Now is the time to learn all you can and develop a strategy to stop this situation in its tracks. Don’t take this lightly. It’s time to move. It will NOT be easy, and it WILL be stressful. But it simply isn’t optional.
First, let’s consider those officers who work in the Juvenile Justice System. One of the primary frustrations they report is their interactions with parents. Parents may be absent. They may seem not to care. They may make outlandish excuses for the behavior of their children. They may throw their weight around. They may be in complete denial as to the culpability of their children. They may hide their own problems which could be contributing to the problems of their children. Worst of all, they may simply not be willing to take the time or energy to deal with the behaviors of their own children! In some jurisdictions, juvenile offenders may be required to make restitution for monetary damages. Sometimes parents actually balk at this!
According to Juvenile Justice experts, children must earn this money themselves and repay their debts themselves. They need to learn that there are consequences for their actions, particularly for their anti-social actions. The most important thing for parents encountering the Juvenile Justice System is to understand that it exists to help you deal with your child. Frankly, you would not be face-to-face with the Juvenile Justice System if your past practices in dealing with your child were working. Accept that they are not working.
It is critical that you open your mind and heart to what the Juvenile Justice System may have to offer your family. They have been there. They have seen successes. They have also seen failures in the children who progress to the adult Justice System. Some adults they saw as children are dead today. Some are incarcerated. And some are productive citizens. Now is the time to decide where you want your child to be 10 or 15 years from now.
Are you scared? Worried? Good. That may mean you are ready to move forward.
First, consider what resources the Juvenile Justice System offers in your state. You may live in a city or state where free counseling is offered. You may live in an environment where there are classes for you, as parents, to attend. Family therapy may be available. Whatever is offered to you, take advantage of it! If there is family therapy and your spouse won’t go, go alone. If you have to take time off from work, take it. If you have to request leave, request it. Join parent support groups. Enlist your church. Find out what services may be available through your employer. And LISTEN to those in the Juvenile Justice System. They have the experience you do not have.
Finally, trust your own instincts. I don’t mean the protective instincts which may make you defend bad behavior in your child. I mean your creativity and intelligence. If you think your child is in trouble, he probably is. If you think he’s using drugs or alcohol, he probably is. If you are worried, you probably have reason to be. And the Juvenile Justice System won’t be far behind. Take a few minutes and develop a break-this-up strategy.
You leave for work every day at 7:30 AM, and your child is supposed to catch the bus at 8. You come home at 5, and he gets out of school at 3:30. Take a couple of mornings or afternoons off. Get up and dress for work, and leave at the correct time. Then circle back and make sure that child is at the bus stop. Come home unexpectedly. Find out what’s going on. Hold that child accountable.
Do not accept lies, and do not accept disrespect. A lot to ask, I know. But you are saving a life, remember? There is no doubt you will need help in getting through this. Talk to the Juvenile Justice System officers and judges. They will be delighted that a parent cares enough to be involved! Find out what’s available in your area. Educate yourself. Enlist the support of family, friends, and other organizations. There is NO shame in needing help. There IS shame in not going out and finding it. You can do this! I know, because I did.