This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Teen Privilege Dilemna

Need some advice.  Kitty (17yo) is emotionally only 6yo.  Since her last release from residential treatment (released because she was emotionally and mentally unable to complete the program), she began attending a special school for emotionally disturbed kids which only has 15 kids in it.  She is finally fairly stable, although her new job through the school vocational program has her running at right on the line of being too stressed.

Against my better judgement, we allowed her to have an iPod last year, which has internet and texting capability, with the idea that if she could handle it, we might allow her to get a cell phone like her younger (13 and 16yo neurotypical) siblings, and if she couldn't then we'd have concrete justification for not allowing it.  She became obsessed with watching YouTube videos, and reading anime.  Although generally she seemed to stick to appropriate sites, she definitely uses it as an means to isolate.

The main problem was the texting.  She was texting biofamily and many friends and it was triggering her during a time when she was very unstable.  I told her she had to stop, and while she complained, she did.  When she got stable, we allowed texting again.

So here's the dilemma.  Two weeks ago, she was spending the day at Grandma's house.  She texted an old boyfriend and invited him over, meeting him in the front yard of Grandma's house deliberately without letting anyone know what she was doing.  She was eventually discovered, and tried to imply that Hubby and I knew about it and it was no big deal.  Luckily nothing scary happened, but the grandparents feel used and more  concerned about supervision.  We had several big problems with all this:

  1. Ex-boyfriend is older (graduated high school 2.5 yrs ago- she's only a junior).  He apparently washed out of the military and is in junior college.  Emotionally she's only 6, so it's really an even bigger age/experience gap.
  2. When they were "dating" they were uber supervised at all times (he was a senior, she was only a freshman).  However, she had secretly arranged to meet him at church a couple of times and snuck off to see him in the parking lot.  Luckily, she's immature and has been sexually abused (not luckily she was abused, but you know what I mean) so I'm almost positive nothing more serious than kissing happened.  He dumped her because she wouldn't sleep with him and proceeded to date and dump several of her friends.  She was extremely distraught over it all and it contributed to some of her self-harming and suicidal issues.  
  3. She knows we don't approve of the relationship, even as friends, because she's just barely stable and we can't chance her becoming triggered and unstable again.  Especially unsupervised.  Especially without Grandma knowing about it.  And she chose to meet him anyway.
  4. She still thinks what she did was OK, because she disagrees with me about my reasons for not letting her hang out unsupervised with this boy.  She thinks she can handle being around him without becoming unstable, and maybe she can, but she's not able to see what triggers her and she's not very rational at the best of times.  She doesn't get it that sneaking around damages trust and only hurts her "case" about being ready for teenage privileges.

So I took her iPod away for an indeterminate amount of time.  She wants to know what she can do to earn it back and is constantly asking/ demanding/ whining/ bargaining and threatening for it's return.  I'm torn.

  • Part of me wants to just give it back to her, even though I don't think she's capable of handling it, because she's trying to blackmail me with giving up (why bother doing what she's supposed to do if she can't have _______ - today it's texting), isolating even more than usual, and that she sees no point in doing chores if she doesn't get to ________(-today it's texting)...  
  • Part of me says this was an experiment to see if she could handle the responsibilities and the internet, and the reality is she can't, so continuing to leave it as a possibility is cruel and I should just get rid of it now and deal with the fall out.  
  • Opinions?


Lisa said...

