Sometimes we can’t think otherwise:
How many times have you asked yourself: What have I done? How did I cause all these problems? How can I mend it?
I suggest you answer these questions by asking yourself a different one. Are you sure it is really about you? You should try looking from a different perspective and you may be surprised at what you discover.
Running away from home:
David was on the verge of a breakdown. Lili had disappeared from home two days ago and wasn’t found yet. David was having a hard time and blaming himself. He felt he didn’t do enough to prevent it, he felt responsible for her drinking habits, for her “liberal sexual behavior” and for the fact she was having a very hard time as a teenager.
David cried bitter tears for two days thinking he had lost Lili when the police called. Lili was found in a public park, semi conscious after a bout of heavy drinking.
As you may guess, the social workers were blaming David, a widowed father struggling to raise three teenagers all by himself. David was now devastated by the social workers accusations of negligence.
Maybe you’ve never heard these particular words (you are a neglecting father) said to you, but no one is immune to receiving a piece of bad news at some point in their life. For David it was shocking and painful and he was now almost certain it was true.
The guilty feeling:
Almost a month went by. David had changed a lot since his wife had died. He “ruled” the house like a good father should, and he took care for his children, like a good father should. But after the accusations and the social workers now wanting to interfere in David’s life, he sometimes stayed away for hours but always came back to give the children dinner and help them as much as he could. He was feeling guilty!
When he first went to see a psychiatrist he wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately he found a descent and good professional and after three months he was able to stop therapy and start to see things from a different perspective. So how do we process whatever it is we need to, and then move on to deal with the issue at hand? How can we make sure not to let one bad judgment on us define our life?
Stay in the present, although remain conscious and mindful about how the past may be impacting your present reactions. Remind yourself about how you have previously coped so well with your teenagers in difficult situations. Remember you’ve been successful on so many occasions, even though recalling even one of them might escape you at the moment.
Teenagers can be “unstable” and do stupid things:
In the US alone, the National Network for Youth suggests that approximately 1 to 1.3 million young people run away from home each year and the numbers may be even higher from other sources.
In Israel there is, unsurprisingly, no information available; even if some statistics exist, they are unlikely to be reliable.
We cannot completely prevent or avoid children running away from home. Children will try to “escape” not because we are negligent but because of their own lack of understanding of the world.
The main reasons for children running away from home in Israel are:
Fighting with their parents, sexual abuse by a family member, drugs, alcohol and problems in school. You may not be aware but there are several detective companies specializing in finding and returning these kids home. You can find details of these companies on the Internet.
A word of wisdom:
Lili is now in a good university in Israel. For some time she tried hard to make her father feel guilty and responsible but David was a strong man, he overcame the “guilty feeling” after receiving substantial support from friends and the psychiatrist.
They are trying to rebuild the family and their mutual trust, not based on feelings of guilt.
Not every case has a happy ending:
Unfortunately most of these kids don’t end up in a classroom, at home or as free citizens. Anyone who is present at a Juvenile Court in one of the big cities would testify to that. However most of us won’t be able to attend any hearing because they are all behind closed doors, due to the fact these are minors and have the right to secrecy.
Children are children but they still can and do commit crimes against society. Often this is not because they want to pursue a criminal career but because they chose the wrong friends, the wrong path or because they can’t cope with reality. Some do it because they are spoiled brats believing if they are caught they will come out without penalty.
A last word of wisdom:
Whatever was the “cause” or the “trigger” you must think about the future and how to cope with problems without feeling guilty. Remember that the guilty feeling is one of the most impairing factors in a person’s life and it can be really destructive.
Edited by Alan Gold