Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
Good Intentions Gone Wrong
I often hear about adults (usually parents of teens themselves) who “take in” someone else’s teenage child. Typically, this happens because the kid isn’t getting along well with their own parents or they need a place to stay because they have either left home or been asked to leave.
Most of these adults are trying to help, but often they are only interfering. They have good intentions but they ultimately make things worse.
INTERFERING VERSUS HELPING
Let’s stop to think for a second… If you’re a parent yourself then you should be able to identify how strong the love is that you have for your child. It’s the strongest bond that exists in nature! If a child is having so much difficulty with their parent that they need to leave home, then it’s quite possible that the child is struggling with some sort of addiction.
The teen/young adult will tell you lots of sad stories about how strict their parents are, or that they are always critical of them, or that they say mean, negative, or uncaring things, etc…
FAMILY INVOLVEMENT IS KEY TO HELPING A TEENAGER
I learned a long time ago that you can’t help a teenager unless the family is involved. The story is never as it seems.
Being the parent of a child struggling with addiction is terrifying and maddening all at the same time! By the time they get to us, they have tried everything they can think of to get through to the kid, but nothing works (at least not for long).
The whole thing is EXTREMELY traumatic! In fact, most parents in this situation end up with some sort of OCD-Trauma like disorder. They feel scared all the time and that is mixed in with a constant feeling of shame and guilt because the whole thing makes them feel like a horrible parent.
To make matters worse, there is often some other adult/s (usually the parents of their child’s friend) that try to step in and help the kid. They listen to the sad story about how horrible the parents are, and they offer them a place to stay or a compassionate ear for listening.
I’ve been counseling teens for years and I know how engaging they can be (they can really spin a story!). Typically, it’s not that they are flat
out lying, mostly they just leave out important details.
Even if the parent is doing what seems to be irrational things, there’s generally a reason why they have turned into “crazy, overbearing, critical, lunatics”!
THE TEENAGER WILL SURELY LEAVE OUT THESE IMPORTANT DETAILS.
So, before you take in someone else’s child, please check with the parent to find out the rest of the story.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help others, I’m just saying you shouldn’t do it blindly! Most of the adults that I see “trying to help” other kids, by taking them in, are WAY OUT OF BOUNDS!
Are You Actually Helping the Kid??
Imagine how it must feel to have some other adult think they know what’s better for your kid (usually without even knowing the full story). IT’S DOWN RIGHT INFURIATING! Typically, it takes years to get to the point that you set some serious boundaries, with a child who is struggling with addiction, and when you finally work up the courage, some other adult steps in and begins enabling your kid.
I know it feels good to help others, but it’s important to be honest with yourself about who you’re actually helping. Are you helping yourself feel needed, or are you actually helping the kid?