More Resources for Parents of People with Addiction

Worried ParentsThis month there is a very interesting article in Money Magazine, These Parents are Cutting Off Their Opioid Addicted Children: And it’s the Toughest Decision of their Lives by Kristen Bahler. It speaks to the very difficult choice many parents in this position face, financially. As with everything else, there is no singular path that people should follow in every situation. However , a lot of parents eventually come to a point where, partial, or even complete, withdrawal of financial support ultimately is the “right” answer.

My training in substance abuse is limited, so I don’t recommend that you consider taking these steps without consulting with a substance abuse professional. Nevertheless, because of the pervasiveness of addiction in our culture, I still find myself working with people around these issues. It’s a tricky issue for parents and I can completely relate to the temptation to try to do what initially feels like being the most supportive parent you can be and then ultimately realizing that you are enabling your child’s unhealthy choices and behavior. I think it’s a normal process that most go through until they find a balance of what’s right for them.

One thing I will say, overall…I definitely recommend that setting financial boundaries, as well as personal ones, work best when framed in a firm yet loving/accepting way. This is a hard skill to learn. Therapists and support groups can provide guidance about how to do this. I also really like the CRAFT program, which I have written about, previously. The main reason I make this recommendation actually isn’t for the parents’ benefit, it’s for the addicted family member.  It’s easier for people to step onto the challenging path towards recovery when they know that your love is, and will always be, there for them.  Shame and humiliation only serves to make people feel worse about themselves and gives them more reason to avoid their feelings with intoxication.  You have to walk the line of loving acceptance and logical boundaries. Remember, love doesn’t mean doing everything they expect of you.

There is one critical detail that I think a lot of parents, and even some professionals, overlook when parents are stuck in rescue mode. It’s important to understand that there is a subtle message that is communicated when we repeatedly bail out our kids, “I don’t think you are capable of solving this problem or even figuring out how to attempt to solve this problem,” and, “It’s my job to protect you from all of life’s stresses and discomforts.” The biggest problem with this underlying message is that everyone’s life involves being able to tolerate discomfort and solve problems. These are core life-skills that we all need to learn, one way or another, and the only way to do this is through uncomfortable experience, making mistakes, and becoming more skilled over time. This taps into my favorite thing to teach people about, having a Growth Mindset.  I encourage you to check it out.

Getting back to the Money article, there are several resources listed that can be helpful to parents. I will link them here for your convenience.

  • Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) – a faith-based network of parent-volunteer run support groups, including two weekly telephone groups if there isn’t an in-person group close to you. They have a specific, education driven series of presentations, and these resources are available on their website.
  • Learn to Cope – online forum for family members of addicted loved ones.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – a government website that, among tons of information and resources, includes several different 24/7 information and treatment referral hotlines.
  • Al-Anon & Nar-Anon – volunteer, peer-run groups focusing on educating and supporting loved ones affected by addiction. Based on the 12-step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Grief Recovery After Substance Passing – a community of support groups who have lost loved ones to addiction and overdoses.

Teaching a Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, PhD (video)

The following TED Talk in this post is another video of Dr. Dweck, this time addressing some of the do’s and don’ts for how to parent or teach (or, I would argue, live your life) in a way that fosters the growth mindset.  Below is a summary of her points:

  • Don’t simply praise a child for the effort they put forth.
  • Don’t react to mistakes and failures with anxiety, concern, and consequences.
  • Praise for effort needs to be given within the context of feedback about the quality of the results of their efforts. Parents and teachers can help kids by encouraging effort but they ALSO:
    • talk about areas where the child can improve or do differently the next time.
    • provide opportunities to deepen their understanding of the material and revise their work to try again.

For more information regarding this way of thinking, be sure to check out the other items in Skills Worth Working On, by clicking on the “Growth Mindset” tab.

International Bullying Prevention Association

intl-bullying-prev-assocThe International Bullying Prevention Association provides resources, training, and information regarding the prevention of bullying, pulling from the latest in scientific research.  Periodically, they host webinars that are geared towards parents and educators, for free!  You can register to participate when it is happening live or, if you are a member (which costs $25 at the time of this post), you check out their webinar archives at your leisure.  Additionally, they host an annual conference to discuss the latest research and programs that are being used successfully.

