ten days from the third place. He is highly manipulative and I'm really not comfortable with the 'let's see how many mistakes he can make.' Frankly, I've been down that road once to often. I want to hold him accountable for the little mistakes, so that hopefully, I don't have to hold him accountable for the bigger ones.

2. Find something that the therapist says that you can believe in and let your teen (and his therapist) know that you have taken the therapist's advice. This is the old throw them all a bone approach. In other words, don't be oppositional and be against everything the therapist says. If there is nothing the therapist says that you can get behind, then maybe you have your teen in the wrong program. If she is telling you to work a 12-step program of recovery on your own, maybe you should consider doing exactly that. If she advises you to do more "self-care" type of things, hey that's always good advise for all of us. Let your teen know that indeed you are making recommended changes. Much of these changes do not undermine your parental authority and some of it strengthens your position as parent.

3. Don't get into a debate over what the therapist said. That is very tempting, especially when you know that your teen is quoting his therapist out of context or in some way misusing what was said. The temptation is to believe that if you can "fix" his thinking on that subject that he will fall into line. The problem here is the same as the problem with all debates with teens. You can't win. Period. Don't even try. And even if you did win the debate this one time, just imagine that you might not win the next one and by then a "precedent" will be set. Rather than debate, just say, something like:

Teen: And my therapist says that you need to back off and work your own program.

Mom: Yes, and she has told other parents that too. Nevertheless, I need to know when, with whom, and where you will be going tomorrow and we need it all written down so that I know your schedule. Do not deviate from your schedule except in a true emergency and if that happens, call me.

Teen: You're treating me like I'm 13! This is exactly what Carol told you not to do!

Mom: Yes, well regardless, I need to know when, with whom, and where you will be going tomorrow.

Teen: Why don't you just listen to Carol for once? [getting louder and sounding angry)

Mom: [leaning in and lowing her voice- talking slow- strong eye contact] You're right. Carol's wonderful and she is a good therapist for you. I'm glad you have her. I'm not doing it Carols' way right now. You can take that up with her tomorrow at Outpatient. Now, I need to know when, with whom, and where you will be going tomorrow and one of us needs to write it down.

If you have had this kind of trouble, please leave a comment. If you are a professional reading this, you may have a different slant and please share that with us as well. Perhaps you have more to say on this subject then you care to write in a "comment." Then, by all means, send your post to sallyservives@gmail.com. or lloyd.woodward@alleghenycourts.us.

Part-two of this post continues here.

Permission was granted to use the above graphic for one year from Mark Parisi


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Summary – PSST Meeting Augaust 21, 2010 Mt Lebanon
Posted by:Rocco--Monday, August 23, 2010

We had another good turnout at this week’s PSST meeting at OUTREACH TEEN AND FAMILY SERVICES in Mt Lebanon.

Lloyd and Kathie led the meeting. We had 9 conscientious parents – 7 tenacious moms, 1 very determined mom/grandma and 1 concerned dad representing 8 families (Notice that we only had 1 dad – We'll talk more about that later).

Each of us had a chance to talk over our own issues and circumstances.

We listened, coached and encouraged each other on ways to take back the power in our homes and how to deal with our teens in various stages of their recovery.

We talked about our teens that are currently in an inpatient recovery program, how they are doing and where they can go when they complete the program. Some teens in recovery cannot return home directly. The people and places may be too strong of a trigger for them to relapse.

We had a mom’s thoughts on how her teen did on his first home pass from his inpatient program. It is good to have some chores and activities planned out for a home pass. It is best to have a clear understanding with your teen ahead of time as to what your expectations are (if possible put them into writing before they come home).

We had a mom whose son is just out of an inpatient program and was rethinking her decision to let her son "hang-out". Instead of being home at 10:00, as agreed, he phoned her at 10:00 to let her know that the ride he expected did not show up and he would find another way home. She now wants to know where he really was and to make sure that he understands that he needs to be home at the agreed time. He cannot wait until that time to start planning how he will get home.

Our teens don't seem to understand that we as parents are also going through a difficult recovery process with them and we have real “triggers” that set us off.

Not knowing where they are, not being home on time and twisting stories around are just a few of these triggers.

Each time we have one of these episodes our “Trust Factor” drops back to Start All Over Again.

We listened to parents of teens that have relapsed or turned to alcohol and how they handled the situation. A mom of a teen who used alcohol explained how she did not over-react. When her son asked her if she was mad or disappointed with him she surprised him by saying that she was not actually mad or disappointed. Instead she explained to that she would like to see him use the tools he has learned in rehab to move forward in his recovery.

This led to a discussion of using / not using the word “disappointment”.
In most cases it is okay to use “disappointment” to express a “What I am feeling” statement to your adolescent as opposed to confronting them with a “Man, did you ever screw up this time” accusation.

