How to handle this...


My son was allowed a visit home for five days over Thanksgiving from his Residential Treatment Center (RTC)/group home. Despite being in the company of his neighorhood friends at home for part of the time when pot was smoked, he, surprisingly, walked away from it without any trouble, he said. This is supported by the fact that he was drug and alcohol tested immediately upon his return to the home on Sunday night and came up clean. In that respect, the visit home was a great success.

So far, throughout his stint in Juvenile Hall and at the group home, he has been VERY needy for our presence. He has been allowed nightly phone calls and we have been allowed to visit him every weekend. However, his house is three hours away, so this has been difficult. Nonetheless, he seemed to really need our support, and we want to see him, so we've been making the trip every weekend.

HOWEVER, here's the rub--when he was allowed the first visit home over Thanksgiving, he basically spent most of his time with his friends. He was very compliant about checking in by phone and in person every hour or so, had his friends over here for some of the time, was in for the night well before curfew, and, as I mentioned, got himself away from any marijuana and alcohol going on. We were happy about that aspect of the visit. So, understanding that he's had contact with us on a daily basis and every weekend but has had no contact with any of his friends in almost three months, we stepped back and allowed him to focus on seeing his friends.

I must say though that it did hurt a bit. When he called after we returned him to the house, I told him that I had been thinking that, since he obviously wasn't as needy for his dad and me as he has been, based by how much time he actually spent with us over his visit, we could skip our weekend trips to his house and just wait for his visits home every other weekend. He was VERY upset and hurt that we wouldn't want to visit him every chance we got and appears to need those visits as much as he has done in the past.

I feel that I'm acting out of some immature hurt feelings here, and I don't want to play games with him and add to the stress he's already under. He's a high-strung type and tends to get easily depressed, and I don't NOT want to visit him if it's going to mean that he stops trying to make progress. Yet, based on the amount of time he spent with us on his visit home, I'm not all that sure our visits are as important to him as he says they are or at least not important enough for a six-hour round trip every other weekend that usually involves bills for a hotel and eating out.

I'm not sure what to do here in terms of what's best for him...any suggestions?


member since 1999
CaMom - first off, bravo to difficult child for not partaking of substances. I think it's awesome he could walk away. (Now, how to get him to make new friends where the temptation will not be present? But ... I'm hard to please, LOL.)

On the visiting thing... you're a much more tolerant mom than I. When thank you first starting having home visits (5 years ago?), I laid down the law hard and fast - no socializing with- "friends". It was a home visit to reintegrate him into the "home", not a neighborhood visit. To be fair, though, I wasn't dealing with- a teen and it was much easier for me. At this point, he really doesn't have friends in the community anymore and it's not an issue.

My take is that in the pecking order of your son's social ladder, you're below his friends in the community but above peers and activities at Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Which probably might not be totally bad, since I think with- typical teens, parents are usually at the very bottom of the ladder.

My kid has been gone a long time. I *still* feel like our visits at Residential Treatment Center (RTC) are more a diversion for thank you. I know he wants to see us, but let's face it... an off grounds visit (to movies, mall, and restaurants) beats the heck out of sitting on the unit watching TV and dealing with- peers. I went through a period of *really* resenting the heck out of it for a number of reasons - I felt like he was using us in a way, we were expected to entertain and dine him with funds that we really didn't have, and on the few times when we simply couldn't afford the usual off grounds entertainment he actually had the nerve to say "forget it, don't come". To say nothing of the total disruption that going to visit him brought to our family's usual routine: hours on the road, the pcs couldn't play with- *their* friends because we were visiting thank you... it was rough.

I think it's perfectly understandable that you've been visiting every chance you get during the first few months. But I also think it's reasonable and extremely healthy for *all* of you to set some limits. Is 6 hours on the road a weekend reasonable for your family? Is it fair to anyone to do it *every* weekend? When do you get *your* down time? Is perhaps modifying the visiting schedule to every other weekend a bit more fair to everyone? I want to be very clear here - modifying your visits is *not* punishment or a way to teach him empathy, I know it kinda sounds like that's what I'm saying... but really, I'm not. I think it's important for your family's emotional health not to be tied to where difficult child is living at the moment, every single solitary weekend. I hope you understand what I'm saying here... difficult child needs to be able to do his thing at his current placement every other weekend (or every third weekend, or whatever works for your family), in my humble opinion.