Wise Minded Parenting: 7 Essentials for Raising Successful Tweens + Teens by Laura Kastner, PhD

Wise Minded ParentingDr. Kastner is a developmental psychologist, which means that she is very well acquainted with what research tells us about how the brain grows and learns across the lifespan.  She is a colleague of Dr. Marsha Linehan (the founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and combines the powerful, research validated work of Dr. Linehan with her own vast knowledge of children.  This book is the result.  It is one that I haven’t read yet but it’s joining my “to read” pile.  I decided to put it up on the site now, before having read it personally, because I have recently seen a video of Dr. Kastner speaking publicly and I think she has a wonderful, informed approach AND communicated these thoughts in an understandable manner.  Not only do I suspect that this will be a very helpful resource for any parent, my hope is that this book will particularly make a great companion to Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey, ACSW, LCSW-C.  Reviews indicate that Dr.Kastner gives lots of concrete examples of things to say and do when intervening with your child.  If you want to hear more from Dr. Kastner, jump on over to Teen Extremes: Regulating Moods in the Age of Anxiety with Dr. Marsha Linehan & Dr. Laura Kastner.  Her talk starts around the 40 minute mark.

Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens by Laura S. Kastner PhD & Jennifer Wyatt, PhD

getting to calmI intend to get around to reading this myself.  My “to read” book pile is quite high at the moment.  So many wonderful ideas, so little time!  However, on surface glance, it appears that it would be a quality resource to recommend to parents who are in the throws of struggling with their excessively moody teen.

Teen Extremes: Regulating Moods in the Age of Anxiety with Dr. Marsha Linehan & Dr. Laura Kastner

There are two presenters in this video.  The first is Marsha Linehan, PhD.  She is the psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and is highly regarded in the field of psychology.  DBT was developed to work with people who meet the criteria for Boarderline Personality Disorder.  (Note: If you haven’t yet read my view of the strengths and limitations of labeling a person with a diagnosis, I encourage you to check that out.)  Over time, research has shown that DBT concepts also work well with other people who generally experience intense emotions that make them feel out of control.  Not surprisingly, a lot of her ideas apply quite nicely to raising teens, particularly those teens who are having a difficult time keeping their emotions in check.  Not an unusual concept in the world of adolescence, right?

The second presentor is Laura Kastner, PhD.  This is the first I’ve come across her but I enjoyed her approach and her presentation.  She is a developmental psychologist and is able to talk a lot about what current research is telling us about what the strengths and challenges of the developing teen brain are.  She goes on to give examples of how parents can most effectively intervene with their teenagers, particularly during high emotion times.

I want you to be aware that Dr. Linehan’s speaks extensively about suicide.   This is because, in its original form, DBT was developed to work specifically with individuals who had frequent suicide attempts. In the clinical world, these are individuals who are often intolerant of their own intense emotions and have no coping strategies to help them through. DBT helps them through. Now that DBT is an established form of therapy, research is starting to show that the techniques are just as powerful a way of helping people who struggle with intense emotions for a variety of other reasons not the least of which being the turmoil of adolescence. Just because you or someone you love struggles with “regulating” their intense emotion does not mean that they are suicidal or risk of committing suicide but because Dr. Linehan set out to make her life’s work out of working with people who experience the incredibly deep emotional pain, it is through that framework that she describes some of the many techniques that are a part of DBT therapy.

This talk explains some of the concepts you will find in a book that I recommend and  wrote a review on, Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey, ACSW, LCSW-C.  The talk does get fairly technical at times because both of these women are not only therapists, but research scientists too.  Try to not sweat over some of the more complex terms they use and just focus on the stuff the more concrete examples they give.  This is a talk that was given to an audience of parents and professionals.

This is the first time that I have come across Dr. Kastner and I enjoyed her perspective so much that I’ve added her (and a co-author, Dr. Jennifer Wyatt’s) book, Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens, to my (increasingly long) reading list. I am grateful to both of the speakers for allowing this talk to be available for free to the general public.

Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey, ACSW, LCSW-C

Parenting a Child Who Has Intense EmotionsA truly insightful book that helps parents to step out of the power struggles that we adults can so easily find ourselves in with children and teens who experience emotions in a big way.  Kids who seem to blow-up over nothing, struggle with transitions, seem to be constantly challenging adult authority, or be intent on badgering you into submission for whatever they want are actually really struggling.  They don’t like feeling out of control like this but don’t yet have the skills they need to calm themselves down, to soothe themselves, and to handle things in a calmer manner.

Often our first impulse as parent is to come down harder on these kids, grappling with the feeling that we have lost control of a situation that we “should” be in control of and trying to re-establish a sense authority.  We put a great deal of pressure on ourselves to fix the problem and this stress makes us even more likely to lose our temper.  We find ourselves reacting in ways that we never would have imagined back in the days when having a child was a dream and not yet reality.  We wonder, “How have I come to be a person who yells, physically intimidates, or even possibly gets into physical altercations with my kid?”  We think, “I have punished them with every consequence I can think of and nothing works!”  We worry, “How is all of this conflict affecting our other children?” and “What will become of my child if we don’t get this turned around?”

