Adultolescence: Preparing Young Adults Who Struggle With Skills For Wellness and Independence, With Greg Ostler

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Adultolescence: Preparing Young Adults Who Struggle With Skills For Wellness and Independence, With Greg Ostler

Teen girls and young women are experiencing unprecedented spikes in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. There are differing opinions about what’s driving this surge, but nearly everyone agrees it’s happening. These young women often struggle with their identity and role in the world, manifesting a wide range of unproductive behaviors: withdrawal, avoidance, manipulation, and misuse of substances. And of course, substance misuse complicates every problem even further.

My guest is Greg Ostler, Clinical Director at Skyterra Young Adult Wellness Retreat. Greg says young women in recovery often don’t have environments conducive to learning healthy routines, essential skills, and the importance of self-care. Skyterra couples this kind of practical knowledge with communication and conflict resolution skills that allow young women to transition into healthy, responsible adulthood. 

In this interview, we talk about:

  • The five pillars of lifestyle habits that help young adults thrive
  • “Adultolescence”, and why 18 is just a number
  • Why it can be helpful to “blow things up” at times
  • Why it’s okay to admit you don’t know what to do

This podcast is part of a nonprofit called Hopestream Community
Learn about The Stream, our private online community for moms
Learn about The Woods, our private online community for dads
Find us on Instagram: @hopestreamcommunity
Download a free e-book, Worried Sick: A Compassionate Guide For Parents When Your Teen or Young Adult Child Misuses Drugs and Alcohol

Hopestream Community is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and an Amazon Associate. We may make a small commission if you purchase from our links.

Today we are talking all things “adultolescence.” This is a term I first heard when I was talking with the amazing team at Skype. Tera young adult and it is the perfect word to explain that difficult transition between adolescence and adulthood.
And if you have a creature in this stage, you know what I’m talking about. Skype, Tera, young adult in North Carolina is a different kind of program that is designed more as a wellness retreat. Let me tell you, when I went to the website, I wanted to go there, but it’s designed more as a wellness retreat for young adults where their guests learn how to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes.
That includes things like yoga and meditation. And they also work on really practical things like time management, goal setting, handling conflict, leadership skills. And they also focus on things like cooking and grocery shopping, which might sound basic, but these are things that, you know, if you have a young person who struggles with executive functioning, an anxiety trauma, all of those things these day to day skills can be really, really challenging.
And young people sometimes just need a safe container to practice these things and learn these skills and learn how to deal with the conflict and the difficulties of life. And it’s also helpful that they are doing it alongside peers who are also learning. So today you are going to hear from Greg Osler, the clinical director, and Karen Stewart, the executive director.
It’s right here. And they’re going to talk about what they see going on with young adults today who are not thriving in that transition to adulthood. Why that is for the young people they work with and what it looks like. We cover things like manipulation, avoidance, withdrawal, and the fear that young people often have of saying, I don’t know what to do.
It’s really, really hard. We also talk about something I am pretty passionate about, which is what is the deal with 18? Why do we think that magically the age of 18 our kids are going to be good to go, especially for kids who have struggled through high school? Maybe they didn’t even finish high school. And then the day they turn 18, nothing changes.
But everything is supposed to change. There are a lot of expectations about what they should be doing, how they should be functioning. But they still have a lot of needs. There’s no magic dust that falls on them on that birthday and completes their executive functioning skills or anything. So we talk about that. Greg also talks about the idea of blowing things up.
He explains why he likes to do it and why, as parents, we need to stop avoiding hard conversations and conflict with our kids. I am pretty sure this is when you are going to get so much out of so lace up your shoes or hop in your car or whatever you do when you have hope stream in your ears and let’s do this.
00;04;20;05 – 00;04;54;21
Enjoy my conversation with Greg and Karen from Skype. Tara. Young adult. Welcome. Greg and Karen and Woody two hopes dream. This is going to be a great conversation. I think you guys have such an interesting perspective and population that you work with. And we’re we’re in four different locations, so we’ll see how this goes with the recording, but we just kind of go with the flow on Hope Stream.
So welcome to the podcast.
Awesome. Ryan is so excited to be here with you. Appreciate the opportunity.
That’s awesome. Well, let’s before we dive into everything, let’s just give folks a background on whoever wants to share and is comfortable kind of how you came to be doing what you’re doing. I always find these little vignettes interesting because it’s a unique role that you play. And so I just love to hear just a little bit of context for how you got here.
Absolutely. So my name is Greg Ostler. I’m a licensed clinical social worker, licensed clinical addiction specialist, and I work on trauma attachment addiction. I’ve been doing this work for about 15 years, and I was supposed to be a dentist. So I kind of fall into this a role by default. I did pre-med, pre dental in college, and then got kind of spooked and then jumped into serving people in another way and then found myself in wilderness therapy as a direct care staff, opening the eyes to what therapy could be.