As an example let’s say that you left them a note to do the dishes and to take out the trash while you were out. When you return home you find the dirty dishes on the counter and the trash still in the can. Instead of browbeating with “I see you screwed up again!” try “Geeze, I am really disappointed that dishes and the trash are still here.” Assign a feeling to yourself as opposed to a indictment of them. It is really hard for them to give you an argument on how you feel.

And feel free to throw in an “I guess you won’t have time to go to the movies (watch your favorite show, get on the computer, visit your friend) tonight.”

And then for the grand finale try the “Do it now” approach (but only if you have the time to stay focused until they actually do whatever it is you need them to do). Even if your child can give you a good excuse (not likely) for not doing what you asked them to do, reply “I understand, never the less, let’s 'Do It Now'!” If they don’t react immediately repeat “Do It Now!” as many times as needed. For emphasis you can pull the plug on the TV, the DVD player, the computer or take away the phone followed by another “Do It Now!”

“Do It Now!” is one of the best PSST Power Phrases.

One of our moms gave us a new PSST Power Phrase - “We will talk about that later.”

This is a great way to keep a “discussion” with your child on track. If you are talking about their current issue or situation and they bring up a past issue, or otherwise switch the subject, try to remember “We will talk about that later" and continue with the original subject.

We also had a mom who had stood up in court and asked the judge to allow her son to come home. She felt that he had turned a corner in placement and had set some clear goals. The judge agreed to let him to come home on an electronic monitor to reconnect with his family and work toward his goals. Remember to always make sure that the judge or hearing officer clearly understands what you want for your child. They will generally work with you. When your son or daughter gets themselves into a closely supervised situation it can be a great opportunity to exercise the power position by exerting more authority. The more you do this the more routine it becomes for them and for you.

Another mom was concerned about her younger son. She has already experienced her older son’s recovery. While she has no proof that her younger teen is using she has red flags or triggers popping up. He is not doing well in school and doesn’t seem to care about anything but his music and his band. Choosing a career as a rock performer of course brings up visions of inordinate drug use. Whether this vision is real or perceived it is something that can give a parent a few sleepless nights. We talked about how some teens really do get into their music and want to try performing and have a hard time focusing on the “Real World”. What we can do is to remind them that they need to focus at least part time on reality while they are pursuing their dream of becoming a star. And if possible go and watch a few of their performances (wear earplugs if necessary). While you may not enjoy the music you may enjoy the fact that others enjoy your teen’s performance.

Our children will rarely pick the same goals, careers, life’s partner or life’s path that we would choose for them. As long as they are clean and sober and not harming themselves or others try to celebrate their choices with them.

We did not get time to try any role plays but we had a lot of very good discussion and beneficial exchange.

Thanks to Lloyd and Kathie for taking the time to be there. Thanks to everyone for all of the pie, cake, donuts, plums, candy and especially the homemade nut rolls.

And of course our thanks to OUTREACH TEEN AND FAMILY SERVICES for the use of their space.

The next Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST) meeting is Saturday September 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Allegheny County Eastern Probation Office in Wilkinsburg.

A SPECIAL REQUEST: We would like to get a few more good men to attend our PSST Meetings on Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

We do appreciate that you have other commitments on Saturday mornings but if you can make it just to one meeting a month it could make a big difference for you and your troubled teen.

Any and all Dads, Step-Dads, Granddads, Uncles and Big Brothers that are dealing with difficult teens are welcome to join us.

MEN; consider yourself cordially invited to sit in, discuss, contribute, consider some ideas, ask questions, express your point of view and develop some innovative solutions.

Maybe you can even (shudder at the thought) pick up some directions.

C'mon in and join us. There is no cost or commitment.
Our meetings are open to anyone who is serious about making a difference in their children’s life.

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Help Teens Stay off Drugs Video (posted for Mary Hackett Challburg)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, August 22, 2010

To all my friends and family, I am asking for your help...... A group of passionate and dedicated people are creating a professional, viral, music video that will be hard-hitting and geared towards keeping our youth off drugs. Kids will see the ultimate consequences of drug abuse Help Teens stay off drugs

Please help our dedicated and passionate group in the fight against drugs. Please re post on your wall. Every donation will help reach pre-teens, teens and families learn about drug abuse!!!!! Addiction affects 1 in 4 people....... Please help save a life.

This is a not-for-profit project of passion for many dedicated people to helping teens with drug addiction and helping them before they use/abuse or become addicted...trying to raise $5,000 to put together a viral music video...hard hitting and geared to keep kids off drugs.... Email Mike Wittlin if you want to help with this very serious cause (mike@mikewittlin.com) donations (no amount is too small) (Checks may be payable to Mike Wittlin and sent to 19176 chapel Creek Drive Boca Raton, FL, 33434) will help and be GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!!

Mike Wittlin of Mike Wittlin Productions (Motion Pictures/Television/Broadway is a Lebo Alum and a genius.... A premiere of the video and a VIP party will be held for all those who donate to our much-needed cause. I do not like asking people for money, however, this cause is very near and dear to my heart. If this video helps one teen or one family it will be worth it. Please help save a life......

Thank You in advance!