I wouldn't tie it in with- the Thanksgiving visit - he's a teen, he doesn't think in terms of your feelings or probably even realize how hurtful it was. I do think pointing out to him that the rest of a family has a life (or needs one!) and needs to be able to sleep in on a Saturday rather than hit the road to see him... perhaps that might get him to think of someone besides himself?

I would also clearly define expectations of "family time" before the next visit. He can go see George, Fred, and Frank from 6:00 to 8:00 Fri nite, 2:00 to 6:00 Sat afternoon, but the rest of the time he needs to be with his family. Of course, in my experience, that also entails coming up with some structured family activities - meals, board games, raking leaves, whatever... but I think the key to keeping him engaged is to keep him occupied.

Just my thoughts - it's really hard finding the right balance, and it's different for each family I think.


New Member
I can totally relate to how you feel because my difficult child needed me to come up all the time and see him when he was in the 45 day rehab. I think it's being among people you don't really know and the need for family or any familiar face etc. I felt it was important to do because it was good for his progress and he needed my support. He calls me daily even now that he's living in the soberhouse only 20 minutes away and totally needs my input on every move he makes, which sometimes I wish he didn't, but then again if he didn't I'd probably feel left out :smile:Besides the point that he doesn't listen to half of what I tell him anyway, but what can you do???
Anyway, when he has the chance to come home and I have this picture perfect time of us all spending family time together and he takes off and hangs out with wingnut instead (most people on this board know who wingnut is, so if you are unsure, just ask me) anyway, I do have to admit my feelings are a little hurt.
I also have a 17 year old easy child daughter who lately chooses to spend all her time at her bestfriends house, where I now realize there is also a boyfriend involved, and I allow myself to start feeling a little hurt over that due to the fact that she used to spend so much time at home, but then I have to think about how much time I really spent with my parents when I reached this age. I have to admit it wasn't much.
All in all I think it's pretty normal. Thank back to your teenage years. Were you sitting home with your parents or out hanging with your friends?? I know where I was and it didn't mean I loved or needed my parents any less, it was just the age and the normal thing to be doing. I wasn't a drug addict, nor was I a easy child, but I was just a normal teenager who enjoyed hanging with my peers. I think it's just more difficult when we have difficult child's because we realize who their peers are and know they are not who they should be hanging with.
I'm proud of your difficult child for not partaking in the partying and walking away. Hopefully it wasn't just because he knew he would be tested and didn't have a choice, but that it in fact was a life choice he made. It is extremely difficult at that age to change friends. I don't know what I would have done at that age if my parents ever forbid me to hang out with any of my friends and told me I needed to find new ones. As easy as this seems for us to say, when I think about it, I know it wasn't a choice I would have easily made.
People have said to me that I'm lucky my difficult child is young and has many years ahead of him to pull through this, but when I think back to that age, I often wonder if it isn't harder then going through this when you are older and the peer pressure isn't as strong. If you are a drug addict or an alcoholic and you are married and have a family, usually yor family chooses to support you and you don't really need to find new friends, just support in those around you. When you are younger, it's not as easy to just go out and find new friends.
Does that make sense??
Sorry this is so long. Your questions just gave me a lot to think about. I think you need to support him while he's away, but I don't know if I would be running up there every single weekend. You can be just as supportive through phone calls, cards, letters and maybe stretching it out to every other weekend.


(the future) MRS. GERE
I agree with Karen that his wanting to be with his friends over being with you is normal....BUT this is not a normal situation and he is not a easy child.

Sounds to me like he is still ruling the roost and you are allowing him to do it.

Good for him for staying clean but why risk the temptation? He's now going from 24/7 supervision in the group home/Residential Treatment Center (RTC) to coming home and being allowed complete freedom again once he's away from you guys. Heck, I'd want to come home and would do/say whatever it took to be able to.

Maybe I don't understand the purpose of his coming home right now---or perhaps your goals are very different from what ours were? For us, our son's home visits were to develop/re-establish family relationships and trust, not give him the chance to go elsewhere.



New Member
I'm so glad he made such a responsible choice not to partake of the marijuana. A nice step in the right direction.

It IS a normal teenage thing for him to want to spend more time with friends than with dear ole mom and dad. It hurts,I know, but I do think its normal. I'd be leary of him spending so much time with his particular friends, though. Even if he's not partaking, he could be at the wrong place at the wrong time...

