Too Little, Too Late – Support Groups Can Sometimes Suck

Why is it that certain support groups online (not the same one I’ve talked about before, I’m in many different ones) feel like there are hateful, judgmental, and argumentative people creeping into it all the time? I suppose this is the nature of stress and parental guilt that comes with raising special needs children. So we end up feeling the need to compare ourselves and each other, constantly passing judgment in an effort to boost ourselves. Such is the nature of being human sadly and I’m no different.

What I really, truly don’t understand are the people that will argue with you forever and finally they use a link to support their statements, presumably to counter your statements, and you click on them to find their link says pretty much the same stuff your links do…. So why and what the heck are we arguing about in the first place?

It was in regards to one mother who picked up her 15-year-old ODD son by his request. He became aggressive in the car when they were almost home. I got the impression this was more than verbally aggressive because she pulled over and told him to walk the rest of the way home. Now I don’t know how long she waited before she called the cops to bring him home, but she knew he had gone to a friend’s house instead. One of the other mothers in the group completely flipped out, accusing this mother of dangerous and negligent behavior, incorrectly citing the case of the 7-year-old Japanese boy left in the mountains in comparison, and claimed that now she had completely destroyed the safe space of her child that should always be her.

All hell broke loose on this thread as a result.

So now we aren’t supposed to discipline our children so we can be their “safe space” always? I thought the point of growing up was to become an adult and being out on your own, not being attached to your parent forever. I thought the point of being a parent was to teach your child how to be functional, contributing members of society that don’t land themselves in prison. Yes there are exceptions, but that’s when we need to file for guardianship when they reach adulthood.

Our kids especially need to learn the law and know that it needs to be respected. We cannot live in a constant state of fear about the “what ifs” in this world. We need to focus on the now and give our children the skills and tools they need for their futures. The reality is there will come a point when we won’t be there for them anymore and they need to be as ready as possible for that time.

Thus I don’t understand this “put our children in a perfect bubble” mentality. What good will it do them once we are dead and gone? Furthermore, last time I checked it was legal for teenagers to be out and about with their friends unsupervised in broad daylight in the neighborhood. It wasn’t like his mother dumped him out in the wilderness. It was a short walk down the street from their house. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that feels this way.

Every parent in this one thread responded to this woman, making it clear that they felt she was being abrasive, accusatory, and circular in the discussion when this was supposed to be a support group. I tried really hard to sort out where this anger was coming from while also trying to support the attacked mother. I even offered the links from my previous post to assert that not engaging with his aggression was a good thing – especially while driving a car. She knew where he went when he left the car and when he refused to come home when the time came, she called the police. Engaging in a fight while driving could have gotten someone killed.

But this other woman’s defense finally came out to be that by kicking him out of the car to make him walk increased his risk for suicide….

And so there we have it. Ultimately that’s what this turned out to be all about. I tried to address that directly by telling her I understand, but she suddenly shut down and left the group. After that I tried mentioning to the group that maybe based on the content of her comments she has lost a loved one to suicide. I got dismissed because she should have been more positive and more polite. Yeah about that… Suddenly I feel that maybe we were too harsh. Like we have all jumped to conclusions and we were all abrasive. WE ALL SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE POSITIVE AND MORE POLITE. Like all the other mothers kept saying, this IS a support group. So where was the support? Of course there is no way for me to know exactly why this woman flipped out the way she did.

But I’ve said it before and I will say it again: all behavior has a reason. Behavior doesn’t simply come from nowhere.

One woman freaked out and instead of trying to understand why, the rest of us ganged up on her to defend the disciplinary choice of another. We just assumed that was what this was about. I have read the thread over multiple times now. I’m not sure anymore. I’m almost positive that it’s about the fear of suicide in our children.

And yes, every single one of her comments were angry and abrasive… and afraid. Over and over she kept asking us why couldn’t we see what she was saying. Well, I think the reason we couldn’t see is because she wasn’t telling us the full story. And that sometimes happens with trauma or grief responses. People don’t always fall into balls of tears or panic attacks. Sometimes people become angry driven by fear. But I don’t know. I will never know. I can only guess forever as to why this happened.

It just bothers me that she brought it up more than once indirectly multiple times and then finally said it point-blank and the rest of the group just dismissed it like it didn’t happen. Because she was abrasive. Because she wasn’t positive. Because she wasn’t polite. Because she wasn’t being supportive. Did any of us stop to see that SHE NEEDED SUPPORT? I deeply regret that I failed to see that in time.

Suicide is a serious concern, but this is why I think her solution (to wrap our kids in a perfect bubble to prevent it) while understandable, is flawed.

Unfortunately in my life I have had too many people use threats of suicide as a tool for control. I mean to the point where my youngest son uses this threat now. And he’s 6-years-old. He has made attempts during highly dysfunctional episodes but they were never in response to discipline and in those times there was never a threat – just a verbal wish to be dead and then immediately an attempt – like running in front of a car. The empty threats with this kid have always been just that (“Maybe I should just kill myself and make you feel bad.”) and then covering himself with the toy box – so far. So I completely get what this person is saying and what she is so concerned with.

When do you know it’s the real deal and when it isn’t? You can’t. You won’t. Not really. A part of you wants to react to each and every one of these threats and attempts with everything you have to make sure your child doesn’t just survive, but has the will to THRIVE. This is your baby you risked life and limb to bring into this world (yes believe it or not child-birth is still risky business), the core of your being knows it, and you just can’t turn away from that. Your soul simply won’t let you. This is what makes this form of manipulation such a powerful tool and it is one we should never teach our children to use.

My response now when it comes to suicide is simply to just report your ass to the hospital and the situation surrounding it. I don’t care who you are, child or adult. I can’t save the abusive adult assholes that use an empty threat of suicide as a weaponized tool to control me, but I can use the hospital as a shield – and maybe they can save that asshole from their own bullshit. Maybe they can’t. I don’t know, but I can hope. But I’m sure as hell not going to teach my son that this is a tool of any kind to get what you want. Not to mention that I would be denying him the opportunity to learn legitimate, healthier, and more productive skills to cope and to get his needs met.

That’s what I’m really worried about: the long-term ramifications of buying into this fear of what might happen and the bubble effect.

If we are constantly giving in to these threats as the sole means to prevent suicide, then we run the risk of teaching our children that this is a form of social currency to get what they want. We can’t afford to do that. It’s dysfunctional. It’s abusive. There is no true happiness to be found in treating people that way. Eventually people are going to start ditching you. Not to mention that it is a dangerous habit. Start using it as a threat to control others and eventually people stop believing you. Your ability to navigate through life in this way will erode as your social supports break down as a result from this behavior. Then when you really do need suicide prevention – or any other kind of honest help for that matter – few are likely to provide the compassionate care you need.

Our children, with the diagnoses they have, cannot afford to be denied compassionate care. It is our duty to teach them how to properly advocate for themselves to cope through life and to get their needs met through socially appropriate means.

So to the mother that had gotten so angry on that thread today: I’m sorry I wasn’t paying full attention until you were ready to bail. I wish I had understood sooner what the real issue was so that we could have discussed that rather than argue over talking points, reward systems, and news articles. Please believe me that I do understand your concern. It’s visceral. It’s valid. It’s real. I heard you – too late, but I heard you.

And I understand on a level I wish I didn’t.

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