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Let's hear from the readers. Let us know you're out there please.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, August 21, 2010

We're glad you're out there reading us and if you come to PSST meetings we doubly appreciate your support. But just this once, how about letting us know that you are out there? Use a pen name or just remain anonymous, but answer any or all of these easy questions please. Some readers copy the questions below and paste them into a comment box. Then they just put answers under the questions.
Through to September 15, 2010 we have an anonymous donor who is going to donate one dollar to PSST for every comment that we receive but only on this particular post! This is a great way to support PSST!

How often do you check the blog?

How long have you been following PSST?

What area of the country or the world are you from?

What is your favorite thing about the meetings or about the blog?

Can you tell us one thing that you have learned at PSST or from this blog?

Do you have a favorite post?

How did you find the blog?

What would you like to see changed at the meetings or on the blog?

Do you have an adolescent who is troubled or who is using drugs?

Are you a professional in the field of Drug and Alcohol or counseling? If so, can you say what type of work you do?

If you are not from the Pittsburgh metro area would you like to see a PSST in your area?

Other comments?

Remember, you don't have to answer all the questions (but I would like to know what part of the country or world you are from.) Just let us know you're out there. Thanks for your support.

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Summer Vacations and Old Faithful by “Ralph Kramden” – A PSST Parent
Posted by:Sally--Thursday, August 19, 2010

Well, it is the year 2010 and we live in the age of technology, after all. So, we thought nothing of it when we forwarded the home telephone to Ralph's cell phone for our upcoming vacation to Yellowstone National Park and scenic points in the Rocky Mountains. You know, it’s the home of Yogi the Bear, Boo-Boo, Ranger Smith, thousands of picnic baskets ready to be bear snatched, and Old Faithful……..
And of course, we didn't want to miss any calls from our son, Ed who is in placement or from his counselor.

Well Yellowstone and the Rockies didn't disappoint. While we didn't see Yogi, we saw elk, antelope, bison, a black bear, a grizzly bear, bald eagles, osprey, and just a huge variety of other wildlife and natural wonders.

Another natural feature of the area is the hundreds of geysers that populate Yellowstone Park. Some geysers are pools of hot water; some are steaming or boiling kettles of water or mud, while others just blow steam. Like a blow-hard with bad breath, the sulfur in the geysers usually smells like rotten eggs, too. Some of the geysers are famous for shooting water high into the air, or developing spectacular limestone structures at their mouths. One of the geysers is even so predictable that the rangers can tell when it will spew water a hundred feet into the air to within a minute -- named by the first Western explorers to the area as Old Faithful.

Now, in 2010, everyone can get great cell phone coverage in at least half of the area where the bison and geysers outnumber the humans visiting them.

In one of our many informative PSST classes, we learned the value of repeating to our teens the rule, Ask Me Again. This is useful and effective when they act like the rat in the maze that is looking to us for the nugget of enabling.

We need to be Old Faithful in sticking to the rules, not enabling, being consistent, letting our "No" stay "No", and staying empowered. Even when we do that, teens will be teens, and they will be Faithful to looking for a way around the rules or wanting us to go back to the old nugget system of enabling.

Well, Ed didn't disappoint either. Alice and our adult daughters, Trixie and Carney, went off down the wooden, boardwalk trail to find yet another steaming, boiling, bubbling, or spewing geyser, while Ralph sat down on a bench conveniently perched in front of a slow bubbling geyser pool that became a perfect meditation pond. Ralph's spiritual batteries had just gotten plugged in, so to speak, when Old Faithful went off. No, not the geyser down the road but the cell phone - with Ed at the other end.

Now Ralph was already in need of a "recharge". His batteries had been flashing "empty" for a few weeks as it stood because Norton (our other son) is making worse decisions about his life, and we're not enabling any behavior from Norton except zero tolerance on violence, disrespect, and drugs. This frustrates both Ralph and Norton because Norton doesn't want to be told what to do, and is out of places to live given his current lifestyle, but we won't let him do drugs, disrespect us, or be violent while living at our house. Norton has decided, despite possible arrest warrants, to solve his personal housing crisis by moving away, thus, making a bad decision worse, and frustrating Ralph.

Oh yes… Ralph answers the ringing cell phone. It’s Ed. Ed doesn't understand that Ralph is either deep into Yogi or Yoga, and is talking on a cell phone that is surrounded by exquisite natural beauty -- a vacation that Ed would have enjoyed, but missed, and forgot that we were partaking without him. They chat about family news, Yellowstone, and things of interest to Ed for several minutes. Then the bomb hits. Maybe Ed finally realizes that he missed whatever this Yellowstone-bear-geyser thing is, or maybe he just senses that Ralph is at a weak point this moment.

Whatever the case, Ed wants to know why we are so concerned about drug and alcohol recovery. And besides, he was never even charged with drug possession. Why, he has done more than enough of this drug and alcohol stuff -- Ed pronounces it like DNA (the irony is there somewhere) -- while he is in placement. And D&A is for those hard core addicts. (It does seem that denying he's an addict has finally gotten Ed nowhere, and he's changed that line.)

