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About the Writer:

Cynthia discovered the value of being organized out of necessity. She and her husband, Kevin, have six children. Kevin serves as a Pastor with the Berean Fellowship of Churches. Their home is affectionately known as “grand Central Station”. It was critical to have a home that was welcoming to family and friends, often at a moments notice. In 2001, Cynthia started "Simply Put", an organization service for families in her Wyoming area. She's available as a speaker for women's retreats, MOPS groups and other events.


Dark Alleys Bright Hope

By Cynthia Workman

A Word of Encouragment for Parents

Driving up and down dark alleys, looking through the dark for a familiar face is not what I envisioned as a parental task. We had so much fun with our two young sons, who were only 13 months apart. Frogs, snakes, mud and laughter were the norm at our house. Then came the teen years. This was a time we had anticipated as a time for camping, hunting and fishing together. Instead, we were hunting for our son in the middle of the night and camping out at the curb of his friends houses, hoping to find him safe and sound. There is really nothing to prepare you for the distress of a teen in trouble, but hopefully this article will encourage you as a parent to hang in there through a rough time.

One of the easiest and most natural things to do is to play the blame game. What if I had…What if I hadn’t…What did I do…What did I not do…The first step to dealing with this tough time is to realize, it is not about you. Get over yourself, so you can focus on loving your child. An incredible amount of time and emotional energy can be spent on “what ifs.” That time and energy is better spent focused elsewhere. This is not an easy place to get past, but it is necessary. I spent several months in self-pity and despair, and then had to frequently guard against it.

The second hurdle to move past is the past. Do not spend time, energy and tears trying to “go back” to a certain point when all was good and right. Realize that going back is no longer an option, and that moving forward is okay. I remember this panicked sense of wanting to “go back” to when things were easier as a parent, but finally realizing, that point was gone and a forward look was more valuable to our situation than a backward look. There is a wonderful little book on this subject called Who Moved the Cheese by Spencer Jonson, MD.

Third, control is an allusion. Stop trying to think you can control your child, your spouse the circumstances etc. When and where you can take charge and make parenting decisions and choices, do so. Where you can’t, relax. I remember thinking I could ward off a phone call from the principal, police or even the morgue, by manipulating the circumstances so he couldn’t or wouldn’t get in to a bad situation. This is not a four year old you can send to his room. They have keys, they have friends who will lie for them and they have a free will to choose their own direction. Be actively involved, cautious and a good parent, but realize you cannot be all-seeing, always present, and all-knowing. Relax! I did get calls from the police, but never from the morgue, don’t live and react out of your fears, live and react to the present circumstance. Don’t make things worse than they are.

Fourth, get a good support system in place for yourself. If you are married, do not add to your stress by being a divided team. A united front is critical and refreshing, even to the troubled teen. We began to “hear out” our son and then go to a different room to come together as parents on our decision, rather than try to reach a decision in front of him. Differences in parenting style will become glaringly evident with the tension of parenting a teen in trouble. It is very critical that even if you are not united initially on a decision or approach to a situation, you get away together and come out as a team. As mentioned before, the blame game is devastating, whether you play it with your self or your spouse, so stay on each others side through this. There will often be the “good cop/bad cop” in any couple who parents. Remember that both of you have the same goals, hopes and dreams for your child although your approaches may be different. Focus on each others heart, rather than each others methodology. If you are a single parent, get a trusted friend who is willing to take calls at anytime of the day or night and will be a steady support for you. Find friends and family who can offer support, not condemnation for you and your child. We found our most valuable resource to be older parents who had walked a similar path and could encourage us on our journey. Also, we found the police and school officials to be a resource and realized they are on our team. Work with them in a respectful manner that can be a model to your child. It is not their fault either.

Finally, remember that the goal through this is to all come out together. Imagine you are shooting the rapids. Don’t spend time shouting about why you are in the rapids. Hang on to each other and try to come out the other side all still in the same boat. Words and actions at this time can have far-reaching and life long effects on you and your child. When words are being spoken in anger and out of fear, things can be said, that you will quickly regret. If your teen is escalating a situation with angry, painful words, you can deescalate by refusing to raise your voice and return words in kind. This will take maturity and an amazing amount of self-control, but remember you are the parent, so act like one. No matter what action is required on your part to get your teen the help they need, you must communicate your unconditional love and the strength of your relationship through this time. In our situation, our son needed to live out of the home for a period of time. We constantly reaffirmed our love for him, although he could not live with us for a time. One time on the phone, he shouted “This does not feel like love.” And I told him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you will look back and realize the incredible amount of love it took to put you in a safe place. The foundation of all decisions you make must be love that does not depend on a particular response at the time, but a love that is looking down the road for the best in the end.

Parents, hang in there. These are awesome kids who you love and have poured your heart and soul into. Even in the midst of their wrong decision making, they do love you, in spite of what they say. They are watching you to see if the anchors that have moored their lives in the past will hold true in the present. Whether this is a long path, with no end in sight, or a short path, hang in there. You need to hang in there for your spouse, your other children and yourself. There can be bright hope, even when all seems like darkness and confusion. Look up, look ahead and keep putting one foot in front of the other.


Copyright © May 2007 – Cynthia Workman. All rights reserved.


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