And then because of my own personal traumas I experience in my teenage years, I avoided therapy, I had therapy, and now I’m that therapist. And so it’s been interesting just figuring out how life challenges us in different ways and bringing in those perspectives. And so I’ve done a lot of work in residential treatment. I worked in the school systems and I’ve been here at Skype, Tara, for a little over two and a half years, and we opened a program for wellness with young adults understanding that we are launching into this this weird time of life where we’re supposed to be responsible and accountable, yet never really shown how.
So we created a program for young adults to teach them how by having the structure in container that’s different than mom and Dad getting rid of some of those distractions and using therapy and wellness and and life as that platform.
Awesome. From dentistry to therapy, I love it. See, there’s always some interesting story which I love to hear. Karen, do you feel like sharing a little bit about how you got here?
Sure. So I don’t have a dental background, but I do have an art background, so I had trained as an artist but was always kind of interested in the intersection, I guess, between human services and art and how art can be used to help people with their healing. So I did a lot of training and had a lot of focus on trauma, working with trauma and how you could use art to help to heal that trauma.
Most recently, I was working in a domestic violence shelter with domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and so that did that for about five years. I was the crisis services program manager there. And so I feel like that really was probably I would tell people I kind of have a Ph.D. in domestic violence and, you know, obviously a lot of trauma there.
So I really honed a lot of my skills.
I think I know that the population that you’re working with there is young adult women, which I love. And I just think about our society today. And I you know, I, I hear a lot about boys and young guys and obviously, you know, they’re impacted as well. But I don’t think I’ve ever really had anybody on talking specifically about young women.
So maybe you can just share what you see going on with that, because it is it is a pretty rough time, I think, for young ladies.
Yeah. Yeah. So I think we all we came about this young adult approach based on, I think some of what we were seeing in society, some of we’re seeing in treatment is the trajectory of where the world was. This is a COVID world. This is a disruptive world. This is a the traditional graduations, the traditional rite of passage into young adulthood was kind of disrupted.
And so in that with kids, with young adults being in that transformative time in life where they’re trying to find their identity in high school now, they’re expected to be more responsible as adults. You know, it’s a lot of let’s slow down that whole conversation. And rather than shaming ourselves into saying, hey, you don’t know what to do and we feel guilty, we feel stuck, you feel frustrated.
It’s let’s normalize the reality of where you taught this stuff, where you introduced to this. Do you have any exposure? Do you have any lived experience? And if the answer is no, then let’s figure it out. Let’s go ahead and show you how you take care of yourself. Let’s show you how you learn the basics of life and living with roommates and that kind of stuff.
Because what we see, we see way more anxiety than I ever anticipated, way more anxiety than I thought we would see. And a lot of it’s because of the societal pressures, but also because it’s young women. There is a ton of opportunities for women to be in recovery, but not all. Not everyone belongs in those environments. You know, they’re not conducive to learning those skills to find productivity and find routine and reengage in kind of that self-love and compassion.
It’s I’m looking at social media. I’m looking at my friends, I’m looking at the world thinking I’m not good enough, thinking I can’t give enough, I’m not contributing. And school is hard and relationships are hard and my parents are difficult. And and it’s all that stuff that we’re able to explore. We also normalize, neutralize that playground, and we get to say, Hey, bring it all, bring it all with you.
Let’s let’s unpack it and lay it out and see how it lays. And then we’ll figure out where you need to start.
The anxiety piece of it is so I hear it all the time. You know, I got into this because of my son and he didn’t have anxiety, so I haven’t seen that up close, like in my home. What does that look like? Like if if a parent is, you know, observing their their young adult or even a teenage daughter, Because I think sometimes we hear that and we go, oh, it’s anxiety, but what do how does that manifest itself?
Like, what would I be seeing in my home?
I think that’s one of the more confusing components of it, because anxiety is a spectrum. Depression is a spectrum. And depending on how I present and what I’m told by society, my therapist, my doctors, Wikipedia, WebMD, I have all these problems wrong with me. And anxiety is clearly the stress, the worry, the uncertainty and it plays out in not taking care of myself, extra sleep or insomnia and no sleep.
It’s extra food or no food. It’s also a spectrum within a spectrum. And we see a lot of avoidance. We see a lot of, I want to say, just like stepping back and withdrawing from productivity because we’re all so afraid. The anxiety is I won’t be successful. The anxiety is I’m not good enough. The anxiety is I don’t feel good and I am tired because I am exhausted because life is hard.
