Should Teen Miss Senior Year

23 January 2016 Written by 

It has been four years since my husband died from the effects of alcoholism. Yet the grieving seems so fresh at times. My daughter, Madison, was with me when we first learned of her father’s death. She knew before anyone else. She was only 13. Fast forward four years and she was starting her senior year.  Many of her friends were a year older and had graduated the previous June. So going back to school felt almost like going to a new school. She felt alone and frightened and still suffering from the death of her dad, and the manner of his death. When we pick up the pieces after a death like this, we don’t anticipate how many memories will persist, and all the ways we will continue to feel bad without knowing exactly why.

The tears started on the second day of school and by the third day Madison was sobbing in the school parking lot, texting me she couldn’t go in. I was at work, and called the school counselor and asked him to go check on her. She was obviously having a total meltdown. She texted me she did not want to talk to anyone and would drive off if he came out to talk with her. I reminded her change has to start somewhere. This was her opportunity to make a change. It was a hard thing for me to say, and a hard thing for her to accept.

But she must have wanted things to change because she stayed. Once the counselor had had a minute to speak with her he figured it out. Any counselor asking the right questions can get at the core of a student’s pain. This counselor realized Madison was suffering from the effects of her father’s untimely death combined with loss of friends at school. Too much loss for a young girl to handle. And he gave her a way out that seemed hard for me at first.

He suggested she take online classes to finish up her degree. Do you force a kid to do too much just because it’s the “normal” way? I decided that the counselor was right and Madison could school from home. Soon she was set up to study at home. With the help of a tutor she was well on her way to graduating. But it didn’t go so very smoothly.

The second challenge for me was to allow her to fail, to fall behind, to allow her to figure out this new program by herself. Should I let her struggle or do the work for her? I wanted to check up on the homework, call the tutor, and the school counselor. But I knew it was important to let her fail. I stayed out of way as much as possible. Believe me when I say it was not easy to watch.  

  • I used the slogan Let Go & Let God. Which meant I had to place the responsibility for her getting her High School Diploma in her hands.  And not micro-manage.

Madison soon suffered the results of not studying, and missing a test on line. Going to the beach instead of her tutor meant she was not prepared for her tests. I kept my mouth shut and said how sorry I was when she got a D-. But I didn’t offer anything. Eventually she learned from her mistakes. When she saw that I was willing to let her fail she started taking her school work seriously.  She learned to plan out her day to be sure the work was done. She set up her appointments with the tutor when she needed them and made sure she went. She called the counselor at school if she had questions about the program.

 I watched in amazement as Madison went from sobbing in a parking lot to taking charge of her life and education. She was in control, not me. She was the one who should have been in control, so it worked. Empowering is a frightening concept and often goes against a parent’s natural instinct to protect precious children from harm. And of course, it doesn’t always work the first, second, or even third time. But for Madison and me, the worst harm would have been to postpone the moment when she had to start solving problems on her own. I would not always be there to catch her. Lesson learned for both of us. We both graduated.

Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Madeline Schloop 

Read 2145 times Last modified on Friday, 04 November 2016 17:19
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Madeline Schloop

Madeline is the widow of a man who died of alcoholism and the mother of 5 young adults whom she parents with the tools of Al-Anon. Her children continue to be affected by the disease of alcoholism. Her stories  deal with life's daily trials and what has and hasn't worked.
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