Friends, raising teens is hard, and sometimes parents feel desperate – certain their child needs help, yet uncertain of where to turn. Some organizations prey on this, and many “rehabilitation centers” for troubled teens present a good facade and then abuse their teens behind closed doors. Even Paris Hilton recently revealed the abuse she suffered at a boarding school for troubled teens. Years ago my friend Sue Scheff walked through a nightmare with her daughter, and in the aftermath she founded helpyourteens.com. Sue is a nationally known parenting advocate who has helped more than 50,000 families, and it’s my honor to share her story and the guidance she can provide.
There are milestones in our daughter’s lives that many of us celebrate, such as graduating from high school, college or even getting married. And then there are monumental times that have literally shaped who we are and who they are today.
A milestone moment
When my daughter was only 6 years old, like many other young girls, she loved acrobatics and especially gymnastics. She took to it like a duck to water. By the time she was 13 years old, she was invited to a national gym to train with elite gymnasts. She was so excited – she felt her Olympic dreams were within reach. At this young age, it was her milestone moment.
In a split-second, everything changed
She was so happy! Training with some of the best gymnasts in the country, as well as the leading gymnastics coaches – she even enjoyed the schooling with her teammates.
Then one day while doing a tumbling pass, she landed badly – very badly. She broke her foot in 5 places. The doctor said it was one of the worst breaks he had seen in a long time. My daughter was determined – she wasn’t going to quit! In a cast up to her knee – she continued training.
It was about 4 to 6 months later and several doctor visits more, that she was given the bad news, the foot was not healing the way it should. She needed to take at least year off from the gym.
Her world crumbled
At 14 years old, my daughter didn’t know who she was or where she belonged. It was equal to having your first relationship break-up. Completely devastated.
Spiraling into a deep depression, she tried to figure out where she fit in by gravitating to a less than positive peer group. The next thing I knew, she was dabbling in witchcraft and turned gothic. It was clear – she was struggling to find an identity, but it was down a dark road.
This was my angel – the angel that was an altar server at our church, who always enjoyed Sunday School, loved her life – yet suddenly she had horns growing from her head and was withdrawing from her good friends and family.
Good girl, making bad choices
No one would believe me. Why would they, she was an all-star athlete, a bubbly personality, always kind to others and never gave me an ounce of trouble…. Until she did.
I felt like I was hostage in my own home. Belligerence, rage, disrespect, such ugly behavior – I was constantly walking on eggshells. I started getting calls from the school for skipping classes or other minor offenses like not wearing her ID or not tucking in her shirt – being completely defiant of the rules.
The behavior worsened. Sneaking out, running away, drinking. I felt hopeless, alone, and really helpless.
Reaching my wit’s end
Until you walk my shoes, please don’t judge me….We all know this saying, but it’s never been so true until you are dealing with a troubled teenager – especially one that is truly a good teen making some bad choices.
We went through 5 different therapists. One actually had the nerve to tell me (us), when I shared with him about the witchcraft, “it depends what type of witchcraft it is.” I was infuriated and it only empowered my daughter.
After a short hospital stay, where they medicated her with some anti-depressants and mood stabilizers that she wouldn’t take once she came home, I was at a loss. We tried out-patient therapy, but let’s face it, she’d come back home to the same negative peer influences and family conflict that she had no desire in fixing. It was a bust – we were all sinking fast.
My daughter got to the point where she refused all therapy.
I was exhausted – my mother rescued me, and took my daughter to live with her, but this was short-lived. At the end of 10 days, my mom said, “She needs help, whatever you choose, we will support you, but you need to find her someplace that can get our baby back again.”
Learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge
I would love to give you all a happy ending, which it was eventually, but probably not the way you’d expect it to be.
Immediately I jumped online grasping for help, only to be duped by sales people and a group of programs that specialized in marketing more than treating teens. I fell for the glorified websites, fancy brochures while I was at my wit’s end – so desperate to believe everything they told me and sold me.
A Parent’s True Story, our story, has been helping thousands of families since 2001. Our story shares how my daughter was harmed in a program, however through all the darkness, I won a major lawsuit which lead to the closings of many of the abusive programs and the creation of my organization, Parent Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.)
P.U.R.E. continues to educate parents on quality, safe, and nurturing teen help programs. As my daughter will share with you, she needed help – not harm. You need programs that build teens back up, not break them down. There are good schools and programs in our country, it’s about knowing how to vet them – helpyourteens.com gives you those tools. You are your child’s advocate.
This was a monumental time in our life, and it has definitely shaped where we both are today.
My daughter is doing well today, and of course, she coaches gymnastics to young girls with dreams.
Her first book, Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teens, continues to be a resource for many parents raising teens today. Sue’s latest book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, documents how cyber-shaming has become a national pastime and what we can do about it – empowering us to survive, prevent and overcome cyberbullying.
Posted by Kari on September 8, 2020