And now I have these expectations that mom and dad have or my teachers have or my partner has of how I’m supposed to be present in life. And this is this is starting very young. This is 11 or 12 years old when we’re thinking about tweens and pre-teens. And then we have adolescence during the teenage years and then that transition to young adulthood, it just presents differently based on maturity and lived exposure.
You know, these these young women are bringing in these experiences from high school for middle school of bullying and connection and identity and trying to figure that out. That’s where the anxiety lies is in who am I? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. My brother, my sister, my parents expect this, my teachers expect this. And I’m not functioning because I don’t have confidence and self-esteem.
I don’t have. So it’s anxiety, but it’s also identity. It’s anxiety, it’s also connection. It’s anxiety. And it’s I don’t know what to do there for to gain control of my situation. I’m going to go ahead and withdraw. I’m going to go ahead and engage in unhealthy behaviors, that sort of stuff. It looks like avoidance. It looks like manipulation.
It looks like lying and stealing and cheating because that’s less disappointing than me not knowing what to do right now in my life and not being able to say, Mom, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do because I’m going to disappoint mom. I’m going to make my mom feel bad. Right. And it’s I want to avoid that, too.
So it’s a huge spectrum, Brenda, of how do I live and how do I do it right when there is no right or wrong way of doing it and they avoid living.
It just sounds paralyzing. Like as you’re describing this, like just even me in my body, I’m like.
Oh yeah, she’s.
Just sounds so much. And you would get to a point and we see this, and the parents I work with see, this is like you just said, either the acting out and all this behavior that makes it very difficult and confusing as a parent, because what we see is defiance and we see all this crazy. And it’s it’s very hard to be compassionate for that because you’re seeing this craziness.
But I think like what you just described helped me start to think more empathetically, like, oh, my gosh, that would be a horrible way to live with all of that. And so I think it’s great to know that that is if that is present, it doesn’t have to be forever that there are ways that you can work toward changing that.
And it sounds like and we could talk a little bit more about it, but it sounds like there’s just some very practical skills and things that you can do to start building the confidence and the understanding that there is no right way. We all get to be different. But yeah, it just feels really paralyzing and horribly uncomfortable.
Yeah. Which in my in my, my perspective makes sense that we would then avoid. Yeah. You know, because if it’s not safe, if it’s not the first of all what I want, then I’m going to do what I do, what I want. Even though it’s not productive because I need comfort, I need some type of stability and that means I’m surviving rather than truly engaging.
Yeah. I think to you know, the nervous system has a lot to do with it. So I think what’s happening is there’s this experience of overwhelm and then whatever our default is for dealing with that, you know, our body is perceiving that as stress, as a threat, and so then it’s going into collapse. Right? And that’s the depression where we’re just sleeping all the time or not wanting to deal with reality or we’re going into that fight mode.
Right? So, yeah, there’s this whole physical piece to it as well, which is one of the things that we focus on here with with our guests is really talking about, you know, there are other things that are happening here. It’s like you’re saying, Brendon, it’s not necessarily a choice. It’s not that I’m just choosing not to participate. It’s I’m having this very real physical response in my body right now, and I might not even be aware that that’s what’s happening.
You know, we actually we just had a meeting yesterday morning and one of the students said, you know, we went on this this ropes course. And I got through the whole course just fine. And then at the end, I just panicked. And she said, I kind of realized, wait a minute, I was actually pressing down. You know, I was having this, like, physical response, not realizing it, kind of pushing it down.
But then at the end, it just completely caught up to me and I thought, Whoa, that’s great insight. You know, she just had this awareness like, wait a minute. And so then we can work with that. Like, okay, so let’s think about that and what are the signs that you you notice you are experiencing something and that disconnect happens so easily.
A lot of students kind of, you know, they’re kind of moving away from it because it’s uncomfortable for them. And that’s one of the things Greg talks about a lot is wanting that safety, that control, you know, having that that sense of safety. And so how can we still have that when we’re feeling good, when we’re working with difficult emotions or working with challenging situations?
Right. Well, what comes to mind for me, too, is that it’s really in order to start to recognize those things, you have to have a certain level of I want to call it stillness or distance away from social media. And the, you know, all the stuff that our kids are dealing with today. You if you’re so bombarded with all of that, it’s really hard to do the work to dig in and start to recognize, oh, I’m feeling this because you don’t know where all these feelings are coming from.
So I think that’s a really important part of it, is we sometimes want our kids like, well, just, you know, figure this out. But what we don’t realize is they’re living in a world that is just assaulting them constantly. And it’s really hard to do anything in that room. You know, in that environment. There’s a term that you guys had which was adult lessons, which I love.