The reality is that these kids respond VERY poorly to attempts to dominate them and punish them into compliance and it only serves to escalate the arguments and tension in the household while, at the same time, make them feel worse about themselves. Secondary problems can crop up like depression and suicidal thoughts.

What else is there to do?  Based firmly in scientific research, this book helps parents understand the emotional struggles that kids like this are grappling with and how miserable they really feel when their emotions are out of control.  It helps you find ways to show your child or teen that you love them, understand that they are struggling, and gradually teach them coping strategies that can help them to regulate their emotions.  Additionally, it helps parents to set limits and expectations that are realistic and even therapeutic.  If you have been reading this review and have been brought to tears by how much this describes your life with your child, I truly can’t recommend this book enough.

I would also like to add a message of hope.  Kids and adults who tend to experience their emotions very intensely also have many strengths and can “use their powers for good.”  These are folks who are passionate and tenacious.  They are artistic.  They feel the pain of other’s deeply and care about making positive changes in the world.  When they learn to harness their feelings constructively and focus their energies on projects that interest them, the things that they are capable of is incredible!  Looking through the “lens” of the medical model, labels/diagnoses that are often connected to these types of kids are: ADHD, ODD, Asperger’s, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.  I caution you to only lean on labels like this for what they can do for you.  Often labels like this cause harm because some people take it to mean that something is “wrong” with them; that they are “broken.”  I don’t think this is a helpful or healthy perspective.  You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

So, if you are struggling with a child who has intense emotions, get this book.  Also, I urge you to strongly consider finding a therapist (or two) who has experience working with children/teens AND who has experience using the theoretical framework this book is based on, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy).  This is a tough road to go alone for both the child and the parent.  If you are at your wit’s end, it can also help a great deal for you (together with other parental figures in the home) to have your own therapist to guide you though the process, helping to shift your approach with your child to one that teaches emotion regulation instead of constantly doing battle with them.  Ideally, signing release forms so the two therapists can coordinate the work they do with your family will help the process to be as effective and efficient as possible.

PS – You may also want to check out this video, Teen extremes: Regulating Moods in the Age of Anxiety, as it based on the DBT concepts described in the book and presented by Dr. Marsha Linehan, the actual psychologist who developed DBT.

* I don’t make any money from the books that I recommend.  My reviews are solely based on wanting to let people know what’s out there and could be helpful to them.

The Work-Smart Academic Planner: Write It Down, Get It Done by Peg Dawson EdD & Richard Guare PhD

Work-Smart Academic PlannerA review of this is yet to come. I have ordered my copy… just learned that this planner exists! Amazon reports that it’s geared to kids in 6-12th grades.  These authors have two other books that I recommend, Smart but Scattered & Smart But Scattered Teens.  The authors’ do a great job of making things understandable in a way that doesn’t leave the reader feeling stupid.  When you struggle with these skills, it can be easy to get down on yourself. These authors can do a great job of pulling you back up to feeling like you are smart and capable. So, this letter might be worth having.

* I don’t make any money from the books that I recommend.  My reviews are solely based on wanting to let people know what’s out there and could be helpful to them.

Smart But Scattered by Peg Dawson, EdD & Richard Guare, PhD

Smart but ScatteredWhile I own this book, I have not had a chance to give it a read. It is geared towards parents of 4-13 year-old kids.  You can check out my review of their companion book, Smart but Scattered Teens, which I suspect is pretty similar to this one. Additionally, in creating this review, I was excited to learn that they now have a Work-Smart Academic Planner that I will be reviewing as soon as I get my hands on a copy!

 

* I don’t make any money from the books that I recommend.  My reviews are solely based on wanting to let people know what’s out there and could be helpful to them.

Smart But Scattered Teens by Richard Guare, PhD, Peg Dawson, EdD, and Colin Guare

Smart but Scattered TeensWith a sense of humor and practicality, the authors of this book provide concrete, step-by-step ways to take a look at your teen’s (and yours!) strengths and weaknesses in terms of organization and planning. They then provide information about how people’s brains work and how having “executive functioning” challenges effects people’s day-to-day lives.  They guide you through ways to improve these types skills with respect and compassion. The thing I like most about this book is that they emphasize that people with very smart brains can struggle with these skills. Geared to the 13 and up crowd, they also have companion books for younger kids (Smart but Scattered) as well as a new, Work-Smart Academic Planner that I’m excited to be checking out!

* I don’t make any money from the books that I recommend.  My reviews are solely based on wanting to let people know what’s out there and could be helpful to them.