As far as running down to visit him every weekend, I think I'd stop that. You're wearing yourselves out, and I think it'll do him good to feel a little discomfort in that area. He needs to know that you have a life and your own needs...your world does not revolve around him (maybe it does at this point, but he doesn't need to know that!)


Thanks everyone!

I guess I understand that friends are more important to him now than parents, and even WE look good, given the circumstances at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). But, you know, they do lots of fun stuff at this place (IF the boys earn it...), i.e., going to the theater, amusement parks, major league games, etc., yet, so far, our son would rather us visit him when he has earned a day pass or even for an hour or two rather than partake in the planned activities. That is what made me feel us being there was very important to him.

As far as his visit home, I guess I felt that the purpose of the visit was for him to be in his usual and customary home setting and prove to himself, us, and the director that he can use what he has learned so far in the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) to function in a healthy, safe manner in his home environment. Although I REALLY wanted to ball and chain him to hearth and home, we decided that it would be better for him to be around his peers and exercise good judgement. He knew very well that, if he tested positive for anything, his visits home would end.

Now, whether or not he has actually bought into the concept that using pot and underage drinking is breaking the law and not okay, I have my doubts. But, at least he's learning that he has to follow the rules or expect a serious consequence. I guess, for now, if that keeps him on the straight and narrow, it's a good start.

Interestingly, he told me on the phone that, if it was important to us to have him home for more time during his visits home, we should tell him what we expect and "set limits."


Active Member
Perhaps part of him wanting you to continue the visits is because he is far away and unable to see anyone other than you and your husband..from home turf that is. :grin:

It is a good sign that he said you should tell him what you expect my humble opinion anyway. :grin:

Sounds like progress is being made. We can't hope for anything more.



New Member
maybe he wasn't sure what you were expecting from him and if he's telling you you need to tell him, then make it more clear next time. Maybe if you don't visit him every weekend, he'll want to spend more time at home on his visits.

Sue G

New Member
I would go see him every weekend that I possibly could. I think that your support when he is applying himself speaks volumes and is very precious to him. If he gets well, what could be more important than that? I wouldn't take his interest in seeing his peers on his home visits to mean anything more than he is a teenager and peers are very important to them. But I would limit the time he spends with them as has been suggested by others. He has to learn to make his own choices. If you restrict who he can see it won't mean a thing. It will only mean something to him when "he" makes the choice to eliminate them. I think it is great he didn't participate in the pot smoking. Maybe he hasn't bought into the whole sobriety concept yet and is only abstaining because of the consequences. But I think that is okay, too. My difficult child was sober for a 9-10 month period (except for the brief periods he was home, relapsed and was re-admitted) because he had no choice. And now he is home and sober on drug court and probation. The longer we can keep them sober, the clearer their mind becomes, the more therapy we can do, the more changing of their thinking occurs. Like I always say, it's a process. One baby step at a time.


Active Member
My difficult child's have never been to Residential Treatment Center (RTC) so I can't really offer much except support and a "sunny" listening ear :grin:

Please take what I say with a grain of salt as I'm only thinking of what I've been through with my difficult child's.

You mention that difficult child likes you all to visit or get a home pass rather than earn the other fun stuff like ballgames etc. Isn't earning the fun stuff part of "working" the program? Is there some avoidance going on here? I know home passes are rewards, but urging/nudging him to work the program will/should help with independent thinking, learning to change behavior, learning how to deal with situations, and consequences for actions.

Don't get me wrong, but somehow I get the impression that difficult child is still running the show. He wants you all to come see him--you do, he wants to see his friends--he does, he can talk with you often, it seems like its he, he, he rather than you, you, you.

Don't get me wrong, I APPLAUD difficult child for not smoking with friends, but I also know he knows he will get tested when he goes back. It's pretty easy to stop and manipulate the situation when you know the consequence is staring at you when you return.

At this point, you don't have much time left (age wise) until he reaches 18. Our role changes after 18 to more of guidance rather than enforcer. Being with friends is perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate. So is planning for one's future, learning and accepting responsibility, curfew, disappointment, and learning to be independent. Manipulation and "spinning" the explanation so it suits his needs is sort of what got him where he is and what needs to be changed.

What if you go up every other weekend or even you go up one weekend and he comes back one weekend. Your family is still intact and the message that's being sent is that's it's a family...not just an individual.