I’ve never heard that before. And I absolutely love it. Maybe describe what that is. And, you know, parents are probably like, Oh, yeah, I know it’s really hard. You know, how how do we navigate that?
Oh, my goodness. I love I love the term. I love this idea of we transitioned from adolescence into adulthood and what we find, whether we are in that adolescence or we are in later adulthood, even as parents, you know, we want different than what we have right now, right? We live in a world of immediacy. We live in a world of instant access.
So to deconstruct adult lessons, we look at adolescence, right? Starting again, ten, 11, 12, up to 18 and we’re looking for respect. We’re looking for independence, we’re looking for autonomy, we’re looking for choice, we’re looking for kind of identity. And that includes me exploring my world. And that requires some resources, it requires opportunities, it requires environments that allow for that to happen that we would typically associate with adulthood, you know, some of the freedoms and and availability of doing so.
And so we’re adolescents wanting adulthood. Yet what we what we want when we’re adults is while we’re living that life that all these kids dream about is we are trying to get back to the reality of being a teenager in an adolescent where we don’t have responsibility, we don’t have any accountability, we don’t have to work because mom and dad are taking care of it.
Mom and dad make the food. Mom and dad do the dishes. Mom and dad do the laundry. And I get to kind of be this free bird floating through my social environment of my friends and people I want to be with. And so there’s this weird contrast between adolescence and adulthood where we want the opposite. Brenda I would love to be five years old forever because five like when my kids were five, I got three children when they were five, they’re like the best kids.
And as they grow up, they start figuring out that independence and they figure out their autonomy and they figure out how that they have these things that they just can’t reach. And I’m able to sit here and say, Hey, let me give you a little bit of advice. Yeah. And in that adult two lessons, when we’re in the later adolescence, right, the 17, 18 and even young adulthood, the last thing I want is for my mom breathing over my shoulder saying, Hey, let me tell you about what happened when I was your age, because it is such a different world today than when I was growing up, than when my parents were growing up.
And I think one of the really cool things we do an embrace around this adult to lessons is normalize the reality of that feeling of I want this and I can’t get it. My parents want it, they want to understand it. They can’t get it either. So how do we come together and connect? So we focus on the relationship so that we can challenge an adult to lessons.
But it is this desire to have kind of what is out of reach because of the role that we play, adolescence or adult.
Right? That is, it’s a cruel twist of fate that once you arrive on the other side, you’re like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, I want to go back.
Yeah, it’s like it’s like when you’re when you’re a young child, you fight the map, you don’t want to take a nap. And then when you’re older, you’re like, all like, I would love a nap right now.
It’s that that reality of man, if only I could go back. It’s hindsight’s 2020. Understanding that as an adult, there’s things I would change as a young adult for sure. I would change a lot about my adolescence, the people I was with, the things I was doing because they’re not about super problem at this point in my life yet.
That’s what got me Here was some of those mistakes, some of those endeavors and what we’re seeing and there’s a door to lessons phase of a period of time is that they don’t have exposure. They’re not trying things out and failing. They have the anxiety that is crippling to the point of not trying anything else. So I want freedom.
I’m not willing to go get it, though. I can get a job, I can go to school, I can be productive. Yet I’m scared of failure because I never have failure. And I think that’s a stuck point. That’s a sticking point for young adults. It’s a sticking point for parents because we all we want is our kid to do it.
But think about it for a minute, Brenda. It’d be so much easier for me to just do it for my child because I’ve already done it. Yes. And these adults are thinking the same thing. And I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve talked to who have written reports and resignation letters and job offers and all these things for their young adult children, just like setting up a dentist appointment or getting a therapist because it’s like, I don’t know how to do.
The world expects me to do it just because I have an 18. And the crazy part two is that in the United States we look at 18 as being adulthood, right? There are countries all over this world that look at adolescence being from the pre teen, 14 to 29 years old, because there’s this transition period of experience and exposure where our frontal cortex, all that kind of brain science is all online and we simplify it a little bit too much, I think, because the reality is if my kids knew what to do, they’d be doing it because they want that space.
They don’t want mom hovering. And it’s also safer for me to say, Mom and dad, go ahead and do it. I’m okay sacrificing. I’m okay. Not knowing because mom’s always there. Yeah. So I use my hands as kind of this metaphor here where one hand over the other is kind of this helicopter hovering parent and it makes sense from birth to 18 years old and makes sense during adolescence.
And what we do is we try to kind of intersect and disrupt that by removing some of those comforts, bringing the hand side by side or linear understanding. This is adult and an adult in these relationships. And we still got to have that desire to cross over a little bit because mom, there is real mama bear will never go away.