Ralph needs to pull himself up from the bottom of the geyser basin. And fast! And, to make things worse, Trixie and Carney have just passed on the boardwalk headed for the car to attack another geyser area and hear Ralph doing the "...Never-The-Less..." shuffle, causing them concern that Ralph is somehow wasting his "recharge" time. Alice soon arrives with help, on her way to the car, but three-way conversations with only two people on-line never seem to work, and it wasn't working in front of a geyser pool either. Ralph does his best. A few poorly worded "Agree-with-some-thing " gets in there. Then, a "Regardless, drug and criminal behaviors aren’t going to work anymore", manages its way to the surface, no doubt with some smelly sulfur.

Finally, recovering a little, a fountain spouts of "Never-The-Less, Ed, you are responsible for your Recovery plan", which may have been better placed after a Twix candy bar moment, gets Ed to request help (an acknowledgement of who is responsible regardless of who does the work) and then onto another subject. We can head back to the car while signing off with Ed and his counselor. Ralph's batteries will have to recharge in the Snake River on a 12-person raft, trying to comfort Alice who is worried about white water rafting deaths.

Do you get blind-sided by your Old Faithful teenager? Come and practice your parenting skills at a PSST meeting. It may just charge YOUR batteries.

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You're grounded until further notice!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If you don't trust where, with whom, doing what, and at what time can you expect your teenager to come home, then don't let him out. Let him know, "I am not comfortable with you going out- stay home."

This is a safety issue first and foremost. Don't get hung up on whether or not it is punishment- it is- but get over it because the main thing is all about safety. Teens with drug issues need structure. If they are just wandering out there, they will get into trouble.

The biggest reason that parents don't ground their teenagers is because they are afraid that the teenager won't stay home and then it will be obvious that the teen is not under parental control. At that point, the teenager is all ready not under parental control and steps need to be taken to place that teenager under supervision.

Be clear. The best thing is often to give it to the teen in writing. For some teens until they see it in writing they think they can still argue about it or they think it's not really happening. They will persistently nag the parent until they get a response that is vague. Something like, "OK OK OK do what you want! I don't care!" To the parent that might mean, "Go ahead and go out and you take the consequences for that!" But to the teenager that means "Go ahead and go out and there are no consequences."

Picture yourself being stopped by a police officer for speeding. You are not sure if you are getting a warning or a ticket. You only know for sure that you got the ticket when you get the ticket handed to you. Just write your teen a ticket or put it on a blackboard where everyone can see it. Be clear. If your teen goes out anyway, then at least you know where you stand! You have an out-of-control teen.

HOW LONG AM I GROUNDED FOR? Until further notice. A minimum of two days. Until I feel like I can trust you. These are all acceptable. If your teen goes out while he is grounded, go get him if you can and bring him back home with you. Stay tuned for more information on out-of-control teenagers in the upcoming post.

HOW CAN I BUILD TRUST WITH YOU IF YOU WON'T LET ME OUT! Great question. Great answer is this: The way you conduct yourself at home will help me to see if you are being responsible. If you are not responsible at home and if you aren't making good decisions at home then there is no reason to think that you would out there. Acting responsible at home means a lot of things [introduce talking points that you have been wanting to get across, e.g., don't be pushy with the grounding thing- accept it- do your chores- don't have a chip on your shoulder- don't be in touch with unapproved peers while you are grounded- don't be sneaky, etc)

There are a lot of more creative ways to disclipline your teenager and don't fall into the trap that "grounding" is your only method. Get ideas from the teenager about effective discipline if you like and sometimes that works; however, if you don't trust that your teen is going where, with whom, and doing what he is supposed to be doing- then don't let him out. It's a safety issue first and foremost. If your teenager is basically trustworthy, but not doing all his chores then find a more creative sanction or just utilize the "do it now" technique. Reserve grounding for safety issues and for situations where you can't come up with anything more creative.

When you are being told that you have to let your teenagers out so that they can make their own mistakes and learn from these mistakes, ask yourself if learning from a drug overdose, from a crippling automobile accident, or from being arrested is OK. If it's not, then let your teenager learn from being grounded instead.

It helps if you take cell phones when your teen is grounded. Take computer privileges. Don't let friends stop over. Give them an essay to write about responsibility. Make it a home-work intensive grounding and sit with them or right along with them and do that home work. If your teen is attending 12-step meetings don't just let him find his own way there. Take him to the meeting. Wait for him or go into the meeting yourself so that you know for sure that he is there. Remember, that you are placing him on grounding because you don't trust that he is going where, with whom, etc. If you don't have the time to do that then maybe going to the meeting is not the most important thing.

Grounding a teenager is usually labor intensive for the parents. It is inconvenient for the parents. It is sometimes as tortuous for the parent as it is for the teenager. Still, the alternative, letting a teen who has a drug problem range free in the community when you know that he is not going where, with whom, and doing approved activities is a recipe for disaster. That disaster when it comes won't be too convenient either.

