Remember the carefree days when you could watch Maury
and just laugh? Even as the correctional officers tried to scare those unruly preteens straight, you could sit back and say, “That'd never happen to my kid.” Now your own child is in trouble with the law, and you'd give anything to go back in time and scare some sense into him (or her) yourself. Unfortunately, time travel is not an option. So what can you do? You might not have a TV production crew or a drill sergeant to help you out, but that doesn't mean you're powerless. Follow these five steps to cope with a child who is in trouble. You'll get both of your lives back on track – without any sass from a studio audience.
1. Relax. There is no force greater than a mother's scorn, but unless Mama Grizzly
gets hold of herself, the problems are going to multiply. Do what you need to do to bring your emotions down a notch, then approach your child's specific situation with a level head. Taking a long bath while your only son is in solitary might seem ludicrous, but if you can't think like a rational adult, you'll end up doing more harm than good. Take a deep breath and do whatever you need to do to calm down.
2. Reconnect. No matter how serious the charges, behind that hardened facade sits a scared and lonely child. You may feel let down, taken advantage of or betrayed by your child's actions, but now's not the time to give your son or daughter the cold shoulder. Keep the lines of communication open and let your child know that he or she can tell you the truth without risking a fight.
3. Hire help. A few too many viewings of Erin Brockovich
can convince even the most rational mother that she's capable of battling the legal system on her own, but if you want to make it through your ordeal as easily as possible, hire an expert attorney. Don't just dial an 800 number from a billboard or TV ad, either. Find someone with a great local reputation. If you live in Phoenix, hire a Phoenix criminal attorney
to defend your son or daughter, not a lawyer from halfway across the country.
4. Seek therapy. After a harrowing legal battle or a stressful ordeal with the local police, it's normal to yearn for a return to normalcy, but the last thing you should do is sweep the entire event under the rug. If you do, you risk turning an isolated event into a lifetime of worry. Suck up your pride and get help – not just for your child, but for your whole family. Your child's behavior is a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem itself. If you want to truly come to terms with the issue and stop it from happening again, therapy could be the key.
5. Set boundaries. Just because your child violated your trust once doesn't mean you should cut him out of your life completely. What it does mean is that you'll need to set some boundaries. Calmly lay out some rules for your child and let him or her know the consequences if those rules are broken. Then stand your ground. If you enable destructive behavior, you aren't doing your job as a parent. It's as simple as that.
Here's the truth: what's happened has happened. There's no going back in time, and Maury can't help you now. But that doesn't mean all hope is lost. What you do next is what truly matters. Your immediate actions will have an effect on your son or daughter. So before you chase your emotions over a cliff, take a few steps back and think about these guidelines. If you do, you just might save yourself from becoming the mother of a repeat offender. You might even save your child's life.