Right? And that’s kind of part of the reality. But it’s also a mama bear stops a lot of that progress because of mom’s inability to navigate that anxiety.
Because if my kid fails, that’s my reputation is a lot of the reality that we see with these students. What we teach and get to through our workshop is that it’s okay for your kid to fail. Your kid is also scared of failing, just as you are scared of them failing. And so we we utilize the approach of challenging with curiosity.
Meaning I notice this. Can we chat about it rather than hey, listen to my advice and we support with neutrality. We don’t pick sides. We don’t say, Hey, you’re doing it wrong because I did it different when I was your age. But it’s it’s just the simplicity of let’s normalize and neutralize this playground and understand that it is hard, it is crippling to be a young adult.
And I do not envy young adulthood like I’m a little bit beyond that, thankfully. And I think I look back at that and my life was so different. I feel like I was so much more productive. And these kids, they want to be productive. So then they start feeling like I jumped them and they got messed up. And so it’s it’s disappointing kind of that that anxiety leads to this crippling identity because then it’s helplessness, then it’s hopelessness, then it’s I can’t ever recover and mom and dad are there to help me.
But it’s more I’m not open. My parents help because they don’t know how to help me either. So a lot of that neutralizing mom and dad so that they don’t feel like they have to be defensive and helping the child, the adult child at this point understand it’s okay to struggle. It’s just really uncomfortable. And that’s what we’re avoiding.
I’m taking a quick break because there is a new resource for dads who have kids struggling with substance use and mental health. And it is a game changer. This is a private online community called The Woods. It’s completely disconnected from social media and it gives men the evidence based tools and strategies to help them help their children make positive change.
And it’s also a place where they can be totally real about what’s going on. The woods is hosted and supported by battle tested advisors who are all dads themselves, and they work with members to help them better navigate a really challenging time in life. So if you’re a dad listening and wondering where all the other cool dads are who have these amazing, yet challenging kids, the woods is where you can meet up.
And if you know the dad or stepdad who could use some additional scaffolding around them right now, you can let them know there’s a private and supportive place to go. You can learn more at Members Dot the Woods community, dawg. And there’s free trial, so there’s no risk to check it out. Okay, now back to the conversation. The getting to being comfortable with being uncomfortable both as the young person and as a parent, because I think nobody you know, the quote unquote, helicopter parent.
I certainly was one because nobody teaches you really, unless I guess you’ve read the right book or you go to the right webinar or something.
No. One, there’s no manual for parenting.
No one teaches you how to unveil crow yourself from your kids kind of over time so that they learn what they need to learn and they don’t feel like you just dump them. And I agree that 1818 is just a number. Like it’s just you have that birthday, just like you had your 17th birthday, just like you’ll have your 19th birthday.
So it seems incredibly arbitrary that we just like, okay, this is this is the day where you’re supposed to know all of this stuff. Yeah. And, you know, parents I know are not intentionally trying to sort of strangle their kids ability, you know, by doing all of this stuff. But we just have to be taught and I know a lot of that comes down to communication as kind of the bedrock of everything that we do with our kids and what are what are some of the things?
I’m just curious because I see I see a lot of communication, landmines, and I’m wondering what ones you guys see and what ones typically are tripping up your your guess I’m I’m going to call them guess because I believe that.
Yeah I like that. I think I think it’s interesting because the same the same obstacles are tripping up the the young adult and the adult parents. And I think it’s the reality of not having hard conversations. I think it’s we avoid conflict by brushing it under the rug and then we just pretend like it’s gone. And then when I get triggered, I get pissed off, I get so angry, so aggressive, so overwhelmed, I don’t know what to do.
So that leads back to the anxiety of withdrawal. It’s having hard conversations and addressing conflict. Kids aren’t going to like it. People don’t like addressing conflict. They want to also avoid it. So the bigger piece is I like to blow up. I like to let them have hard emotions and trigger some of those those experiences so that we have something to work on because students and guests come in, parents come in to bake it till you make it mentality, right?
If I can just if I can just outlast this therapist, I’m not going to talk at all because the therapy is going to talk enough for me. Mom and dad do the same thing. And so it’s holding accountability on the family relationship, not just the young adult and not just the parents. We can’t have this divisive relationship and expectation that mom and dad show up, but the kid’s just kind of floundering, hanging out in the background, getting a free vacation.
00;29;08;20 – 00;29;35;10
It’s also let’s help you understand what the child is doing to build credibility. Let’s help you understand what is happening so that as we do move forward, we are growing, we are building, we are connecting rather than pushing against each other or fighting against each other. And so a lot of it is the basics of communication, right? It’s learning how to do active listening, learning, listening to hear rather than listening to respond or communicate.
