Posts Tagged ‘rules’

When it’s Time to Take “ACTION”

I’ve never been one to believe in angels. I believe in good people, kindness, and empathy, but angels were always  for someone else.

That all changed when my daughter was 15. She was depressed and having panic attacks – we were at a loss as to what was behind them. Later, we learned they were in part due to her abuse of prescription drugs, but more precisely to her feelings of hopelessness and being out of control.

Immediately after we found out about her drug use, her father and I enrolled her in a rehab program that came highly recommended by the district. We wanted to get her into therapy as soon as possible, and fortunately for us, there was a meeting that night.

We arrived at the session having no idea what to expect. After being welcomed warmly by the staff, teens and parents were segregated into separate rooms.

Cary Quashen 2When we’d all settled into seats, a tall, pony-tailed man wearing jeans and cowboy boots walked to the front of the room. He casually sat on top of a desk, looked out at all of us and introduced himself as Cary Quashen – a high-risk teen counselor.

I didn’t know it then, but Cary would be instrumental in saving my daughter’s life.

Cary talked about his passion, an organization he had founded called Action Family Counseling. Cary, himself a recovering addict 26 years sober, has dedicated his life to working with troubled teens and their families. His strong yet approachable demeanor instantly inspired confidence.

The transformation we witnessed over the next 6 weeks was remarkable. ACTION was not your typical therapeutic program – it was a liberating community – one that provided a safe place to share pain, joy, and tears, without judgment or condescension.

We were all united by our love for our children and having no idea how to support them when they were out of control. Cary explained that our kids would get better – when we became better parents.

During the final half hour, parents and children were reunited to witness new members make the commitment to become and stay sober, and to see others awarded for maintaining their sobriety. Parents were asked to publicly congratulate their kids on their progress. Hugs and cheering were encouraged; tears (which were plentiful) were voluntary.

As the weeks progressed, we watched a roomful of addicts learn new and healthy ways to cope with life’s challenges. We all wrote and signed contracts with our kids, clearly defining poor behavior and laying out specific consequences.

Many who were doing well for a time relapsed, which we learned was all part of the recovery process. The collective group of parents and kids would offer encouragement to begin again, without judgment and with 100% support.

My husband and I always left ACTION feeling energized and hopeful.

ActionFamilyCounselingLogoCary is deeply committed, and shares his cell phone number for 24 hour availability. We were deeply grateful for this – especially on one nightmarish occasion.

Late one night during her treatment, my daughter called me from her room at her dad’s house,   terrified because she was having suicidal thoughts ( this is a call no parent EVER wants to receive.)

After talking her “down” and convincing her to go find her father, my next call was to Cary Quashen.

He answered on the first ring and offered to talk to my daughter right then. His calm reassurance and strength helped us through the moment, and, we believe, prevented her from doing herself permanent harm.

We have had a first-row seat to the kind of “tough love” required to get through to troubled teens. I’ve never seen such devotion and caring for adolescents as I’ve seen from Cary and his staff. He is truly a wonder, though will shy away if you compliment him, explaining that he simply understands what these kids are going through, and wants to educate them early – to have an impact on them so they can lead long and happy lives. He is succeeding.

After our transforming experience with ACTION, our daughter recovered, but more importantly, so did we.

Oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out – Cary was OUR angel.

Cary Quashen

To learn more about Cary and ACTION Family Counseling, use these links to hear podcasts of his weekly “Families in Action” radio show on AM 1220 KHTS and Santa Clarita’s local SCVTV.

ACTION Family Counseling

“Families in ACTION” Radio Podcasts

“Families in ACTION” on SCVTV






Just A Number?

Eighteen. The magic age kids dream about – the day they’re grown-ups and can do whatever they want – stay out late!  Have anything they want pierced, tattooed, or henna’d without fear of consequence! Haha! Free at last! Free at last!

Hold on there, not so fast, hot stuff.

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, can I have some money?”

Mom: ROFL!

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, when are you gonna do my laundry! I don’t have any clothes!”

Mom: ROFL!

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Mom: “I don’t know. What’re you making?”

Neo Adult (under her breath): “This sucks!

There’s nothing more satisfying to a hard-working, battle-scarred parent-of-a-teen than the knowledge that their child will soon be paying their own bills, doing their own laundry, cooking their own dinner, and dealing with issues at the office. Sweet revenge? Misery loves company?

Not exactly. Like any of life’s hurdles (turning 40 was my all-time low), turning 18 is a terrifying time for many teenagers. Their 18th birthday is the day they peek over the precipice of adulthood – some kids embrace this moment, but others turn back and run screaming for their iPods, GameBoys, and Guitar Heroes. While this can be deliciously satisfying to unappreciated, war-torn parental egos, there are several issues that make it more complicated.

As parents, we clear so many hurdles with our kids – their first step, first word, first day in kindergarten, the “Birds and the Bees”, the first boyfriend or girlfriend, the first time they ask how to use a condom (stay cool), and the day your daughter first asks for a sanitary napkin (fathers fervently pray from the time their daughter turns 12 that she’ll tell Mom first). There are their first “questionable” friendships (see my post on GPS for tips of the trade on locating a wayward teen), and a handful of graduations that have the capacity to turn parents into blithering idiots.

In May, my first child will turn 18.

Let’s face it. Turning 18 is a Biggie. For you and your kid.

Here are a few things I have in mind that I hope will ease the transition for my children and me:

Rule #1 – To rent or not to rent. If they are not attending school, they will be working and paying to rent their own room. (No, I won’t use the money to fly to Vegas – but I will place it in their savings account, to present to them on the day they move into their first apartment. I’m not really The Wicked Witch of the West.)