Just more food for thought /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/11-24g.gif


Well-Known Member
That's one of the things I love about this little family, we
"see" different things and the input is so diverse. I did
not hone in on Sunny's concept but now I've read her post I
think it is interesting and worth thinking about. DDD


Well, after speaking with the program coordinator this afternoon, it appears that our son has bought into the program for the most part. Sure, he may be simply talking the talk and, whether or not he's going to walk the walk is another story. But, as I said, during his first visit home, he had the opportunity to smoke pot, but he chose to walk away. I confirmed his negative drug test upon his return to the house with the program coordinator this evening. I KNOW this is probably mostly because he knew he'd be tested rather than about any "lightbulb moment," but I'm going to give him him kudos for resisting, whatever the reason. This had to be HARD, although he said it wasn't.

Sunny, he actually has earned his fun times with the group by participating in the required activites. In fact, on the chart they post in his house, out of ten boys, he's had the highest scores most days as far as participation in the various house activities. Also, he was one of only about three or four residents from the programs' five houses who was able to come home for Thanksgiving.

The program director told me that he's doing just fine, BUT he would like to see him more involved in the group activities, despite the fact that he has earned those visits with us. He said that at least some of what they plan for the weekends is community-service-oriented. He feels that it would be best for our son if we allow him to come home every other weekend, IF he keeps his status, and generally allow him to stay there on alternate weekends so as to participate in those group activities. We agree.

But, while we feel that this is a good thing for our son, it is SO hard to give up our roles in the decision making. But, as Suz said, he's NOT a easy child, and the situation we find ourselves in is not a typical one--he is where he is because of his bad choices, and we have to keep accepting that what we were doing at home wasn't working. Thus, we have to believe that he is where he's meant to be at this time in his life, and we have to accept the fact that we must defer to the program director in terms of what he, as a professional, feels is best for our son. PLUS, so far, we have no reason to have anything but admiration for this man's judgement. Not that it would matter if we didn't...


New Member
Hi Camom:

The thing that hits me about your post is that 1(Your difficult child hasn't been in group home that long, it's not as nice as your home and he has noticed the difference...apparently.
2)Your difficult child although "did the right thing" about drugs and alcohol with his friends....He knew he would be immediately drug tested and possibly sent back, right? 3)You have to really try to get him to compromise on the visitations. Tell him that you love him and want to come as much as you can, however, it is a very long trip. Possibly you can go see him every other weekend that he is not home, instead of every weekend? He will have to learn compromise all through life. Finally, 4)You really have to wait until he gets home to be able to tell the real results of this group home. From personal experience I have learned that most of our kids are compliant while being "out of our home" at a treatment center or whatever.......The real test comes once he is home for awhile, the treatment center will be far away, there will be many opportunities to fall back in with his old friends......What he does under these conditions is anyone's guess. I'm not trying to be pessimistic here, and I am very happy your son is improving. I guess what I am trying to say is that from what I've seen and learned from others is that it matters greatly when the child goes back into the same environment as before. In my case, big disaster....but, how do you change his environment once he is home? Most people just can't move (usually it doesn't help) anyway. This is one of the biggest predictors between success and failure after Residential Treatment Center (RTC), and one that I have seen few navigate.
I pray your son continues to improve. There is hope, he is still so young. I wish you the best.

Melissa :smile:


Well-Known Member
I think your choice is wise. I stretched the Board rules
almost six years ago when I joined the CD family by naming
my grandson easy child/difficult child. It was important to me then and it is
still important (although less reasonable, sad to say) now
that I differentiate between OUR son and the teen who makes
dangerous and poor choices out on the street as a difficult child. Fran
graciously accepted my name choice and out of deference to my seniority has just let me ride with it.

At home and in my presence you would never ever have thought
that my grandson was anything other than compliant, funny,
bright, darling, talented and very loving. BUT in his peer
group he is or has been a user, a seller, an obnoxious alcoholic and who knows what else.

When he was in Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s he assumed a leadership role and made
top scores etc. BUT he was a "top dawg"...just like he had become on the streets. At 17 your son has to filter through his choices on who he wants to be. Working with a different
peer group will widen his experiences...for better or worse.
I think he is "doing his time" but perhaps sees it as a stop
gap before coming home to his "real" life.

