Sunday, November 16, 2008

Trouble with Teens

It seems that many people in Louisville are struggling with angry teens. Both boys and girls are pitching fits, screaming at parents, and refusing to go to school. Today, there was an excellent article in the Courier-Journal and, in case you didn't see it, I thought I'd share it with you. Hope to see you soon!

"Yes, you have to clean your room. No, you can't go to the party. Yes, you have to ride the school bus. GET UP!
Patricia Lorenz knows how hard it can be raising teens, and she knows it four times over.
"They fray the apron strings by being obnoxious little twerps," said Lorenz, whose brood is now grown, out of the house and doing great. "But that's their job. I don't ever remember wishing I could drop them off somewhere."
In Nebraska, that's exactly what's happening under a safe haven law that has stressed-out parents abandoning children as old as 17 without fear of prosecution. While the intent of such laws is to allow desperate mothers safe options for unwanted newborns, safe haven in Nebraska has gone awfully wrong, or is it terribly right?
Raising teenagers -- still kids in some ways, but old enough and big enough to think of themselves as full-in-control adults -- can be a frustrating experience far different from any other, parents say. And unlike the baby years, where there are new parents' gatherings, and relatives eager to help out, the teen parenting years can feel isolating and scary.
Some experts say the parents of teens who have turned their kids over to the state probably made a tough choice.
"In some ways what they're doing is an incredibly noble thing to do," said Betty Londergan, author of "The Agony and the Agony: Raising a Teenager Without Losing Your Mind."
"You can get so sideways with your kids, and to actually reach out for help is an incredibly valiant thing to do, as opposed to hitting them, or worse," she said.
Londergan, with a 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and her husband, Larry Schall, moved to Atlanta from Swarthmore, Pa., three years ago. That made it difficult for Schall to spend regular quality time with his three kids from his first marriage. His son, then in ninth grade, grew increasing defiant and difficult to control.
After the teen disappeared for nearly two weeks, and faced other problems, the family spent thousands of dollars and months in agony for the teen to live for two months in a therapeutic wilderness program, followed by an alternative boarding school earlier this year. Schall says his child, now 17, is in a far better place.
"I know I am in a very small group of parents that could even consider doing this kind of intervention," Schall said. "And now (the teen's) college savings are gone. I would do the same today as I did a year ago. The experience has been transformative for all of us."
Those parents and others around the country have been closely following the saga in Nebraska. The state, the last in the nation to enact a safe haven law, didn't specify an age limit for child abandonments, making it the broadest measure on record and opening the floodgates for children as old as 17.
Since the law went into effect in July, 30 children have been dropped off at state-licensed hospitals. Many are teens and nearly all are older than 10, with some from as far away as Georgia, Michigan and Iowa.
Several parents or guardians who left children in Nebraska reported out-of-control behavior.
"Those people are saying, 'I've done the best I can and I can't do it anymore,' " said Dr. Jason Stein, a family therapist in Los Angeles. "That is a very telling piece of the story. It goes to the humility of being a parent. It's easy to judge and chastise these people, but they're actually making a very proactive decision, albeit not necessarily the best one."
Londergan and Schall, both 54, along with other parents of adolescents, empathize with the relentless pressure and frustration that come with the territory. The stress, they said, can be an isolating experience unique to the age.
Lorenz, 63, remembers it well. She divorced her husband after three kids and seven years of a troubled marriage. She remarried and had a fourth child, only to divorce again. Never earning more than $28,000 a year, she struggled alone, living in Wisconsin, far from relatives.
Now enjoying life on the flip side in Largo, Fla., Lorenz said she had kids in college every year for 17 years while making it as a writer, supporting her family working on radio commercials and renting out bedrooms to airline pilots passing through.
"It wasn't easy and it hurt twice as much when one of the kids rolled their eyes at me in disgust," she said.
While sympathy runs high for a parent dealing with a colicky infant, a towering teen screaming at a parent in a public place is more apt to bring annoying glares than soothing condolences from onlookers.
"Parents are almost always blamed," said Dr. Norman Hoffman, a family therapist in Ormond Beach, Fla., and author of the book "Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents."
"It's like, 'What did I do wrong?' But there's hope in every city and every state. It's just a matter of understanding the ways in which to work with the system. You have to fight, you have to scream and shout for services."
"It's a tightrope that we walk for 18 years," Lorenz said. "Click your heels and say hallelujah because your struggles are going to make your children more capable and more interesting."


Tony Dollars said...

This is my commitment to the same!

drnorm said...

Although there are many cases of "Bad Parents" who raise children in a dysfunctional environment, and produce offspring that cause serious interpersonal, social and legal problems, we rarely notice "good parents" whose children behave in a similar manner. This is because society has bought the belief that "there are no bad children, only bad parents.

For further information on the subject of how to identify and raise difficult children, see: drnorm's Blog at: