The residential treatment experience is never easy, but it’s especially difficult for a teenager and her parents or caregivers. Every parent reacts differently to the situation, and most undergo an array of strong emotions. Giving up primary caregiving roles, even for a short time, can be particularly traumatic. Nevertheless, parents must be well-prepared for their daughter’s return from treatment so they can most effectively help her maintain the progress she achieved in treatment.
What Parents Think and Feel
When a child is injured or ill, parents may be filled with panic, feeling overwhelmed and helpless. When she suffers from a mental or emotional challenge, the feelings are equally frightening, but somehow different. When a child enters residential treatment, parents and guardians must step away and let the staff handle the caregiving responsibilities. Parents may fear that they’ve failed in their parenting duties or that the treatment staff is judging them. When counselors begin to make progress with the child, this feeling may even worsen. But perhaps the most disturbing of all for parents is the overwhelming feeling of anger that can develop after a few weeks of their child being away. Although this is a normal development, the anger is usually followed by a healthy dose of guilt.
While She is at the Treatment Facility
It is important for parents to become familiar with the practitioners who are helping their child and to have a clear understanding of treatment protocols and their purpose. Ask your child’s treatment team what to expect upon her return and request information that you can use to educate yourself on her condition and post-treatment expectations. Establish a support system that you can call on if you need time away.
Perhaps the most important way you can help your daughter get through the treatment experience is to talk to a counselor yourself. This can help you understand how to put the experience into perspective and help you be hopeful (rather than fearful) about the future. A counselor can also help you understand what your child is going through and coach you in the ways you can be most helpful and supportive. Be careful about discussing her situation with friends and family, however, as many people lack basic knowledge or have biases about mental health.
What to Expect When She Returns
Parents’ most common fears involve their daughters’ possible relapse and sinking back into familiar, detrimental patterns. Ask your daughter how she feels about coming home and how you can help her transition. The return to school is likely to be stressful for her and she will need to know she can count on you for support. Ensure that she complies with medication schedules, follow-up appointments and “homework” for continuing her recovery. Don’t push for a return to normal. Instead, let a new normal develop on its own time.
Havenwood Academy, a premier residential treatment facility for teenage girls, provides a supportive environment that fosters change and success. With a focus on relationships, trust and family values, Havenwood’s experiential treatment and therapy methods are designed to address many of the problems that confront young women today. Contact them today to discuss your child’s needs for residential treatment.