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Monday, August 2, 2010
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Subject: Teenage son Question: I am a single mother with a 15 yr. old son. I have not had any problems w/him until recently. About 2 months ago he came home drunk. I'm pretty sure he smokes pot; I'm not sure if it's often. He was truant 2 days last month and he is going to Saturday school to make up those truancies. I did not cover up for him and let the school know that he was truant.
He is planning on going to college & was an honor student up to his 1st year in high school. He is a sophomore now. He is taking college bound classes. He is very intelligent, plays a guitar, is interested in music, art and psychology. I am a recovering alcoholic and just celebrated 8 years of sobriety in July of this year. My son has never seen me drunk or on drugs. I separated from his father after 21 years of marriage because he did not want to work and he was using speed and alcohol the whole time I was sober (maybe longer, but I wasn't aware - of the drugs part).
He didn't work much and I finally got tired of it - took me a long time to let go. When my son came home drunk that night, he told me he found a letter that I had written to his father telling him that I did not want to get back together with him. My son did not know about his father's drug use. I finally told him that night, because I know that it didn't make sense to him that I did not want to get back together with his father, because his father and I are on fairly good terms.
My son told me that I don't know how much he suffered, with our fighting and yelling. That was true before I got sober, because I quite fighting w/my husband. I learned that he was also a sick person and gained empathy for him. Because he was using speed, he would crash and get in very ugly moods and lash out not at only me, but my son.
I tried to shelter my son from those things, but obviously it had a great impact on him. My son told me that he just wanted to escape sometimes. We had a long talk and he has not come home drunk since. I'm aware that it may happen again. His father live in Arizona for the 2 years that we have been separated. He and his parents came to visit this summer for about a month.
My son had not seen his grandparents for about 8 years, because they live in the Middle East. My son saw his father about 3-4 times in the 2 years that we were separated. My son did converse w/him on the computer and they spoke on the phone. His father went back w/his parents to Jordan to try and start over there, get a job, etc.
He has stopped using drugs. I'm not sure what to do with my son. He is questioning the purpose of life (which I have been told is normal) - saying he was afraid he was going to turn out like me - just working - no joy in my life. I told him that I enjoy my job and I plan on getting ahead. I told him that I have plans to go back to school and get my masters - that is my dream. I also want to live by the beach.
I told him that I made some bad choices in my life, that is why I am now trying to get ahead. I told him that throughout my bad choices I did manage to get a college education. I told him that he is one joy in my life and that my life is good. I told him that he is fortunate that he knows what he wants to do and that if he goes to school and college he will be fortunate to find a job that he loves. I told him he can start now, by interning in a place that will expose him to what his passion is, music. I told him that in this life we all have to work. If not, who was going to support him?
His parents, girlfriend, wife, the government? That seemed to register. I told him that I was not going to let him fall and I shared my experiences w/him re alcoholism and where it took me. I also explained that he was very prone to alcoholism and drug addiction. That did he think we set out to be alcoholics and drug addicts?
We too, said I'm never going to do that. I told him he could cross that line in an instant. I live in an apartment building where a lot of sober alcoholics live. He hangs out w/my best friend's daughter and her boyfriend, who smoke pot frequently. My son is very close to them. He was friends with both of them before the other 2 became involved. The share a passion for music. They all play guitar very well. The boyfriend ditches school all the time - his mother calls in sick for him.
My friend's daughter failed last year, so now she is in continuation school, but is trying really hard to get her act together to get back into regular high school. I'm trying not to be judgemental and resentful toward those kids, because I know it's not their fault that my son makes the choices that he does. He is responsible for his actions. He knows right and wrong.
I told him that too. My sponsor suggested that I tell him to bring a grade report home every Friday. The teachers sign off on it each week, that way I will know how he's doing. (My sponsor's daughter is 13 years old, which I think makes a difference.) Do you think that would be too intrusive for my son, given the peer pressure, etc. I know this is very long, I guess I needed to "talk".
Thank you very much.
Answer: Dear Sandy, Yes, you did need to talk and that is because you are raising a child, now teenager! Let's separate the issues out here. Your son is 15 years old. Developmentally he is trying to separate from you emotionally, physically and spiritually, (the last to go is financially and they are usually not in a big hurry to become financially independent like all the rest. LOL :) How teens usually complete this process is they will find the one button which brings them the most attention when they push this button in you. It didn't take me two minutes of reading your email to determine what that button would be.
You have a history, his father has a history of substance abuse. Now as for your son. He needs to know what your rules are on pot and alcohol and underage youth breaking the law. You are held just as accountable as he is, however, with the family history you need to run not walk to a center which will screen and assess your son for substance abuse issues. A screening will determine how likely the possibility is he has a problem and an assessment will determine the severity and the type of treatment he will need to recover. From the length of your letter and how much thinking you have done about all of the issues surrounding your child, I know you care about your son.
Making sure he knows it is the biggest challenge. Let go of the past. Don't look for reasons to beat yourself up or get angry that this has resurrected its addictive head after all the recovery you have completed. This is not about you, it is about your son. He is beginning his journey in life and the roads he chooses will impact him. What impacts you is observing the roads he chooses. He needs a no use rule under my roof statement from you. No this is not negotiable.
When communicating with him I can tell you probably don't need to be reminded of how to listen, listen and listen some more however this can be difficult when your heart is frozen with fear of his going down the same path you and his father chose. Sometimes in spite of how much we love our children we just do not have the power to protect them from what we have experienced. Realize this and move into acceptance and you will be able to deal with what is going on with him in the moment.
I think your recovery and experience is your strength with your son as you can speak to him about your experience, strength and hope and as you already know this is very powerful. Other than this, setting boundaries and expecting to have to reinforce these boundaries is the best you can do for your son. Parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do and the most rewarding! Please feel free to post again if I can be of further assistance.
M Kay Keller