What did you tell child before taking to residential??

Stepson is scheduled to go to residential on Wednesday. He has known for 3 weeks that it was going to happen, but we've been waiting on a space at the facility. I asked the admissions director her opinion and she said at this stage they suggested whatever was easiest for THE FAMILY, and that if we told him the specific date ahead of time that generally we could expect problems -- if there are any family members opposing Residential Treatment Center (RTC) then he would try to raise those troops, or he might run away or (I wish this would have happened) that he "might start acting like an angel, but just until the spot was lost." She mentioned that it was not unusual for kids to have no idea until they got there, that parents would tell them they were going to visit long-lost relatives or something. I definitely see her point, but was curious about other's experience with this. Thanks.

I can't speak from experience as far as residential is concerned, but when our son went to an outpatient hospitalization program we did give him advance warning about what day he would start. And yes, he did become an angel at home to try to convince us he didn't need it. Fortunately we didn't have outside people he could triangulate with as yours does so I'm not sure anything I have written here will help you in any way. Wish I had some great advice.

Good luck with you decision.


Married 21+ yrs to husband. 1 son age 16, adopted at age 4. Diagnosed ADHD combined type (severe), ODD,Learning Disability (LD),Dysthymic Disorder (chronic depression), possible Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Don't know how old your stepson is so that might make a difference. When older son went to psychiatric hospital for a month he was only 8. He knew he had a problem and we explained that he was going there to help us all get along better and so he could be happier. At that age he seemed to accept that. The time he went to the shelter for 2 weeks he was 14 and I had called the cops on him and they took him so I didn't tell him anything. Before he went the last time (for 6 months) he was 15; I knew the court was going to order it but he didn't so we didn't communicate much. After he went we did discuss that it was so he could get control of himself because if he wanted to live at home with us he had to make some changes. I'm sure his head knew we were right and he did make great improvements but he seems to be going down hill again. Sometimes I think that, at his age, I might as well talk to the wall. Everything has been said; he can choose to accept it or not but I am talked out.

me-53year old single mom and teacher.
16 year old male ODD difficult child- Aaron- currently home since 6 month stay in group home.
13 year old male - ADD (but no hyperactivity with it), psychiatric doctor is suspecting intermittent explosive disorder; tried ritalin-it made him rage. Now trying wellbutrin; burn survivor with skin grafts from chin to navel-Joshua.
2 female dogs rescued from death row in pound (Lily and Peaches)
1 male cat - Pepper
1 female white rat (Snowball)


We sent my son to Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in September. Everyone's recommendation was that we NOT tell him at all until the escorts were here to take him. I went against all advice and told him about 3 hours or so before they were to get here and I'm glad I did. The deception was suggested to me, but I disagreed with it. He has a lot of trouble with telling the truth and I didn't think lying to him at this point in his life was appropriate. I just told him that we love him very much, but the counseling we were doing was not helping him as much as he needed, since he was continuing to make poor choices. I don't think he was incredibly surprised since we had had several incidences in which we'd talked to him and told him if he kept making the decisions he was, we'd have to make some difficult decisions that he wouldn't like. He apparently wanted to test this theory.

They're right, you need to consider all of you. It's a draining situation for everyone, but when you've reached this point it's the walking wounded at home that need the most comfort. Good luck, I know how painful this is.


Me- 42 Depression, ADHD on Ritalin and Zoloft
husband-of 2 years, we met online and he is the most absolutely wonderful hubby, I am truly blessed
difficult child-entered Residential Treatment Center (RTC) 9/00, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, Dissociative and possible Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
easy child- 4 yrs old--is my blessing, my sanity, my life string.

[This message has been edited by KRice (edited 06 January 2001).]

This might not be popular but I think there are two times not to preannounce schedules. Just before a doctor's appointment where the child's behavior will be evaluated, and just before he is about to lose his freedom-I think it is a lot like telling an abusive husband that you are leaving him for good-on this one.

these kids hate losing control more than they hate a change of schedule- for the same reason I'll add. They will anything to stop it. If you will lose a coveted spot at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) if he pulls shenanigans, the chances are very high that he will. They read stress like no others. It's uncanny.

Now, this is important-his father needs to take the most active role in the following suggestions- for many reasons

I would not lie under any circumstances but I would not set him up for failure by saying, in effect, "Hey, tomorrow you will lose absolutely all of your control, now be real good and get ready."

Secretly pack his stuff. Write him some letters to open each morning and night for a week. Stick in pictures, motivational booklets, cartoons, little mementoes that might mean something to him, etc. to open each day. Don't seal them until the center checks them.

