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One Bad Landing: Helping Her Troubled Teenage Daughter Find Her Way

For Sue Scheff, life was good. Her daughter was sweet and kind, and she had channeled her energy into gymnastics. She loved the training, the community, and the competition; in fact, she was on an Olympic trajectory.

And then her foot – and her life – broke into pieces.

When the severity of the injury meant that she had to take at least a year off from the gym, Scheff’s daughter lost her sense of self. No longer sure where she belonged, her troubled teenage daughter began a downward spiral.

Scheff’s daughter’s search took her down some dark paths. It was so hard to watch a sweet girl who had never gotten into any kind of trouble transform into a monster.

Her daughter leaned in to a negative peer group and latched on to defiant and angry behavior. She’d skip school, sneak out, run away, drink. And there was no end in sight.

Scheff tried everything to help her troubled teenage daughter. They made their way through five therapists with no relief. They tried hospitalization and out-patient therapy to no avail. Her daughter wasn’t interested in fixing her life. She refused therapy and reverted to the same destructive behavior.

Finally, Scheff was at her wit’s end, fearful that she would lose her daughter forever to the depression and bad influences that surrounded her. It was Scheff’s mother who nudged her to find a residential therapy program.

So she searched online, desperately seeking help but having no idea what she was looking for. Duped by slick salesmanship and empty promises, Scheff enrolled her daughter in a program that actually did more harm than good. For six months, she wasn’t allowed to speak to her daughter. When she finally withdrew her daughter, she was suicidal.

Ultimately, they found the right therapy and program for her, and Scheff’s daughter’s story has a happy ending. Currently, her formerly troubled teenage daughter is doing well, teaching gymnastics and making good choices in her life.

Refusing to stay silent about her daughter’s experience, Scheff spoke out about it. Winning a major lawsuit led to the closure of several abusive programs.

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She also founded P.U.R.E (Parent Universal Resource Experts) as a way to support parents who are searching for safe and nurturing programs for their troubled teens. As Scheff says, “There are good schools and programs in our country, it’s about knowing how to vet them – gives you those tools. You are your child’s advocate.”

Susan Borison, mother of five, is the founder and editor of Your Teen Media. Because parenting teenagers is humbling and shouldn’t be tackled alone.

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