Don't give it back for now. Set up three or four reasonable goals for her to meet to revisit the issue, but don't expect her to actually get it back anytime soon. Put it completely in her lap by saying, "I know you would like this privilege and I will be happy to give it back as soon as YOU show me that you can be responsible." Responsible can mean working in therapy, doing chores, whatever it is that she is threatening to quit on since her immediate sense of entitlement cannot be quenched RIGHT NOW!! When teens act like that - threatening to stop trying, or the barely veiled threats of some type of retribution, they are trying to blackmail us into doing their bidding. They put us in the position of being the bad guy even though their direct defiance of our terms and conditions for even having the device to begin with is blatant. The fact that she does not see the error of her ways is problem number one. That is immaturity at its finest and the number one reason for her not to have this privilege. I sound like such a hard-a$$ don't I? I have lived and learned. I so desperately wanted my kids to be normal and fit in that I "tried" too many things to see how they would handle them, when in truth, I could clearly see how immature they were for their ages. I wanted to be fair, I wanted them all to have the same opportunities for social growth as their neurotypical siblings had. If they had diabetes I wouldn't worry so much about everyone having the same size piece of cake, and yet I was consumed with treating every one in (chronological) age appropriate ways and it bit me in the butt big time. Now I may seem very rigid and unforgiving, but in reality I am just sick of always having to defend my decisions (so I don't). So much of what our kids do is "typical teen stuff" but with the added twist of mental illness and all the other crap thrown on top which may make risky behaviors downright DANGEROUS. I just keep looking at every single thing I do or do not allow in terms of safety. Could she have an IPod with only preapproved music and all other features disabled? That would be the only thing I would let her do at this point. Her stability is very important to her well being and how can she maintain that when she keeps inviting instability into her life?

marythemom said...

Lisa - Wow, you said EXACTLY what I'm feeling, except for one thing. Asking her to show me she can be responsible is something she CAN'T actually accomplish; therefore I'm torturing us both, dangling a privilege over her head for responsibilities that I know she's can't handle (she's still working on basic stuff and probably always will be).

In the past I've "put it in her lap" and truthfully I've done that this time too because I keep wanting to give her "typical teen stuff," but the more I think about it the more I realize that's unfair to her. By leaving it up in the air, she continues to feel tortured and like I'm being unfair. It's damaging our relationship. She lives in a black and white, short-term world.

I left this up in the air for several weeks while I thought about it. During these weeks, I gave her some things to do to help repair the relationships and show me she's capable of handling this and she's done... nothing. She says she has written a restitution letter to Grandma and a letter to me about why she should get her iPod back, but she didn't give it to anyone and now she's lost them. Of course she believes it's the thought that counts.

We've had several talks about the "issues" including why I felt the boy and her behavior were inappropriate, and she can't/won't see my concerns. Another reason I know she's not ready.

I've offered her the iPod with the internet feature disabled, and she doesn't want it.

Thanks for your response. I try not to need all this validation, but it really does help to know that someone else "gets it."


Anonymous said...

Hi, We have the same issues with our 15 yo dd, minus the texting friends part (as she has no friends.) We finally came up with a solution that works for us: The ipod is completely locked and in our possession during the school week. On weekends it is unlocked and given to her for limited time periods during the day, but it goes away at bedtime because that's when the "inappropriate video watching" tends to occur. My dd also knows we can and will review what she is watching/doing.

I've gotten where I really hate all these electronic gadgets. They've caused us a lot of grief!

RADMomINohio said...

I agree with what everyone has said on here. I too hate these gadgets, but they are part of the world today and their peers have them and the schools are teaching kids how to use them as they are becoming incorporated in almost every job out there.
I loved how Lisa says "Show me" not "Earn the right to have" I struggle with this not coming out of my mouth automatically in these types of things, but we know that it implies that they are not good enough right now to have it and it's taken as a judgement. But I've also learned that deep down, these kids feel like "why even try" because they are how they are and they will not get better. My niece would sabotage her end result to show everyone that she can't. It's that perceived helplessness. They won't try because they lack the self esteem to do it. I have a hard time separating the strength behind their dedication to be in control and the strength they can use to work hard at making the right choices. They just have to see it over and over again.. and again, to get that they can get stronger and do things that they felt they couldn't before. I feel, barring other issues, that it's a decision they have to make, to give a little hope, a little light, over to you to show them the way. What I've done is come up with goals that you will feel demonstrate enough responsibility to have her IPod back, even if it's just on weekends, which I think is a great idea as a shorter term goal. Then separate the goals from yourself by being on her "team" and helping her achieve them. Let her know that you are there to help her and cheer her on and congratulate her when she is making those good decisions that will help her reach her goal. I believe that the journey is just as important or sometimes more important then the reaching the end goal. I also believe that sometimes we have to take a step backwards to take two steps forward. She has created an opportunity to grow. I just wish she was younger and had more years to grow under you roof.