There is an incredible power to a well timed letter. Use it as a learning opportunity. Remind him of good times and why you want him to turn around so he can have a good future. Do not gush or coddle him with your words- use them to gently prod him to probe his mind for answers and solutions. Give him a package of stationary and self addressed stamped envelopes. Give him a writing journal if it is allowed-to chronicle his progress. Have the car packed the day before.

Put on your acting hats.Make reservations to out to a nice meal together-he can have anything he wants. To leave him with good memories of you so he will work real hard to come back soon. Then go for a little ride-take something exciting to do in the car to keep his mind off where you are going-chess, cards, yup, maybe even nintendo-only this time. just say, I want to take you somewhere, only if he asks. I would have a big strong man sit with him in the back seat. That's what I'd do.

Tell him, "Son,I hope you will use this time wisely , to think and make good decisions for yourself and change your ways. I will miss you but I will not miss your misbehavior. Do your best. This is a rare opportunity to help yourself. This is a journey- to think about what you want in life and how you will get it- so you can change. The way you have been going, you are headed for an unhappy life. Change is difficult, but this change in your behavior needs to be for keeps. It is up to you-get off your high horse and help yourself or take the easy way out- blame everyone else for your problem- waste this time- and expect no good results. Of you can do your best to change into a responsible young man with a good life ahead of you, someone we can enjoy living with again."

Give him his care packages or ask the center to give them to his according to a schedule. Try very hard not to cry. You are sending him into training-like a first day at a new job, not into prison.

I am sorry for your worries.

Dear Tiresdstepmom,
When our son went into Residential Treatment Center (RTC) we were told that the best approach was 24 hours notice at the most. In our case our difficult child knew that he was going to go to Residential Treatment Center (RTC) but none of us knew the time(we were expecting no openings until Dec).When an opening came up in early OCT we got a call Wednesday night,on Thursday difficult child got to visit the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and Friday he was admitted. We did not tell difficult child until Thursday night that he was going.
difficult child was first extremely well behaved,then very sad then angry and he cycled wildly all day.
I guess in telling a child there are 2 schools of thought with good points and bad points to every side. I know as a mom I want to prepare my difficult child (who does not transition well or like change)for everything that happens in their life.I think that telling sooner feels better and sounds better along the line of being the loving,caring and nurturing parent.We ,however did not have that choice we found out about the opening and boom he was there.
The other school of thought is letting the transition happen fast is better as difficult child gets no time to have a planned reaction. The honeymoon is shorter and the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) gets to see true colors fast.This can seem tramatic as difficult child could cry and yell and need to be resrained and taken away yelling. I as a mom hate this idea.....do I know if it is the best no beacuse my heart will not allow me.
Tired this will be hard..it is like dying to allow you child to go to Residential Treatment Center (RTC).....yes the peace in your home will be great but you will start to remember all the good stuff and the bad stuff will seem smaller.

11 year difficult child good kid ADD,Depression/Axienty,Aspergers & NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) medications Zoloft 25mg and Adderall 10mg doing great
10 y/o difficult child Bipolar?,ADHD,Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)?,ODD? -Topamax 100mg BID,Risperdal 1mg am 2mg pm & Cogentin PRN
10-6-2000 placed in a level 11 Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for boys
husband I am blessed with a great man
me-heroic mom-School Bus Driver (-:

When you get to the end of your rope tie a knot and hold on.
Phil 4:19 I can do ALL things through Christ who strengtens me

Stepson is 10. I feel a bit better just that he knows, period. I would not feel comfortable just pulling in their driveway and him not having a clue. I don't think that we will tell him until that morning, when we leave for Residential Treatment Center (RTC) instead of for school and work. I expect him to pout all the way there. To be honest, that would be better than screaming and crying. I was so afraid that I would not be able to go with husband to take him, because I had something major at work that I didn't need to miss, but luckily things worked out.


New Member
i never had to send my son to Residential Treatment Center (RTC), but for whatever it's worth i'll give you my opinion. your son is the *mad triangulator*. don't give him the opportunity to do that. i would tell him in the morning over breakfast. won't give him a lot of time to react but gives him some notice. good luck. come back and let us know how it goes. will be holding good thoughts. ~~~~~~kris

me-48 at home mom with diabetes, retinopathy, severe peripheral neuropathy, early stage diabetic kidney disease, hypertension
husband - active alcoholic and difficult child himself
difficult child - depression (zoloft 25mgs), in ED class this year. starting mainstreamed into gifted science second marking period, mainstreaming into gifted math and honors english in new year, so much better i hardly recognize him
easy child - 11 my beautiful ballerina tried gifted program and hated it, back in advanced placement and much happier!
currently residing in the Orlando area and loving it!!

watch out for the light at the end of the tunnel, it's probably an oncoming train!!!

sometimes you're the pigeon and sometimes you're the statue!