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Summary of Saturday, August 14th PSST Meeting
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We had another encouraging turnout and a good time at Saturday’s PSST meeting at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Wexford. Plus a wonderful selection of sweet, tasty donuts and hot coffee.

Val, Lloyd and Kathie led the meeting. We had 8 parents and a parent's friend representing 6 families. We were happy to have a nice mix of familiar faces as well as some returning parents.

Each of us had an opportunity to talk over our own situation and issues.
We discussed using the power words: "I am not comfortable with that" and many had examples of how those words are effective. We talked about a teen who will be home soon from placement and will be asked to follow a contract. We had parents whose teen does not want to return home from vacation to face probation. We touched on ways to extend a teens probation. We had another parent who was excited about her first visit to see her daughter who is in placement. We talked about honesty and trust and about relapsing and how to keep a teen busy and out of trouble while parents are at work.

After a break we had two role plays.
The first was on honesty and how the real consequence of lying is that the liar is not trusted.
The second role play was of a mom driving her son and some friends home and smelling alcohol. The challenge was to let the teen know that the parent was aware that someone in the car smelled of alcohol without accusing the teen.

Years ago, Rocco and I attended an elementary school meeting on self esteem and were told: “Your child has a big advantage in their life because you cared enough to attend this meeting.”

Although your son or daughter may be in a “bad place” right now they have a “big advantage” in their life because you cared enough to attend a PSST meeting.

More than likely your teenager will not grasp the “big advantage” concept. In all probability they will resent that you go to “those meetings where you are misled by that crazy dude.” Or as our kids at Gateway Family Night put it so well "You guys belong to that PSST Cult!"

NEVERTHELESS they are in a better place because you do care enough to try to save ypur child's life.

Remember our two favorite words NEVERTHELESS and REGARDLESS. Try to get BUT totally out of your vocabulary. Or as one of my favorite people loves to always remind me “Everything you say after the word BUT is BS.”

We all would like to sincerely thank Trinity Lutheran Church for the use of their first class facilities to allow PSST to empower parents of out-of-control teenagers. This is a great example of how Trinity Lutheran has been reaching out and serving Wexford and the northern suburbs since 1845.

We look forward to seeing more concerned parents at the next PSST Meeting ~ Saturday, August 21 ~ at the at the Outreach Teen and Family Services located in Mt. Lebanon at 666 Washington Road (There is free parking in the back lot).

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Free Class Sponsored by The National Alliance of Mental Illness
Posted by:Sally--Monday, August 16, 2010

This NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is sponsored by
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Washington County and NAMI-PA.

Do you have a friend or family member who has a mental illness?

Do you want to learn about mental illness
and ways to help someone you love who has a mental illness?

The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Course may be for you.

It is starting in Washington PA on September 20th. Click "read more" below for more information on this local class.

Taught by a team of trained family members, the course offers information on Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Co-occurring Brain Disorder and Addiction. This series of 12 weekly classes is structured to help family members and friends understand and support the ill individual while maintaining their own well-being.

There is no cost to participate in the NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program.

Classes Start: Monday, September 20th, 2010
7:00PM – 9:30PM


AMI, Inc.
907 Jefferson Avenue
Washington, PA 15301

Please call for more information. Pre-registration is required.

Co-Teachers: Leslie Gill (724-746-2152)
Teresa Gleason (724-225-1607)

The PSST website somtimes acts as an information clearinghouse and may list on the website various third party services with information concerning, or links to, these third party service providers. However, PSST is not responsible for the content of any link to or from this site. We do not endorse the policies or practices of, or opinions expressed on other websites linked to or from this site; nor do we make any representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or any items or claims contained in such other websites. Any links are provided for you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by us of the goods, services, the site, its contents or its sponsoring organization.

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Using Words That Matter
Posted by:Sally--Monday, August 16, 2010

Cisco called me at work the other day and wanted the password to get on our home computer.
I said "I am not comfortable with that'.
He said "Why? I am only going to check my email."

I repeated my sentence only two more times in a low, calm voice and he said
"all right" without any resentment.
It is very COOL how that works!
I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT are powerful words.

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Agreements- the power of 3X + OR "You Really Need To Start Trusting Me Mom!"
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, August 16, 2010

This came up at our recent meeting in Wexford. When you agree with your teenager, you have more power if you think in terms of 3 or more quick agreements. For example:

Teen: Mom, you're really crowding me- back off! You're checking my breath, looking in my eyes, calling my friends parents!

Mom: You are so right. I'm all over you like white on rice (or flies on poop seemed to work great in group too :-) [1x]

Teen: Well, stop it! I'm doing good. Why can't you just trust me? You need to start trusting me Mom!

Mom: I struggle. [moving in closer- good eye contact] You've done some good things since you got out of rehab three weeks ago! For the life of me, I Can't Seem To Stop worrying about you. I mean you're right, I'm Not Comfortable with The Trust Thing Yet! [2x]

Teen: Well you better back off, cause when you're like that it makes me want to use!