Rule #2 – If they choose to smoke, they will go to the Surgeon General website and read to me, verbatim, what will happen to their health as a result. If, after saying out loud that they understand that smoking will kill them but not before making them ugly, and they’re okay with that, I won’t mention it again. However – be clear that they won’t do it anywhere near my house, my car, or my person.

Rule #3 – They will do their own laundry, feed the animals and do their part around the house (which includes on-demand shoulder rubs for Mom, to make up for shenanigans they’ve pulled over the past 18 years.)

Rule #4 – Just because they’re 18 doesn’t mean their boyfriend (or girlfriend) can venture upstairs for any reason, and under NO circumstances can they spend the night together in their room. This may sound old-fashioned to them, but I really don’t relish the thought of coming home to animal sounds coming out of my “babies'” bedrooms. I know they may be sexually active, but that doesn’t give them license to be sexually active in my house. 

Rule #5 – They WILL honor their curfew and always let me know their whereabouts (because if they don’t, I’ll find them).

Rule #6 – Rules 1-5 were created because I love them – more than they could possibly ever know – and because I want them to enjoy long, happy lives with unlimited options.

Of course there are other rules – there always are – but these are the ones that need to be understood in order for us to co-habitate during the pergatory that lies between their dependence on me and their dependence on themselves.

Ultimately, parenting is about encouraging our children towards independence, confidence, and the resulting high self-esteem. At 18, there are going to be conflicts and arguments, which need to result in a serious dismantling of their sense of entitlement. These are really challenging conversations. But for your child’s good, they need to take place and the rules need to be made clear.

I read on a parenting website recently that our children need to experience a paradigm shift once they turn 18. As legal adults, they should now behave as if they are guests in their parents’ home. This means they will treat you, your home and your belongings with respect. If you and your teenager don’t have this “come to Jesus”, the transition is going to be far more challenging. Don’t make living at your house too comfortable for them, or you’ll likely have a 40 year old kid still living under your roof!

Given, I am going through this as we speak. This is my plan (“Man Plans, God Laughs”) but I’ve got a framework for handling the changes. I will also keep my sense of humor close at all times, and remind myself that saying “No” (Vitamin N)  and enforcing rules are actually gifts that I give my children.

I am open to suggestions, experiences, comments, or whines on how you plan to handle (or are handling) moving from the role of “Mom” or “Dad” to that of “Coach”, “Friend”, “Confidante” or “Other”.

And yes, I fully expect to see at least one tattoo and larger ear gauges in June.  What the heck – gotta pick your battles, right?

For some great information from the CalBar Association on legal changes that kick in on your child’s 18th birthday, click here:

Who Are You and What Have You Done With My Kid?

“I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: ‘Checkout Time is 18 years.'” — Erma Bombeck

I heard one of my favorite parenting stories years ago while listening to an interview with a famous actress. She was asked whether or not she was afraid, now that she had a child, that her choice of career would cause emotional “damage” to her daughter and was she at all insecure about blending motherhood and career?

The actress replied, “I once knew a woman who conquered her fears of being a good parent by purchasing a piggy bank for her son at a very young age. Each time she did something she felt might not have been the best parenting choice, she put $.25 in the bank.”

“When her son turned 18, she handed him the bank and said, ‘Here, this is for therapy. I did the best I could.'”

From the moment our kids enter the world, we love and adore them like nobody else. Our children are miraculous, perfect little beings – extensions of ourselves walking around outside our bodies. Everything they do is cute, cuddly, and perfect. Ain’t parenthood grand?

Yeah. Then they turn 13. 

And 14…15…and (gasp) just when you thought you had it all under control, they’re driving! If you don’t recognize the angry, mercurial child who’s recently been living under your roof, welcome to the World of Parenting A Teen.

I love my teenagers with my entire being. My 17-year-old daughter is one of my closest friends, and I respect her opinions on many things. My 15-year-old son is one of the most confident, happy, and academically gifted kids I’ve ever known.  I know in my heart that I’m a good parent – loving, supportive, (though sometimes too “mushy” if you ask my kids) and I try to strike a healthy balance between being too permissive and being unreasonable (that there’s a blog post in itself).

However, even with the knowledge that my parenting is better than average (though far from perfect), sometimes a word, a look, or a gesture from one of my teenagers can seriously knock me off center, causing me to “adios” all previous opinions of my sweet children through the nearest window. Who are these people? Where did I go wrong? Who drew this target on my back?

Well, have no fear! Your children are still with you, though they’ll only appear when they’re sick (Momma, make me some tea! *cough*) or need money (Momma, you’re the best! About that $20 you were going to give me?)

The good news is, if you’ve done your job right, they’re growing into interesting, independent, fascinating adults. Step back sometime and listen to your conversations with your teen. What do they value? What are their interests? Are they kind, compassionate people?

The answers to these questions probably won’t be clear for a long time. The secret to surviving parenting a teen is to understand that this is a time when they’re SUPPOSED to be separating from you; they’re SUPPOSED to be spending more time with their friends than at home with the family and SUPPOSED to be exploring (and yes, questioning) the belief systems they’ve grown up with. Their job is to discover who they are in relation to the rest of the world, and ours is to coach and monitor their progress while loving them as best we can (some days this will be easier than others).

To quote my dear ol’ Dad, “Children grow up in spite of their parents.”  They’re going to be who they are, and we as parents can only love and guide them as best we can. Remember – we’re not the only influential people they will meet during their first 18 years!

It’s my fervent hope that this website will bring solace and comfort to confused and anguished parents of teens, and help prepare those of younger children and “tweens” for what’s around the corner. You can do this! With the occasional help of a teen/parent support group and lots of time spent commisserating with fellow parents, I know we’ll all make it over the “hump” to their happy, healthy, independent adulthood.

And if they never get there, we did our best, right?