When C's Are the New A's


Resilience is not something you can order off Etsy or Amazon Prime; it is old fashioned; it doesn't accept credit cards and must be earned in an uphill both ways in the snow sort of way. Resilience is not something parents can command children to absorb and utilize; it is a quality, however, that parents must themselves embrace and demonstrate when children exhibit long stretches of uninspiring, unattractive and historically uncharacteristic behaviors.

So how does that play into our fast-paced, fix-me-now framework? Not well.

Phase One: Memories of a Bygone Past

Broken-hearted parents often find themselves in the office of a school administrator. Venting. Searching. Problem-solving. Crying. Struggling. They arrive inexplicably stuck in the void between unconditional love and pure frustration; between excuses and blame; but mostly, willing to do anything in their power to fix it. But they get tripped up by uncertainty as to exactly how.

These meetings typically begin in tones reminiscent of an easier time. Folders spill out old awards, certificates and report cards from elementary school. She was one of the smartest students in her third grade class, even the lead in her play, and now...she is barely surviving, let alone thriving. Parents are yearning to recapture that magic recipe that produced happiness, innate curiosity and success-come-early-and-often. This initial grieving phase is very emotional and somewhat protracted, but a necessary step to moving toward establishing a lasting resolution. I reference the phase as necessary but I do not recommend wallowing in it for too long.


Phase Two: Maniacal and Frenetic Reactions

Parents rightfully look for a quick fix to return their child to the happy, curious, high-performer that once dominated the carpool and kitchen table with laughter and tales of accomplishments. It's normal; for example, when my daughter has a fever I grab Motrin. After a certain point, there is only so much Motrin one can have before either a) the fever breaks or b) you head to the doctor. Unwittingly, many families mistakenly embrace a Motrin management plan as opposed to searching for a true diagnosis. They just give Motrin (so to speak) over and over again. This is largely due to the mirage-like positives that initially stem from such triage. Grades temporarily raise, behaviors quickly calm with certain restrictions... and order is superficially restored. Understandably, this approach bares quick results in this busy life we lead, but does not treat the actual root cause of the child's symptoms. While such techniques like taking a phone or car away are useful, they are ineffective in times of significant adversity and stress. Parents can easily get stuck on this hamster wheel; treating a cut with band-aids when it actually needs stitches.

Alternately, some families go overboard and implement a new and overly rigid infrastructure that does indeed produce results when assembled and monitored, but otherwise proves fruitless when the child is returned to their true environment. Vital to this process is the search for longevity in a potential resolution, and not the speed in which a resolution is reached. Quick is not better; real is better.


Phase Three: Utilizing Influencers to Search for the Source.

Understanding and evaluating your child to determine if the plateau is hormonal, cognitive, substance induced, emotional, situational or a combination therein is key when creating a family plan to address your concerns. Teens will at some point (typically) hit their individual threshold or plateau of intellectual curiosity; without a defined passion or point of optimism, their typical behavior and academic performance will decrease, sometimes at alarming rates. Teens also shift their curiosity and reprioritize from traditional to edgy. In this phase parents should strategically and patiently dig for the root cause of the outward symptoms manifested through negative behaviors and low academic outcomes. Knowing the true cause will be the only way to reach the longevity of a real remedy. Anything short of that is, well...Motrin.

So how do I do this? Imagine you are having Thanksgiving dinner, and you are going to invite every influential adult in your child's life, and perhaps one mental health professional. I repeat, their life, not yours. Think. Who are they? Where do they sit at the table? Why are they influential? Start here. This is your list. They can begin to turn the ship.

These influencers hold the ticket into the mind of your child. They know your child in a way others do not; this knowledge when combined with their relationship can get them access through a door, that as a parent has been closed (and most likely slammed) in your face. They also don't know what they don't know; they aren't so subjectively or emotionally close to the fire. That distance makes their paradigm uniquely different than your own. Rely on them; allow them to help you help your child. Give control away to get control back.

Imagine these influencers taking your child to breakfast or coffee, or to a baseball game, or surfing, or shooting baskets...and in that process they will begin to thaw the iceberg; each conversation shaves a piece of ice away until alas, the real issue is exposed. Be careful what you wish for; you cannot unknow what you will learn; but you can't live as a prisoner of their angst either.