Mom: You're right. Pressure DOES make people feel like using. I mean you prepare, prepare, and prepare in the rehab, but when you come out and you feel the pressure of real life, you can find that your whole recovery is right on the line. I appreciate you sharing that with me- that even after all that rehab stuff, you are sometimes this close [hand gesture] to picking up. [3x]

Teen: I think it's just going to take a little more time for you to trust me.

Mom: You know, I think so too. Down the road, we can look forward to that. In the meantime what can I do to help you feel not so pressured? [4x- if you hang in there sometimes the third of fourth agreement feels nicer.]

Teen: You just keep asking me the same questions that I've already answered. As though you think I'm lying and each time you ask me- you think I'm going to give you a different answer.

Mom: That sounds annoying. So, I'm way to obvious huh? [5x]

Teen: I guess you could say that.

Mom: OK, so I'll try to not be so obvious. Could you help me on this one??

Teen: How?

Mom: First of all, could you point it out to me when I do it? Just make a sign so I know you feel that you've already answered me.

Teen: Like what?

Mom: Like a traffic stop or a "cut it off" thing with your hand, you know. That will help me be more aware of when I am being repetitious and if I think I haven't covered that before, then I'll just ask you to tell me what I'm telling you, so that I can hear that we've covered that already- OK? That way you can show me that you already heard me so I can move on- OK?

Teen: Sure. [Teen does not sound convinced, but teen sounds curious to see if this would work.]

Mom: And one other thing too. You know how in your contract, it says not hanging with friends that you used to use with? Well, I think John, while he might be doing much better than he used to do- is one of those people that you used to use with and I'm feeling afraid that you are putting him back on your "OK to associate with" list. That would help me too, if you could clean up that part of your contract, can you do that?

Teen: I don't know. He is doing better. He hangs with Suzie and so do I.

Mom: This whole Not Associate with Old Peers things sounds complicated. [6x]

Teen: It is!

Mom: Well, you helped me see something today. [Let's give the teenager the credit for the take-back-control thing we are about to do!]

Teen: What!

Mom: Instead of the barrage of questions that I'm firing at you every day, I need to stop some of that, and just be more clear with you about some things. I am not comfortable with John being on your contact list. I need you to fix that. I'm going to start holding you accountable if you don't fix it. We'll start with the cell phone and go from there, but you are completely right that you don't need this big inquisition all the time. Oh sure, I'm still going to be all over you like a cheap suit when it comes to knowing where, with whom, and what you are doing, but lets deal with this John thing head on. Any questions about that?

[This was done in the form of "we agree that I'm going overboard." We agreed with this position earlier and now we are reiterating it and using it to lead to our firm take-back-control stance.]

Teen: No!!!! It's not fair!

Mom: No, I'm sure it's not looking to fair right now! I'm not trying to be fair honey- you're right about that. [7x]

Teen: Why are you so unfair?

Mom: I'm trying to keep you safe- fair is a luxury I don't have- but then, you know that, don't you?

Teen: I just hope someday someone tells you that you can't hang around your friends and see how you feel!

Mom: I don't know how that feels. [8x]

Teen: You're right! You don't.

Mom: I'm sure it sucks. Anything else right now?

Teen: No! [Slams the magazine down and storms off.]

How do we know the teen heard this Mom? When she slams down the magazine, we know she heard right about John. But we thought if we did all this agreeing, things would go well? Hopefully, it will go well, but do not be mislead by the end of the interview.

In other words, did this go badly because it seemed to end on such a negative note? No. We are more concerned that the Teen follows through on changing that John thing. Also, we want to give our teen the selective power of helping us change our broken record thing. Sometimes we do sound like broken records- that's not helping either- so the Teen and the Parent both get something out of this one, although from the Teen perspective, the parent gets more.

We hope through this method to improve the way we dialogue with our teenager. If we are doing our job, we will still make them angry sometimes; however, the anger and resentment should pass more quickly because of our positive dialogue.

Cartoon taken from here Communication Skills by Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren. There are a lot of good tips here about how to improve your communication skills, especially listening skills.

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Living with Beaver: The Beginning Parts 1-3 by June Cleaver; A PSST Mom
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Having been born in the 50's, a show I enjoyed was Leave It to Beaver. For those of you who haven't heard or viewed the show, it was about June and Ward Cleaver and their two sons Wally and Beaver. Those two young scamps got into so much trouble!! Once, Beaver actually tried to cut his own hair. Oh, my! was he in trouble 'when his father came home'.

Ward Cleaver often wore a suit while lounging around the house waiting for supper, and reading a newspaper. June Cleaver wore a dress, pearls, and high heels everyday around the house, doing housework and cooking. Going out to shop required that a hat and gloves be added to her ensemble.