It's all complicated and scarey. I think your choice is the
right one. I'm going to post a little thing that I carry in
my wallet since the second Residential Treatment Center (RTC). It's sad but true. Hugs DDD


New Member
Well, having worked in residential drug treatment, my first response was that when we sent the kids home for a holiday, we didn't expect them to spend it at friend's houses. We structured the heck out of the visit. MAYBE a friend or two could come over, but NO free rein in the neighborhood. The metaphor I used with parens is that it's like someone coming home from the hospital after an illness (which drug addiction is). You don't expect someone recovering from back surgery to play basketball in the park down the block, so you don't expect someone coming from drug treatment to be immediately strong enough to hang with friends. Just because he successfully was able to resist using doesn't necessarily mean it was a good position for him to be in.

On the other issue, I strongly support everyone who came down in favor of moderating the visits. It's always a balance between the difficult child's needs and the PCs and rest of the family. From a perspective of a clinical person in the tx center, we helped the parents set good boundaries. Sometimes it was more of a struggle to get them to visit AT ALL.

Anyway, that's my 2c. And it sounds like you made a great connection with the Director and that's half the battle right there.


Well-Known Member
"Autobiography in Five Short Chapters"

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost..I am helpless.
It isn't my fault!
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it
I fall in...again.
I can't believe I am in the same place!
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I STILL fall's a habit.
My eyes are open...I know where I am.
It's my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.


New Member
First I agree with Sunny and Roberta. I think your difficult child may have just found another way to manipulate the system. I find it hard to believe that the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) would condone his being with his old friends at all let alone this soon in his recovery program. Have you run it by them? Did they give you guidelines for his home visits?

I have to ask if you have concidered the possibility That difficult child made up the drug story... Do you have any proof that there was actually drugs there at all? Could your difficult child just be telling you this stuff so you "trust him again" AND GIVE HIM EVEN MORE FREEDOM when he is home because he is showing "responsibility"? Believe me a few weeks in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) does NOT change anybody. It takes much hard work and time. I understand you wanting to believe that you son is doing well. I understand wanting to believe that things are not as bad as they seemed. But with manipulative difficult child's a parent needs to always question what they say, what they do and why. -RM


Well, I have no doubt that my son is doing what he needs to do because he has to do it at this point in time, and that certainly could be called manipulating the system.
However, he is following the rules, participating in group and individual counseling, and keeping his "status" which allows him privileges including every-other-weekend home visits.

As far as the drug story, unfortunately, I also have no doubt that it's true. This is a next door neighbor whom my son has known his entire life. Her mother and I had just that very afternoon had a discussion about her recent marijuana use with another girl up the street. These were the two girls he spent some time with.

We were given no rules regarding his home visit other than that we could not remove him from the county, he had to be in by 10:00 p.m., and he could visit only those friends whom we trusted. Quite frankly, we don't "trust" any of the neighborhood kids any more than any other teenager he knows. We decided to put our trust in him (as much as possible) to do nothing to jeopardize his chances to come home to visit as it was made quite clear to him that if he tested positive for anything, he would not be coming home for visits.

I have to point out that the house my son is in is not specifically a drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation center, although drug and alcohol counseling is part of the program they use which includes victim's rights, anger management, and so forth. All the boys are there because they have comitted some sort of crime from stealing cars to breaking the terms of probation accompanied or not by drug and/or alcohol use, and they counsel them on those issues as well. From what I've seen so far, it seems that most of what they're pushing along with the above is getting the boys their high school diplomas and teaching them independent living skills.

The visit issue was resolved with a phone call from the program coordinator who told us that, since our son will now be allowed every-other-weekend visits home, he would like him to be more involved with the other boys during their weekend activities as some of what they do is community-service-oriented.


Active Member
in my humble opinion, I think visiting at home every other weekend is sufficient. I personally don't see the need for you to make that long haul if he will be home the next weekend. Enjoy the stress free weekend for you and your husband.

I don't like the fact that he is visiting the same kind of kids that helped him get in trouble in the first place. He needs to get a new group of kids to call friends.

It seems like you are handling this ok. Hang in there, he will be home for good before you know it. Hopefully a much improved turned easy child.


Active Member
Remember that website I sent you a while ago about Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s in CA? it sure sounds like they revamped them and added quite a bit of counseling and independent living skills. That in my humble opinion is wonderful. With twice a month weekend home visits and the skills he is sure sounds like your difficult child has a huge shot at becoming that indpendent, productive, law abiding citizen that we all seek.

For all the heck everyone has gone through....congratulations. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/11-24g.gif

How are you and husband holding up?