The Importance of Supporting Parents When Their Adolescent Is Struggling With Anxiety, Depression or Trauma
When a child or adolescent is struggling, a parent would do anything to reduce their suffering. Recent research has documented the dramatic increases in adolescent anxiety and depression and families have become acutely aware of the importance of early assessment and evidence-based treatment for their child. Parents often struggle in similar ways as their child and can question their role in their adolescent’s struggle. Were there things I could have done as a parent to prevent this? Did I miss something in my child’s development? How can I ensure that they are getting the treatment that they need? Finding thoughtful and compassionate support for parents can be as important as treating the adolescent themselves, particularly when adolescents return home to their community after treatment.
Think about the last time you were on an airplane. Before the flight’s departure, the plane’s crew instructs the passengers that, in the event of an emergency, everyone should place their own oxygen mask on their face prior to assisting those around you. The thought process is simple: people are more effective at helping those around them when they have ample resources themselves. Parenting during a crisis can be viewed in a similar manner. Often, families in crisis place the majority of their time and resources toward their suffering child, neglecting their own needs for help and support. This produces a stressed, exhausted family system that can be less effective in supporting themselves and, ultimately, the child who is suffering. When parents and siblings attend to their own needs and access support while their child is in treatment, they become better and more effective parents and siblings to the child in crisis during the treatment process and beyond.
How can parents access support for themselves as well as their child in treatment? For adolescents in residential care, comprehensive treatment services have parent support and effectiveness programs as an integral component of care. Effective support extends far beyond pre-recorded webinars, weekly therapy or providing psychoeducational reading materials for parents. Comprehensive, compassionate residential care should provide weekly family therapy and programming that includes group-based support, multi-family groups and time for families to be together as a family system. Too often, programs place artificial restrictions limiting the amount of phone contact and visitation time between parents and adolescents. The goal at Paradigm San Francisco is to help reunite families and create a more cohesive, skillful and healthy family.
At Paradigm San Francisco, we do institute restrictions on phone contact or visitations between parents and their child in our 30-45 day residential program. We provide 6 hours of weekly support and therapy to help families heal, become more effective family systems and work toward ‘getting their family back’ again. Through small groups where parents can receive compassionate support and parent effectiveness skills to groups where parents and adolescents can work together to learn from one another, Paradigm San Francisco has created a successful, outcome driven family model where each person in the family can feel supported and families can establish effective, supportive and nurturing relationship that adequately support everyone. This service is included at no charge to all families during the adolescents stay and is open to Paradigm alumni and their families free of charge for up to 3 years following discharge. To learn more about our family day or our university-based outcome research, please visit our website or call (888) 220-3466.