It’s a little bit of like slowing down the conversation and talking about boundaries and expectations as well as the student and the child being able to say, Hey, this is what I’m able to do. These are my capacities. And mom and dad saying, Hey, let’s meet you where you’re at, rather than saying, Hey, you’re 18, you’re an adult, go fly the kids like, Mom, What if I don’t fly in the moment like you probably won’t, you know?
And so it becomes this weird conversation of sabotage, essentially, because Mom’s going to be uncomfortable being an empty nester. And if we slow down that conversation and say, Hey, where are we all at? Like, let’s get a whiteboard, let’s do some brainstorming and let’s talk through this experience that mom and dad are having and then talk about the child’s experience.
It’s not that different. Yeah, the emotions, the anxiety, the fear, the uncertainty. It’s it’s across the board and it hasn’t seemed to change much depending on whether that is an only child or not. Older and younger siblings are also battling the same because personalities are different and the motivation is the things that trigger us are different based on who we are in our life.
And and so I am one that is very blunt, I’m very direct, I’m very clear, and I’m one that’s going to going to stir that pot a little bit to get things going. And I’m going to poke that bear and I’m going to make sure things blow up because again, kids can come in and pretend, kids can come in, young adults can come in, parents come in.
And if I don’t create some emotional experience for them, it’s different than what they’re used to. Then they are seeking safety and control, doing the same stuff. And I can have all the cliche phrases right, like, you know, you should have known better, you shouldn’t have done this. Well, parenting is really about and read all the books, all the self-help books.
They’re all out there and they’re all okay. But if you read a book and don’t apply it, it’s the same as learning the lesson in an argument. Your child can come back to have the same conversation.
Which we do a lot.
It’s let’s figure out your child that let’s figure out your kids out of this conversation and maybe slow down a little bit and gain some perspective because we’re we’re expecting this child, this big, big kid, to communicate effectively, address what is happening and have resolution and that’s because they’re 18, because they’re an adult. You know, And I think if my family didn’t teach me that, then where am I going to learn that?
Because school hasn’t taught that, right?
For sure. Yeah.
Relations usually don’t teach that. We usually run in, avoid and placate and all this stuff because it’s easier, it’s more comfortable. And so a big part that we do is we create this comfort in the environment saying you’re not at home. So we take away from home in a new environment. We take technology, we don’t have phones and computers, all that kind of stuff, unless it is therapeutically appropriate.
And that’s based on conversations and opening up. If you don’t open up, what’s hard for me to help. But it’s also understanding that they must choose guests, young adult parent. They must choose to engage, just as they must choose to eat their food and write letters and go to work and do all that stuff. And so in that approach for neutrality, it is we’re not just going to let off her kid and release that pressure.
We’re going to maintain that pressure and make sure the right lessons learned and communicate clearly and effectively along the way to make sure we understand. And that’s active listening in conflict resolution. A lot of are you ready for advice? Do you want some feedback and being able to hear? No, I think teaching parents and kids, big kids, young adults, how to hear and say, no, there’s something that is missing as well because we don’t have boundaries.
And then when I say it, I’m afraid of disappointing someone else. So I learned very early that no means no from my mom. And that has been the piece that’s played out in a very strange way because the thoughts in abuse are all over the place. And that’s never where I learned to say no. It’s it’s when there’s boundaries, when there’s things that I’m not comfortable either or are okay with, can I say no?
And that what I hear? No, it’s okay to hear No, You know, it’s a simple peace. And when you’re a kid, you’re fighting. No, Mom says no. If I fight, have been a tantrum, Mom, I’m going to say yes. I have learned this over time. I challenged manipulation in so many ways, Brenda, because I think it’s very derogatory.
I don’t believe it gives credit to the student in their struggle. And so I talk about self-preservation more than manipulation. Self-preservation, meaning I’m doing the best I can. And then in that neutrality, we get to tell the student, Hey, mom and dad are surviving. They are working on self preservation just like you are. They’re trying to make it through mom and they’re not trying to control you.
Mom and dad understand helicopter parenting and they don’t want that either. So how do we slow that down and come together? Becomes addressing hard things and having very difficult conversation that no one wants to have yet. I tend to thrive in those bad boys.
Well, it takes somebody to stir the pot, like you said. But I think it’s great to have a safe place to stir the pot because we you know, as as parent, I was one of these a conflict avoider and that could be a whole nother episode on why that is that we we don’t have time for today but I think a lot of people know that that is a reality.
I don’t want to create conflict with my kids. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how that’s going to feel. And so you’re right. What you said earlier about it just sort of builds and builds and builds until all of a sudden now you’ve got an explosion and then that’s a mess to deal with. So the idea of teaching us how to have those conversations stir the pot a little bit in a safe place where you can then guide us through that conversation to say, okay, look, we can have this.
