On Monday September 30, a little over a week ago Jack graduated from Liahona Academy, a military type of school for troubled teens. I have had time to reflect on his journey and our entire family’s journey over the past 11 months. I think Jack said it best in his impromptu graduation speech when he said not to think of it as a “punishment but an opportunity to change your life.”
While I think Jack’s words were perfect I thought I would share an exerpt from my talk at his graduation.
So here it goes:
I am honored today to stand with you to honor Jack’s graduation from Liahona Academy. Jack, if you hear nothing else today, hear this: I am proud of you. You have made a transformation from a boy that needed to have the words “troubled teen” entered both into my vocabulary and my “google search” into a young man that I am proud to claim as my own.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Sean and I realized we needed help when we went away on a weeks vacation and observed his behavior from afar. We spent our week of vacation on the phone and the computer researching options for troubled teens. We made the most difficult decision we hope we EVER have to make when we decided to send Jack to Liahona Academy.
We tricked him into thinking we were visiting family and ultimately got him to Utah on November 7. During those first very painful months he later told me he thought I would pick him up over the holiday. It became painfully obvious that part of the problem was the way Sean and I were parenting. I was always the good cop and Sean was always the bad cop. That model wasn’t working for anyone. It was then that I had an “aha” moment. I realized that therapy of this type is ALSO for the parents!
Let’s take the focus off of Jack and onto Liahona Academy. The staff here is simply amazing. They answered all my questions no matter how big or small. The range went from me complaining about Jack’s ripped t-shirt to a full blown panic attack on a Friday afternoon. The Program Director was amazing. He checked in with Jack and assured me within an hour of my call that my son was safe and well and thriving. (By the way that has never happened to me before and it was not a proud moment!)
The care that this staff takes is simply amazing. It ranged from fitness (he lost 30 pounds) to school (he raised his GPA from 2.4 to 3.2) to much improved communication. But ultimately this is about therapy. I learned to have a love/hate relationship with our therapist. Here is a man who knows me and my family probably better than anyone and who is so direct it can feel like a punch in the gut. But I love him and I am thankful beyond all measure to him, the Program Director and the staff for helping our family.
So what have I learned in MY therapy?
First and most importantly, Sean and I stopped fighting and stopped playing the good cop/bad cop roles. And we learned to better appreciate our home and our family. Liahona had taught us to truly honor and care about our home and family.
So I will finally let Jack have the last word and end with HIS words at graduation.
Don’t think of this as a punishment. Think of it as a way to change your life.