Let's fast forward to 2010 and I will now assume the role of June. Ward is such an old-fashioned name that it just won't suffice; I will call my ex-husband Dick. That's a nice wholesome name, (for someone that isn't so wholesome). Our family doesn't have a 'Wally', but I do indeed have a 'Beaver' that gets into some incredible predicaments. Beaver also has a drug addiction and multiple mental illnesses.

I am going to share with you our life from my perspective.
We are a single parent family that does not have a positive support team from Dick, the father figure. June is disabled with multiple diagnoses, and suffers from frequent pancreatic attacks. The monthly income comes from Social Security disability, a small part time job, and child support. Now that Beaver is in a rehabilitation facility, Dick took June back to court to have the child support discontinued until little Beaver comes home. The judge is making Dick pay $100 in arrears a month to June, which amounts to $46.03 every two weeks. Yippee, June can buy gas to visit Beaver!

The maternal extended family is spread out, and no one remains in the immediate area. The paternal extended family is in the Penn Hills area. Any support comes from the maternal family via phone calls, and they are mainly from Beaver's Uncle Fred who lives in Johnstown. The rest of the family is 'turned off' because they have to admit someone in their immediate family has not only a drug addiction but also a mental illness.
Please note: Mental Illness does NOT = mental retardation!! Beaver is quite smart, and has definite plans for his future.

Stay tuned for the next post............"Living with Beaver: The Beginning Part 2

Living with Beaver: The Beginning Part 2 by June Cleaver; A PSST Mom
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I am going to share a little bit about Dick, so you'll get an idea of what Beaver and June had to endure.

Dick is a functioning alcoholic that - just for fun - smokes a little weed too. What June and Beaver heard everyday when Dick got home from work was footsteps coming up the stairs, the refrigerator door opening, and the sound of a pop top being cracked open. The funny thing about this--Dick never missed work because of his drinking. This was one positive thing I could say about Dick....
Growing up, Beaver would make Dick angry doing what little boys do best; breaking something and trying to hide the evidence, talking back, etc. These types of behaviors would enrage Dick, probably because he was drinking. There were times when June would leave the house with Beaver, promising herself she'd never come back after one of these confrontations. Realizing the lack of available finances and somewhere to actually go, (and the big one "FEAR"), would always bring them back home.

One very dark, stormy [thunder and lightening] kind of night had Beaver scrambling up the big oak tree in the front yard in his bare feet. Beaver would not come down because of fear of his father going to beat him. June went out into the yard and told Beaver that when the garage door went up, and she pulled her car out, to run down and get in. That night we temporarily went to a friend's home, but Dick tracked us down. For fear that he would come to the friend's home, we again came back home. The reason poor Beaver was so afraid? Beaver was continually curious about a ‘clicking’ sound his father would make when he was outside and was always on the lookout for what this might be. Well, little Beaver got lucky! Beaver found a lighter and a marijuana pipe Dick had been using. Beaver grabbed it off the wall outside and came running up the steps with it. “Here, hide this! I finally found what Dad (Dick) was doing, and he’s going to be coming after me!” Beaver yelled. June was lying on the couch with an afghan over her legs, and caught the paraphernalia as Beaver ran past and into his room. Sure enough, Dick was right behind him. Dick burst into little Beaver’s room, and instead of being embarrassed that Beaver had discovered he was a marijuana smoker, Dick began yelling at Beaver! “How dare you go into my private stuff? How dare you take something that isn’t yours?” yelled Dick. And thus Beaver became afraid.

Poor Beaver had to endure many episodes like the one June just told, just different scenarios. Beatings with a push broom, horribly sarcastic gut-wrenching comments about Beaver's personality, appearance, etc. When Beaver was grade school age, whenever June would reprimand him regarding his lack of attention to homework or some other non-school issue, Dick would appear and seem to gather strength from what June was saying and give it back to Beaver ten-fold. It got so that June would not say anything of a reprimanding nature in front of Dick so Beaver wouldn't get an unreasonable punishment. June would sometimes have to whisper things to Beaver, so Dick wouldn't hear. Sometimes reprimands need to be made immediately. Remember-we've fast-forwarded from the 50's and 'waiting until your dad gets home'.

Next post............Living with Beaver: On Our Own

Living with Beaver: On Our Own by June Cleaver; A PSST Mom
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beaver saw Dick punch June in the back. June was actually on the phone with Dick's mother once when this occurred. This too happened the week that Dick was on vacation.

The sadness in all this: Beaver has blocked all this from his mind. The therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists say he does not remember any of these things happening. Is this a blessing?

Terrific summer weather and Dick was on vacation all week. June was in bed reading a book, and Beaver was in his room watching television. Dick came into the room, climbed onto the bed, and began making his sarcastic, degrading comments to June. "You're so fat, who would want you? Why do you read books, think they'll make you smart?" June had enough, and whacked Dick on the arm with her paperback. Boy, did Dick get mad! Dick grabbed June by the arm and yanked her out of bed. June's arm really hurt! Beaver came out of his room to see what was going on, but closed the door when he heard Dick yelling. June went into the living room to sit on the couch, and Dick followed along yelling all the while. Dick stood in front of June yelling about who knows what, and June calmly got up and went over beside Dick and got the phone. June sat back on the couch, with the phone placed beside her face up. Dick continued to rant. June turned the phone on, dialed "9", dialed "1", then dialed "1". June realized that this worked on television, but stranger things have happened. Lo and behold, it worked! The 911 dispatch heard a disturbance and sent the police. June answered the door crying and saying she had made a mistake. The police officers convinced June that the right thing was done, and succeeded in getting June and Beaver to pack bags for themselves and to leave the house until Dick was out.

