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A Mother's Collaborative Problem Solving Story

A mother shares her experience in finding the Collaborative Problem Solving® approach as a solution for her son's sudden behavior challenges in the hopes of helping other families find support.


What brought you to Think:Kids and Collaborative Problem Solving?

I got to tell you a little bit first about how I discovered Think:Kids. So, I'm just a mom. My son was eight years old, he was in the third grade. Just all of a sudden, he started to lash out and have behavioral issues in school,  bullying kids, just so angry, and just so defiant, and it just seemed like it happened—came out of nowhere. So, you know I'm a mom, any mom, you know just you're doing and trying just about everything that you can to try to help your kid, right? You're online, and you're going down the rabbit hole of what to do and what not to do try this approach, not try that approach. And then I actually work in the school district where my kids go to school, so there was a layer of being an employee and also being a mom and just, you know you're trying to deal with, oh what are they going to think of me in my parenting style and what am I doing and what am I not doing. And so, there's a forward-thinking, very young, behavioral therapist in training at the school that my kid goes to school, and so she said, “Have you tried reading this book called Changeable by Dr. Stuart Ablon?” And I was like, no, my bedside table reading is not like, you know, romance novels or anything like that. It's books like strong-willed child and mind-body parenting. And so, I was like, okay, well, I'll add another one to the stack.

And I just spent so many sleepless nights trying to thumb through, comb through, and find techniques that worked or something that would work. So, I was up at midnight, and I was looking at the book, going through it. I looked at the back, opened up the back cover, and then I saw a picture of Dr. Ablon, and I was like, you know what? I'm going to email this guy; I'm going to see what happens. I'm just going to email him because I need help. I'm just in this situation, and my heart's breaking because I don't have the tools as a parent to give my kid what he needs. And how, you know, you feel like a failure. All of these things go through your mind you know you have this beautiful, amazing, smart, creative, energetic just beautiful little person, and he's going through something, and I can't help him. So, I go to Stuart’s webpage, and I said, oh my God there's no way this guy is going to reach out to me, he's like big time he's “call me to schedule a conference” or you know, a TED Talk. And I said, okay let me give it a shot because I was desperate. And I remember typing, “I'm just a mom, and I'm trying to save my son.” So before 6 am that morning he emailed me back and then he connected me with an organization called Helping Behaviorally Challenged Children. They introduced me to this concept of CPS. And I was like, “What is that? child protective services? I'm not trying to go that route.” So, you know, Collaborative Problem Solving.

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What advice would you give other families exploring Collaborative Problem Solving?

In order to even fathom or try to think that something like this could work for your family, you have to strip away anything that you've ever thought or believed about behavior and raising your kids and any kind of cultural residue that just kind of lives with you. And also, the way that you were parented and raised in order to fully embrace this idea of trying to understand and get to know your child, so kids do well if they can. I was raised in a family where children were supposed to be seen and not heard, and if we were misbehaving, it was because we wanted to. And you know, it was a whole new way of revamping and thinking. And in the beginning, it just kind of felt like a bunch of crap, and I said, why am I sitting here trying to negotiate with an eight-year-old? I'm the parent. At this age, he should know better. At this age, I expect him to do this, that, and the other. But it was like, okay, no kid is waking up in the morning every day and saying, “I'm going to terrorize the world. I'm going to make everybody angry and just be disruptive,” Nobody. Who wakes up with that, you know, in mind? And so I had to really take a step back and say, What is happening here? What is his thought process?” Trying to understand, is there something that sets them off in the morning? Did he not eat breakfast? Is this not the right-colored shirt? Just a whole host of different things. I had to just kind of transform the way that I thought, the way that I everything that I believed in what I knew, and how I felt about my kid.

How has using Collaborative Problem Solving affected you and your family?

It's been like a transformation in our family because everybody's been learning. I've been teaching my husband how to do it, and my youngest kid how to do it. And so, it's just we're getting along now, and the ship is sailing along as opposed to, you know, just being in a torrential spiral of despair just not knowing what to do. I just felt so alone. And I keep saying “I” just because, you know, as mothers, I feel like we bear the brunt of just a lot of child-rearing and the emotional aspects of dealing with our kids. But it was a whole family effort, but I just took it on so deeply and so to the point where it's just like I will do anything to make sure that my kid thrives. I just want him to be able to enjoy his life, enjoy his school experience and social interaction with friends and teachers and participate in the world. Instead of just being bottled up and feeling like everything he says is wrong, he's always in trouble, and nobody understands me, and you know all of this stuff.

I have to say it's just completely changed our lives. I was at the worst point of feeling alone. I was at rock bottom, this was my last resort was sending that email, and when I got the answer, it was amazing. Sorry, super, super emotional, and behavior is behavior across the board. You know it doesn't matter, doesn't care about your gender, about your class, or how much money you have. When you feel like there's nowhere to turn and you've tried just about everything, and then you find. When I found that group, it's like I found a tribe of people who were experiencing the same thing that I was going through, and I was able to sit there and speak and not feel judged or be ashamed or just anything. I just was like, okay, I'm not alone, and having that feeling of just knowing that you're not going through this by yourself, and other people are experiencing the same thing. I felt like, okay, we're in the right place, and so it was great it was just really, I don't know another word besides transformative and life-changing.

How has Collaborative Problem Solving supported your child’s mental health?

I can't imagine not having found this and knowing about it, and you know, with the pandemic and everybody being isolated and kids just missing out on these happy wonder years of elementary school. It just gave people a chance to really sit with themselves, and I don't think the world realized that mental health is a real thing. My parents would always say my parents are from Central America very different way of thinking. They believe that mental health is like some Western Americanized thing that people made up. And you need Jesus, go to church and get some Jesus, and you'll be fine. People have started to realize that mental health is a real thing, and when we were trying to find a therapist for our family and for my son, you couldn't get your hands on anyone because they were in such high demand. It was hard for people like us who had children going through stuff, and they needed consistency, they needed someone to talk to all the time, they needed to keep it up, and so it just opened up a whole new world for people to just kind of start to realize and pay attention to children more. And know that there's things happening they're little minds and their little neurological systems and they need to be tended to.

What can using Collaborative Problem Solving offer to families?

It will open up communication lines between children and their parents. It is a gateway to understanding and getting to know each other more. More families will be able to experience authentic interaction and communication with each other. More children will be more comfortable to express themselves in a way that they never imagined possible. More kids will be equipped with the tools that they need to just let everyone know that they're going through something, and that help is there for them and available. Families like mine will be able to thrive and, you know, just live a life that is, a life that you always imagined for your kids.


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