Expect to feel bad: It is normal to feel grief, sadness and guilt as you enroll your child in a residential program. Your child’s actions have devastated and/or traumatized your family and it is common to feel angry about that. Many parents feel a sense of loss when their child is gone from their home, and many experience anxiety about the rigors of a residential setting. It is common to re-examine everything you’ve done as a parent to try and figure out what went wrong.
Placing a child in a residential treatment center is one of the most difficult, and yet courageous, decisions a parent can make. Based on our personal and professional experiences, we encourage parents to prepare for a wide range of emotions and varying reactions from your family and close friends. Some will praise you. Some will not be able to understand why you have made this choice. Some friends and even family may verbally attack you for making a residential decision. They just don’t understand as they have not gone through what you have.
Expect to feel good: Many parents report no bad feelings at all when they place their child at CALO. In fact, some express tremendous relief to have their child in a safe setting. There is no wrong way to feel as your child enters treatment.
Expect your child to protest: Your child would much rather be with his own friends, sleep in his own bed, and continue life as he was living it. He will use his considerable powers of persuasion to try and talk you out of your carefully considered decision. It is reasonable to anticipate his promises of change and guilt-inducing pleas of “How could you send me away?” “I see now how much I really mean to you,” and, “Things aren’t really that bad.” Parents who decide to send their child to CALO do so with love and a determination to help. A firm grounding in this knowledge is what helps parents overcome the predictable protests from their child.
Expect to have second thoughts: At first you may be angry with your child for the disruption he created in your home and then feel a sense of relief that he is gone. However, it is also a common next response to second-guess your decision. You may question whether your response to your child’s problem was too harsh. You may ask yourself if there is something else you could have done to prevent his placement in a residential setting or if there was another way to solve the crisis.
Expect support from CALO: When you enroll your child at CALO, your child becomes part of the CALO family. When you enroll your child at CALO, you are also part of our family. We are here to help you and your child navigate this process. The CALO family support system is there to help you understand and cope with all of the issues noted in this handbook. Your key contact in our system will be your child’s therapist. It is crucial to ask that therapist for help in navigating residential treatment. Our goal is to help reduce your anxiety by thoroughly explaining how the program works and the safeguards built in for your child. Your child’s treating therapist will contact you regularly to make sure your questions and concerns are addressed. Our Leadership Team is also a resource for families with questions or concerns. If you feel you are not getting the answers you need from your therapist, please take concerns to the CALO Leadership Team. That said, the therapist is the head coach of the treatment team and we encourage continual conversation with your therapist.
This blog series has three parts. The first installment discussed what to expect on the day of enrollment and was posted on March 10, 2011. The second installment discussed common reactions students may exhibit when first arriving at CALO and was posted on March 21, 2011.