Families can be blindsided from the craziness inflicted by a teen that has been engaging in risky and destructive behaviors. No one is spared within the family unit. Whether the teen had been actively involved in substance abuse, risky and illegal behaviors, wrestling with a mental disorder or all of the above, the end result is pain, anger, grief and distrust within the family unit.
Enrolling an adolescent in a therapeutic boarding school is a difficult task in itself, but working on healing the familial relationship is also a component of recovery. Once the teen is discharged from a residential boarding treatment center, there is a lot of work to be done before those fractured familial bonds can be restored.
When it comes to mending fences between the teen and his parents, patience is the key. While the bonds of trust can be, and probably were, shattered quickly, rebuilding trust can be a long process. Loved ones who were personally affected by the teenager’s addiction or suffered financial or legal fallout due to their criminal behavior simply stopped trusting the teen. Now that the teen has come back home trepidation can ensue. The family is exhausted and frustrated from the tumult caused by this one person, and skeptical that the teen has really changed his ways.
A teen may benefit from a parent articulating the attributes of trustworthiness, since it is a rather abstract concept. Explaining to them that a trustworthy person is someone people feel they can rely on, that people who are trustworthy have certain character traits, known for their reliability, honesty and determination.
There are several actions the teen can take to actively rebuild his trustworthiness. Trust-building will proceed in fits and may take awhile to result in a healed family system, so instant results shouldn’t be expected. Teens can take the following into consideration to start rebuilding trust with family members:
Forgiveness. It isn’t easy to forgive someone, no matter how much you love them, who has caused so much pain and chaos. As hard as it is to forgive wrongdoings, forgiveness is essential to restoring the possibility of trust and intimacy within the family. If you haven’t already done so, ask your loved ones, with humility and sincerity, to forgive your past actions.
Stay the course. Trust-building depends on your consistent efforts. Continued sobriety, making sound choices, following through, keeping your word; trustworthiness is not a given, it must be earned.
State your goals. Because you have lost credibility, it helps to share with your family members exactly what your behavioral goals are. This will force you to be accountable to others and help you to build a sense of responsibility and dependability, which will feel really good.
Keep your promises. Before making any promise, think first and consider if you will really keep that promise. Your word is all you ever really have, so a broken promise has damaging consequences. Remember what you promise someone, and do the things you promise.
Control your impulses. Whether this pertains to substance abuse or behavioral health disorders, your loved ones need to witness you actively involved in the practice of sobriety. Attend AA or NA meetings, participate in family therapy sessions and cease to hang out with the people who can bring you down, might get you back into using or participate in criminal behaviors. These actions will demonstrate to your family how committed you are to earning back their trust.
Communicate. Admit your fears, share when you feel tempted to return to destructive behaviors, ask for help when you feel you are losing control. No one loves you like your family, so reach out to them openly and honestly when you need help.
Chill. Expect to feel frustrated for awhile. No teen likes to feel that their every move is being monitored and questioned, or their privacy constantly invaded. But these are consequences directly related to the broken bonds of trust that your prior behaviors have resulted in. Expect your family members to watch you closely until you have demonstrated enough consistency to earn their trust back.
Parents are not necessarily off the hook with rebuilding trust either. If a parent expects their son to display the character traits that result in trustworthiness, then that parent needs to model such behaviors. By treating others with respect, keeping their own promises and being reliable, parents will exhibit the behaviors they expect from their children.
In addition, it is important to verbally reinforce the efforts the teen is making as he works to regain trust. The parents need to let him know they noticed he kept his word, made his curfew, followed through on something he promised he would do; he is doing his schoolwork and turning it in on time, and that he is adhering to the rules. When the teen meets these benchmarks, parents should acknowledge it and commend him. This creates an encouraging environment that motivates their son to please them and helps him to, once again, find himself trustworthy.
For more information on White River Academy’s therapeutic boarding school for adolescent males and to read patient reviews, call 866-520-0905 or visit www.whiteriveracademy.com.