And the world didn’t end like maybe some of these feelings got hurt or maybe, maybe afterward we feel so much better because now I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing or, you know, there’s just there’s context for it. So I think that’s really, really important. What is sort of this therapeutic wellness and how does this differ from a traditional, just like 30 day inpatient experience?
Well, I think the first part is choice. The young adults have to choose to be here. They have to choose, participate. They have to choose to participate if they go to an inpatient facility. But ours is an invitation inviting them in to really slow down, to intentionally put aside distractions rather than me saying, Hey, your phone goes in a box and we’re going to see it again.
It goes in the dark closet. No one knows where it’s at because I didn’t know patients like for two and a half years. And I get that it’s scary. There’s locks on the doors and it’s all chaotic and it’s you must do. This also has consequences. And when we say, hey, the consequence that you’re already experiencing is the discomfort of having to navigate life and not knowing where you’re going.
Let soften that a little bit and focus on five very simple pillars of lifestyle habit, one being movement and fitness, getting some type of movement in your day, nutrition and culinary skills. So learning how to cook, feed yourself in healthy ways, and then practicing that mindfulness in yoga. So reconnecting mind and body being able to slow down and take those breaths.
Recreation and adventure, getting outside, getting vitamin D and vitamin K and sunshine and oxygen and all those great things that we need that we don’t believe we need. And then the last is self-care and stress management, which is our therapeutic pillar. And and so as we look at this stuff and we teach it, it’s nothing new. We are not like, well, we’re cutting edge in our approach.
The message is the same thing we’ve been hearing for 20 years. Parents, we’re hearing for 50 years of you got to move, you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to sleep. And we we just create that safe places. You’ve identified, Brenda, for where we can have hard conversations and really get down to the nitty gritty of what’s not working.
Because if I have that conversation at home, I’m it’s staring me right in the face. My mom’s not working, my dad’s not working, my school’s not working, my work’s not working. And So we’re able to pull away and say, Hey, let’s focus on lifestyle as a whole, not shining on that big problem because that’s we can take care of that problem.
And then the other problem pops up. But if we can, on are some of these behavioral habits that you have around your lifestyle, regardless of what it is we can then apply your yourself in a new environment, giving a little bit of experience, exposure and experience to new things, new habits, new skills that you have not been taught quite literally in a space where it’s easy to practice with like minded other young women who are not being forced to be there.
I cannot tell you how many people have anxiety because they don’t think they have control, whether that’s with us or at school or at work. And the one thing they want is control and I’m not interested in getting in the power struggle around control. So when a student comes to me and they’ve been there for a day, an hour, a week, a month, and they say, I want to go home, I say, Great, I hear you want to go home.
Can we talk about it? Because if you’re really going to go make a choice, don’t just create chaos because what you’re used to. I get that you’re away from mom and dad. I get that you’re away from your phone. And that’s really scary. Let’s normalize. Let’s support with neutrality. Let’s it’s not me against you. I’m an ally. I’m a support.
I’m a resource. Let’s talk through this. Mom and dad have to make that decision with you. Or if you don’t, Mom and dad are involved, you’re going to make that choice for yourself. I’m going to make sure you know the consequences. I’m going to make sure you know the good, the bad and the ugly of some of these choices you make, whether that’s substance use or wrong, wrong relationship or the wrong work environment or the wrong food.
But it’s not about shame. We focus so little on shame where we’re at because the world is used to that. The world is so used to seeing what’s on social media, what my friends are posting that we say, Let’s just put social media away for a little bit. Let’s learn how to breathe. Let’s learn how to feed yourself and eat and let’s get outside to get some sunshine.
Let’s experience life different. And it’s still familiar. It’s still safe because they’ve been outside before. They’ve eaten food before and they’ve moved their bodies. But it’s where are you at in this process and what do you want moving forward? Is that therapeutic wellness component of we are reestablishing, recreating. We are not able to go back in the past and change what happened when you were 15 or 18 or 20.
It’s let’s reframe that, including mom and dad, to whatever level you believe is appropriate and help them understand where you’re at so that you can make a choice. So lots of choice, lots of reflection. Everything becomes therapeutic because we’re always processing, debriefing, pre briefing, because there’s still drama in life, because it’s a bunch of young people who don’t know each other and have never been here before.
So that’s a huge piece. But it’s about wellness. It’s about building the lifestyle and habits that you can take with you. So everything is translatable and it’s simple enough that you can do it at home with or without people, with or without a gym. You don’t need a chef, you don’t need a trainer. Yet you’re going to learn how to move your body and feed yourself so you can take it home.
