Many, many parents have kids that have had to go into residential treatment, foster care, or even hospitalization long-term. The rest of the family sits around shell-shocked staring at each other for awhile… as if, “Now what do we do?”
Remember that you all have been in survival mode for so long, there’s going to be a period of adjustment. Then will come the healing of the rest of the family, the time for rebuilding those bonds that got damaged. You will probably hear from other kids how they felt left out, neglected, whatever words they use – listen. And it’s true. In survival mode, you can only put out the house fire. You don’t worry about the dirty spot on the rug, the ugly curtains that should be changed. Your only concern is saving the house.
Now is the time to focus on their – and your own – hurts from just surviving. Work on those relationships. Be sure to give your other children what you simply couldn’t before – your complete attention. An understanding, listening ear. What you shouldn’t give yourself is raging guilt over how your other children suffered during that time. That’s not to make light of your other children’s needs and issues, but in the middle of a raging house fire, do you stop and dust the knicknacks?
Take the time as a family to listen to each other, to spend quality time together being relaxed and get to know each other in a non-crisis situation. Just chillaxin’. It will take some time for the stress to leave your bodies and minds, it will take some time for your over-reactive nervous system not to jump at every little thing. But it can happen, it will happen.
Give yourself, your spouse, and your children lots of grace, as you learn how to live this “new” way. It is a learning process. Don’t carry the guilt, while your children are telling you their feelings, listen and understand, and apologize and explain if necessary, but don’t carry the guilt forward. That does nothing but drag you down, and truthfully, what else could you have done? If you could have done it differently in the moment, most likely you would have. You did your best, just like you ask your children to do. Tell them that, if they’re teens and old enough to understand. But don’t dwell on it yourself. Let your kids lead you on talking about it, and focus on building your family up and strengthening that bond.
You can do this.