Hi, I read here often but have never posted anything, I've been shy. I felt compelled to answer your post though.
I have a son who is almost 19. He was always a difficult child, when he was 13 I lost my husband, my love. It was just me with my 13 year old and 2 younger children. That was when mayhem came to my house. My 13 year old went completely out of control. Between 13-15 he was in all sorts of trouble, school trouble, legal trouble. He finished middle school in an alternative school after he got kicked out, he almost got kicked out of high school, he went through juvenile diversions, probation, kept breaking all the rules. He was smoking pot, drinking, doing anything he wanted, didn't care, I had no relationship with my child. At 15 he ended up in Juvenile Detention, just for a few months, but I felt he was about to go sliding downhill in a huge way. By this point I was ready to have a break-down, I couldn't do it anymore. While he was in there I had a big talk with my parents and my brother, who came quite a distance to see me. I told my brother I can't do this. When my son was released my brother was there and he took my son (my son and brother have always had a lot of contact, so not a stranger!), took him well, about 2000 miles away. That was hard, I felt terrible sending him away like that, I felt like I'd failed him, but I knew that I'd tried everything, I didn't know what else to do with him.
My son started over again there with my brother, and his teenage son, and two younger boys who were 50/50's (so sometimes my brother had 4 boys, I felt like I was a burden to him, he just said 'don't'). My son did get into legal trouble a couple of times (he was placed on a probation there - which he actually complied with for a change and was released early from), he did change schools once (the one he's ended up in is very good for him), he did give my brother trouble. My brother gave him a lot of time in response, spent a lot of time working with him and his behavior. My son was kept accountable for his behavior, his uncle kept his expectations high. He went through some (more) counseling out there. He and his cousin, who's close in age, have become the best of friends, well, brothers, over the years, I was worried he'd resent my son's arrival.
Now I'm not suggesting that everyone send their kids away! And it was not an easy decision to make in any sense. It was the toughest choice I have ever made in my life. I felt like I was giving up on him, and I felt like he would think that too. This is merely what worked for our family, and my son was willing to go, and he went knowing that his uncle's attitude was that he wasn't a visitor in his house, he was a child living under his roof. I think that my son needed a strong male father figure to pull him through, and my brother didn't put up with nonsense. I have absolutely no regrets (now) at getting him out of this neighborhood, away from the kids he was getting in trouble with, and the ones he was fighting with. I do not think that I could have pulled him through this by myself, it took help from my family, and I am eternally grateful to my brother for helping me with one of the 3 most precious people in my life. I truly think he would have ended up in prison (which was also the opinion of the last judge he saw here). I think that one of the most important things for seeing change in my son was getting him involved in activities - and having him stay involved! My brother insisted that he involve himself in things, and my son saw his cousin involved in school activities/sports and things went from there.
My brother made sure he kept in contact with me, he made my son call everytime there was news to share. I always made sure he knew I loved him, because to send a child away like that, it's a terrible fear. This Christmas my son came home for the holidays, it was the first time he's come by himself, instead of with his uncle and cousin. He was home with us for his whole school break, he's still in high school, his last semester until he graduates. He asked me to go out for his graduation, which I'll be doing. My son has grown so much, I feel sadness for not being there to see him on a daily basis, but I am so grateful that I'm not seeing him grow up in prison. He is such a different kid, he's very sweet, very well mannered. (and wow, helpful even!) My son and I are still working on our relationship (and his relationship with his brother and sister, which is a little awkward and distant, they were young when he left), this visit went a long way towards rebuilding our relationships. We really enjoyed spending all this time together, we talked a lot, about everything, fun things and painful things. We hurt each other over the years, but we will get there. And my son is going to make it, I'm sure of that.
Again I know that this isn't a choice for everyone, it's not something I advocate, or even something that many people would want to do. But him going to his uncle saved his life. He had to have support that I couldn't offer to get himself out of the self destruction he was in the middle of. The support was 2000 miles away but it was the support that my son needed. Things had gone beyond what I could do for him, which took me a long time to accept, a long time to grasp the 'takes a village' theory.
Like I said, sending a kid away is extreme (my younger two aren't going anywhere!!) and to start with I couldn't really believe he was gone, that that had been a decision I'd agreed with. But other things that worked with my son are relevant, getting involved in activities, having firm boundaries, knowing we do things because we love them. Maybe even pet therapy! - he'd always talk about the dogs my brother has, I think he learnt about responsibility from them too (my nephew told me one time that he was real glad someone else was picking up their ****
). But the main point is that kids can come out the other side just fine. Some do take more time, and more extreme responses than others.
I'm sorry that this became so long! (maybe I should introduce myself somewhere!) Christmas was great and affirmed for me that kid's can make it, just a few years ago I really couldn't see how things could ever be fine with my son.