It sounds like such a nice break from the the sort of chaos that we live in. I’m like, Oh, this sounds really lovely. Yeah, maybe I need to go visit because it sounds great, but I would think that peer aspect of it has to be really impactful for a young woman to see sort of the contrast of like, Oh, this is where I am, this is where this person is, and maybe she knows how to cook and I don’t know how to cook, but I really know how to move my body.
And she has no idea how to move her body. And like there it just feels like there would be a really cool dynamic as they’re interacting with each other in that way and just learning like, Oh, you know, I think we’ve forgotten sometimes that it’s okay to be a student of life and be learning this stuff that we don’t have to know at all.
Like, where would I have learned to do any of this? My son said that to me when he came back from wilderness. He said, Mom, how come no one ever taught me any of this stuff? He was so shocked. He was like, Well, where where was I supposed to learn about radical acceptance or any of this stuff? And I was like, I don’t know.
You know, it’s so I think it’s so it’s so good just to say to our kids, it’s okay that you don’t know this stuff. It’s all right. We all have to learn it together. And that can be really freeing to to a young person. I wonder, are there any myths like you guys see this every day and you’re dealing with families and parents and young people.
Is there a myth that you think is out there about either this transition into adulthood or about young people needing some of this instruction that you would just like for once and for all you would like to clear up?
I think, Brenda, I think you’ve stated it once. It’s okay to not know it’s okay to not be okay becomes a very familiar motto because as a young adult, we have this pressure on us regardless of when we’ve grown up, that the world wants us to be perfect. And so we try to be perfect. And when we can’t, we get stuck.
And I think just as young adults can say it, parents can say it, too. It’s okay to say, I don’t know. It’s okay to say, I cannot help you with this. It’s okay to be vulnerable and say, I see that you’re struggling. I would wonder what we can do together to get through this because it’s going to be a different experience.
And the minute the student says, Hey, mom, I’m not getting I’m not I don’t want your advice. It becomes a battle and a conflict. And so if we slow down and we said, hey, I see you, I hear you, what do you need? Rather than, hey, have you tried this? And have you tried that? Because that becomes part of that dialog that we all are very familiar with regards to where that comes from.
Because if that’s what that’s what people know how to do, people know how to say, Oh yeah, I’ll just move you. Once I saw this or I heard this once from Brenda, I heard this once on a podcast from when my kid was in wilderness. I heard this. Yes, we’re used to we’re used to parroting that stuff. We are not used to saying no, and I don’t know, because those are meaning you’re not doing.
Or maybe the message of you’re not doing enough because you don’t know. And I want I want people to understand it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to be stuck. It’s okay to feel triggered. And it’s also okay to challenge those experiences because that’s the growth opportunity. If we continue to stay stuck and we say, Hey, I’m stuck and you stay there, that’s a lot of choice, you know?
And if you say I’m stuck and I need to think about it because I don’t feel good, you can also say you deserve to feel better. You deserve to feel heard, you deserve to feel seen. And then that requires you to stop doing what you’re doing and do something different. And if you don’t know what to do, start with something else.
Like start. Start reaching out to someone. Call me. Call Brenda, call. Don’t you need to do Because there people out here who are the experts and we don’t know where they are either becomes a very real truth.
Yeah, it’s very freeing to have the ability just to say, I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know how to help you, but I know there are people who do because I also made the mistake of saying what I would keep saying. What do you need? What do you need? What do you need? And my poor son is like, I have no right.
He didn’t know what he needed. And so I don’t know either. Yeah, I feel like we can put pressure on them as well, but to say, Wow, I don’t know. But I know there are people who do. Would you be willing to help, like, figure out some of this stuff together? Could be really powerful. Just in wrapping up, is there you know, parents are so stressed out.
You know, somebody is going to be listening today who’s got a young daughter or son who’s really struggling and not functioning well and nothing’s working out. And like you said, life’s not working. Relationships aren’t working. Food’s not working. What would you say to that parent in a in a position like that who’s just at their wits end hole?
There’s a lot that I would say there’s a ton of encouragement, there’s a ton of direct feedback. There’s there’s a ton of thought. And I think the big thing that that I want you all to hear, if you’re listening right now, is that you deserve support, You deserve help. You deserve to feel better and you’re doing a fantastic job. This is not supposed to be done.

, ,

the parent’s gathering place

Join us after
the episodes

Hopestream Community is a private online destination where parents find resources, education and personal connections when their child struggles with substance misuse, addiction, and mental health challenges. We teach skills that help improve communication and rebuild broken relationships, while empowering you to motivate your child to adopt or maintain healthier choices.

Learn more and join us >