Beaver and June's story is a little lengthier, but I think you get the idea. It turns out that Dick had torn a ligament in June's arm, and she needed to have surgery. It also turns out that blood is thicker than water. Even though Dick's mother had actually heard June being punched on a few occasions, she still felt it necessary to threaten June's life, as did Dick's evil sisters. Multiple death threats do not make a comfortable home life, but June tried to make things as even keel as possible. June got a P.F.A. against Dick, and subsequently had it extended, after she received a letter in the mail from Dick where he requested that June get the shotguns back that the police had removed from the house, assuring her that "I promise I won't shoot you".

Beaver and June began to build their life together. Beaver was 11, almost 12 years old when this occurred. At first all was good; they got involved with church and their youth activities, scouting was continued, and Beaver began to grow up.

Then Dick and his horrible sociopathic [my opinion only] behavior worsened.

Living with Beaver: The Beginning of the Downslide

In retrospect, Beaver had begun to show signs of mental illness around second grade. June felt that Beaver was just trying to get out of doing his work, whether it is school or something around the home. June feels very ashamed that she was not more alert to thinking ‘outside the box’. After all, aren’t all our children born perfect?

The teachers certainly never brought anything to June’s attention, even though June called for quite a few meetings to try to solve the ‘problem’. June was very active in Beaver’s school, and outside school activities. June felt it was important to assist in providing the very best experiences as possible for little Beaver and all his buddies. June was PTO vice-president, Cubmaster and Den Leader for Beaver and 50 other little boys, and room mother for all grades up through middle school. The fourth grade teacher’s only help was saying that “she is never wrong, and all children hit the fourth grade brick wall”. May I add that she once taught something incorrectly in science, and Beaver answered the question correctly on the test? June called and questioned why it was marked wrong, and showed Miss Twit that Beaver had answered it correctly. The response June received was “that is not how I taught it therefore he answered it wrong”. Isn’t that great that we have teachers that are so sure about their subject matter?

If only someone had stopped, and evaluated little Beaver. He had begun showing signs of ADD and OCD but no one noticed. Beaver’s schoolwork and grades started to go downhill.

In middle school, June’s involvement was becoming limited due to medical reasons. Nonetheless, June’s presence was known and acknowledged by many of the school children, and her finger was still into the ‘behind the scenes’ of the daily grind of the school.

When Beaver was in fifth grade the principal called and requested a meeting with her, June, the school social worker, and Beaver’s teachers. June was not anxious at all to attend this meeting because she knew almost everyone in attendance. The bell began to toll as one-by-one the teacher’s all showed June how “stupid” little Beaver was…including the principal. “He has begun to be a discipline problem because he is never on task, he never has his assignments completed [although I made sure everything was completed the night before], he never has his supplies, etc.” were some of the comments. By the end of the meeting June was in tears. June finally spoke up, “do any of you know how hard it is to sit here and listen to each one of you say extremely negative things about your son?” They were a bit taken back, and apologized for coming across that way.

It turns out that Beaver had begun to be embarrassed to have ANY type of attention drawn to him. That included walking up to the front of the class and turning in homework assignments, raising his hand in class, being the last to leave the classroom, or being called on, or-worse yet, teased about something by the teacher. Beaver was happier to just stuff all papers into his folder without any rhyme or reason to them, and not turn in homework, than stand out in any way.

Unbeknownst to June, although everyone else was not listening – the social worker, Miss Dove, was. Miss Dove called June to suggest some things that might be tried to see if they would help Beaver. June was so grateful for someone to offer help instead of just stating a problem and telling her to fix it.

Beaver’s circle of friends expanded very little throughout fifth and sixth grade. The ‘new’ friends all tested Beaver in some way. Beaver was so excited to have a new friend that he was very willing to do whatever was asked of him. Consequences of actions were not words in Beaver’s book. As a result, Beaver had some unsettling experiences in what June thought were ‘safe’ activities, such as boy scouts.

Beaver experienced what many do in our animal kingdom; the weakest are often the prey.

The saddest of all – Dick did not attend any of Beaver’s school functions or out of school activities. When June retired from scouts [7 or 8 years later] she was approached by scout parents who said, “I didn’t know there was a father for Beaver!” The only thing Dick did attend was T-ball, which Beaver hated because the kids teased him for his lack of running ability. And boy, Dick wasn’t very proud of Beaver at all for that.

Next post: Living with Beaver: The Downslide Continues

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