How do I know if it’s the right thing to do?
Instinct vs. Logic
When parents think about getting help for their child with a residential program like Venture Academy, they often have difficulty considering the prospect of “sending my child away”. Of course, this runs counter to our parenting instinct – that is to keep our kids close and at home. While it is common practice for thousands of Canadian parents to send their child to boarding school every year (and for the years following), sometimes parents can feel guilty for thinking about any option away from home. Yet, we recognize our kids are suffering and we are concerned about their safety, well-being, and future especially in their immediate environment where all the triggers are, like drugs or poor choice of friends. We are faced with the choice of “sending them away” or risk “losing them all together”.
“Sending them away” feels dismissive, hopeless – like we are giving up in some way. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When adolescents are admitted to Venture Academy parents are putting love and concern into action. They are investing, sacrificing, advocating and hoping for their child – they are providing their child with the best treatment available. They are giving them a gift that very well may save their lives.
It’s important to know that a child being admitted for treatment at Venture Academy is not “sending them away”. Rather, it is the fulfillment of the most important of parental responsibilities – that is to help your child the best way you can. It is an opportunity to access the best private behaviour treatment program in the nation and the “sending them away” is really accessing the best for them.
Guilt & Blame
At times, parents may feel guilty, like they have failed in some way when asking for help. We can have an unrealistic expectation that any and all help should come from home, from me (the parent). But, we regularly invite professionals and experts to help our children in ways they are better prepared than we to do so. Examples are teachers, dentists, doctors, coaches, etc. The same is true for Venture Academy. You are asking us to come alongside you, provide expert intervention, assessment, and treatment that we can uniquely provide in our environment with our expertise – with the goal for your child to return home better equipped to function as a healthy, positive, productive member of your family.
There are times when accessing help away from home is part of the healing process, part of what is needed therapeutically for change to occur. We all have experienced needing time away – time away from work, from a problem, a relative or even our spouse. How even more important this time away is when there is heightened conflict! So many parents report that they feel like they are always on edge, walking on eggshells or waiting for the next “shoe to drop”. There is escalating tension in the home and between one or more family members. It is hard for anyone to heal in that environment – and often weekly counselling or parenting groups just isn’t enough as the daily interactions and conflicts still remain making it nearly impossible to implement recommendations discussed during counseling sessions. Taking time away from one another can be just what the doctor ordered! (and it literally is sometimes with a psychologist or psychiatrist or doctor referral).
We see time and time again how the time apart is an important, even necessary part of the healing process.
Starting with our Intervention & Assessment program, time away serves much like a RESET button. The pattern of negative behaviors and unhealthy relationship dynamics is interrupted. Parents and siblings can catch their breath, get the family back to “normal” and be better prepared emotionally to re-engage the relationship with their child/sibling, as our student is doing the same. We will help guide this process to ensure that old habits and patterns are not repeated, and new healthy, balanced (respectful) relationships begin to reform.
Giving Your Child a Fighting Chance
(…away from everything that is dragging them down)
Another important variable to consider is WHAT you really are sending your child away FROM. In order for a fighting chance for change to be made, our kids usually need time away from the powers that are influencing them negatively and supporting the behaviors you are concerned about. These are most usually a negative peer group (in person, via social media or both) and drugs. Your child’s resistance to change is often fostered by these environmental factors – primarily the messaging and influence of a “negative” peer group that supports the behaviors that parents are most concerned about. Some examples include, rejecting of parent’s values and involvement in their lives, minimization of the importance of school, support for smoking, drinking and drug use, etc. Because teens are so easily influenced by their peers, resistance is fostered by the importance they place on what their friends think (not their own intrinsic values and principles). This is why it is so difficult for kids to make the changes they are being asked to make as they remain in the same environment and under the same influence of their peers. They don’t have a fighting chance. Not until they are separated from these influences.
Will my child hate me for sending him or her away for treatment?
It doesn’t happen because the experience is healing, therapeutic and restorative. It is not a punishment and students come to appreciate the sacrifice parents made on their behalf. As parents, we often have to make difficult decisions, and this decision is no different. But, you are making it in your role (and life perspective) as an adult and parent. You should not be held hostage or compromised by fearing your child will hold this against you.
Some people In my circle of influence say sending my child away for treatment will damage the parent-child relationship.
This is simply not accurate and is an uninformed opinion even among some professionals. For many parents, the relationship is already strained, conflicted and damaged. It is counter-intuitive to think that doing nothing, or staying the course, will heal the relationship. Parents seek out help from Venture Academy in a large part because they are concerned about the deteriorating relationship. Often people who are not well informed about quality treatment interventions like Venture Academy assume that will damage the parent/child relationship, but that often has its roots in stigma, bias and lack of current knowledge and understanding of the program and its benefits.
Why do some people criticize “sending a child away for treatment” yet sending a child away to a well-intentioned relative or even a reputable preparatory boarding school (for the same intended reason) is not seen the same way?
Routinely, parents seek admission to a variety of “boarding schools” and it does not seem to carry the same stigma that getting help from a treatment center does. This is unfortunate as we regularly are contacted by parents whose child was kicked out of a boarding school for the same behavioral issues they were displaying at home, or parents realized the schools did not have the supervision and safe environment they thought (sex, drugs, fighting, negative peer groups, hazing, bullying, etc). This disparity is likely due to the stigma placed on mental health and behavioral treatment. Fortunately, this is shifting as more parents become better informed and come to appreciate the role that a high-quality treatment program like Venture Academy can play in helping their child and their family.
What if my child is adopted? Wouldn’t that trigger some abandonment issues?
This is a common misperception, often communicated to adoptive parents from professionals who do not understand the challenges parents face or the way in which informed treatment programs like Venture Academy help heal and strengthen attachment between parents and their children. Unfortunately, the end result is that adoptive parents feel trapped and without options. The fact is, adopted children do not feel abandoned because they are NOT abandoned. We ensure that parents and children remain connected and in communication, and the whole purpose of treatment is to heal the issues that are causing strain, conflict and relationship disconnection. Living in the same home does not necessarily create a close, meaningful and healthy relationship. That has to be developed. For those with attachment issues related to the pre-adoption experiences, treatment is often needed, for both child and parent, to help ensure that their relationship can develop and become stronger over time.
Additionally, adoptive parents face many of the same behavioral challenges in their children as biological parents do – and those behavioral issues may have nothing to do with being adopted. These parents should have access to the same treatment options as biological parents, without the added hurdle of feeling guilty or fearful that they are doing something harmful by seeking help and treatment. The research just does not support such assertions.