Former desparate mom
I think it depends on your difficult child. Our son isn't a runner nor does he have destructive tendencies. Mostly we were worried with raging/tantrum behavior. By the time we decided to make this huge leap, he was already pretty sure that he was the boss of his life. We explained that he was going to a school with kids more like him and he would recieve help to get him through his life. His attitude was" Good, who needs you"
We kept a positive spin to it and reassured him that he wasn't being punished. That he would have new experiences and a chance to pull himself together. I promised him that I would not throw away his "things" which are very important to him.
We didn't talk about it too much to him and the flight to Cal. and leaving wasn't very eventful. Once he was there, and had to follow the rules(simple ones) he got angry and very distraught.
The whole experience left a change in the dynamics of our whole family. On one hand it was a relief,on the other there was a hole in our family. We continued to live our lives but it always felt differant. This whole experience helped difficult child but came at a big emotional price from husband and I.
I hope your husband and you recharge your batteries and your family heals. Hope your difficult child finds success and peace at this program.

fran-mom to 11yr son easy child who is a joy and a 16yr old son difficult child,diagnosis with subcategory of Aspergers' and possibly bipolor. Completed 2yr emotional growth boarding school with good results on behavior. Have been unable to find any school able to meet academic needs(dysgraphic,dyscalculia).Presently, attends public h.s. Tried many medications and therapies. When he is good he is very,very good.
Dear husband of 19yrs.


member since 1999
We told T about three days in advance. He had known that we applied for a grant to pay for it, but he was quite sure we weren't going to get it.

Now that I think about it... T ended up getting admitted the weekend before he was to go to Residential Treatment Center (RTC), so we told him while he was still in the hospital. He was discharged the same day he went up to Residential Treatment Center (RTC), so.... there wasn't much of an opportunity for him to act out. Gosh, that doesn't help you at all, does it? We did emphasize that Residential Treatment Center (RTC) wasn't punishment, wasn't a bad thing, but actually was a positive step in helping him to learn how to live with us at home. I do know that he was kinda resigned to it. He knew that we were strong in our conviction that he needed to be there. He did halfheartedly try to bargain a bit - promising to be "good", yada, yada. But I think he knew in his heart that we couldn't continue on the way we were.

Personally, I think it's good to give them some head's up. I admitted T once without telling him that we were heading to the hospital, and he took that as a major violation of trust (pot calling kettle black as far as I was concerned!!!). But, I do understand his point. I really kind of feel it's unfair to say let's go on a drive and then pull up to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and say, we're here! It's deceptive and dishonest, in my humble opinion. But, that's *just* my opinion. I think if you follow your heart, you can't go wrong.

Sue, Mom of four, wife of saintly husband. 12 y/o boy easy child with cerebral palsy, 6 y/o boy easy child, 2 y/o princess easy child
9 y/o male difficult child. Placement in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) on 6-19-00. diagnosis of bipolar, ADHD. Previous diagnosis: ODD, depression, conduct disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), childhood onset schizophrenia. Current medications: Depakote 750 mg, Lithium 1050 mg. Previous medications: Clonodine, Ritalin, Zoloft, Cylert, Tegretol, Adderall, Mellarill, Wellbutrin, Thorazine, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Trilafon (perphenazine)

"Eat one live toad first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

We told our daughter, along with the professionals that were working with her, what the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was, why she was going, etc. We let her pack up some of the things that she wanted to take with her also. She got into our van willingly for the 20 mile drive. By the time we got there, I had a black eye, looked like I had been attacked by a cat, bite marks, and the bruises showed up later. She decided 10 miles from home that she was not going to go and got violent. The next two Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s she went to were no problem getting her there, was very non chalant about it. I really do not know what the answers are. I think you have to listen to your heart.

husband of 26 years, has not had a clue about difficult child until recently, but would not turn him in because I would not want to break in a newer model.
easy child age 21-"home grown" doing well on his own in college and working as computer tech.
Semi-difficult child age 16- foster child at 3 months, adopted age 3, born with affects of PCP. He's a "PUNK" but otherwise, finally doing better. Is an alcoholic attending AA.
difficult child age 12, foster child at 3, adopted at 6. Always been problems, in therapy since age 4, 3 previous group homes, presently hospitilized. Has ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), CD, etc.