There IS Hope

Category: Weekly Columns

When a parent is in the middle of a kid-crisis, it feels like it will never end. Kid crises are just like all crises in that they will end: more often than not, without irreparable consequences. I am a living testament to this reality as a little less than two years ago; my son was on a downward spiral that felt like it would only end in disaster.

The details are personal, though my son has written about it and will allow me to publish his story later this year. That would be around the time he begins college at the SINGLE college that he applied to! Yes, he applied to just one college: the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He’s a rock ‘n’ roller and determined that Berklee was the only school he was interested in attending.

College Was JUST a Dream

But, I am getting ahead of the story. Two years ago, he was not focused on going to college, doing well in school, or really growing his musical skills. He was on a destructive path. He was in trouble. I was scared. But, I did what I had to do and he ultimately began a turn-around.

Again, you can imagine the details. We read about the downward spirals our teens descend into every day. My son was on one of those trips and it felt like it wouldn’t ever end, it would only get worse.

This is where the parenting challenge is at its most frightening. A parent often believes that they are doing the right things for their children yet sometimes the results seem contrary to that effort. When there isn’t an endemic cause – a serious learning or psychology issue – a parent can’t understand why it could happen to “their darling boy or girl.” It happens. It happens in every demographic, every family structure, and in every culture.

These Challenges Test Parents

These challenges test parents. These challenges are what will set YOU apart as a strong parent. It’s easy when a child excels seemingly because mom and dad have done all the right things. It’s not so easy when mom and dad have “done all the right things” yet son or daughter choose a path of recklessness or self-destruction.

There is hope. And, it resides in mom and dad’s diligence and unwillingness to give up on their children. Let’s be honest. There are times – especially during the teen years – where mom and dad really do want to throw in the towel. Those times usually revolve around destructive behaviors from drugs to drinking, to school rebellion and underage sexual activity.

And, let’s face another harsh truth. There’s a degree of luck in every aspect of life. We all know parents who seem to have done every thing just perfectly, yet had troubled children that caused unending heartache. And equally, there are examples of children that came from the worst background and made incredibly smart choices and excelled. How can either of those examples not be about luck or a destiny that we can’t begin to fathom?

Life Without Hope Is Life Not Worth Living

Life without hope is life that is not worth living. We may not be able to change things, but we sure can try and we sure can choose to see the upside and examples of success rather than dwell on the negative.

Many in the New Age space believe strongly about a positive attitude. Dale Carnegie wrote about it far before the term New Age had even been coined. Does a positive attitude make a difference? I tend to believe so, but it may not always work. However, we do know that a negative attitude usually ends up negatively so I’ll opt for the positive. At least with the positive choice, those around us might be able to tolerate us. Seriously.

When you are in the midst of a kid crisis you can project and carry your fears on your sleeve, you can bring them to your marriage, your friends, or you can choose to focus on hope and a positive outcome. The latter may or may not work, but it will make the journey easier and those around you less stressed by your fears and worries.

Women usually have other women that they confide in. Men often don’t have other men in their lives, which is why I’ve written and spoken much about man’s need for other men. Sharing every worry and fear with your spouse will damage your relationship.

There IS Hope

There is hope. We see it all the time. Just look at People magazine. It is probably the most successful contemporary magazine and every issue always has at least one story of triumph. There is always one story about someone overcoming incredible odds and surviving, thriving, and inspiring others. Choose to look at those stories; choose to believe things will improve, and choose to do whatever work you must to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for your kids.

There is hope.


  • Janet Callaway

    Well done, Bruce. So glad that you and your son weathered the downward spiral. And, of course, I feel good each time I read about his acceptance into Berklee. He either has enormous talented or worked really, really hard on his musical skills when he came out of the spiral.

    Great accompanying cartoons, Bruce.  Until next time, aloha. Janet

    • Bruce Sallan

      I was lucky Janet…ultimately I do believe there’s a degree of luck involved in how our kids turn out!

  • Barry Birkett

    What a story, Bruce!  Congratulations on what you both are accomplishing and your willingness to share so that others can see they are not alone in going through difficulties — and that there is HOPE!

    • Bruce Sallan

      We’ll be discussing this at #DadChat Thursday and I am sure other parents will share their stories. I so appreciate your support Barry!

  • Betsy Cross

    An acquaintance from church said to me once.”Betsy, you’re kids are so well-behaved…etc. How do you do it?” I was miffed because I knew she’d been watching me and felt very judged (incorrectly). I snapped (quietly) and said,”If you are going to praise me for their accomplishments then what happens when they fail?” She looked at me, laughed, and walked away. She had something new to think about.
    Since then my children have grown up a lot and we’ve added even more children to the family who have very challenging temperaments. I’ve witnessed what you talk about. Sticking with them through their dark hours is hard. And it’s really not easy not knowing if anything will turn out right. 
    But I remembered something someone said a while back that has made all the difference. It was along the lines of not burning bridges with your children because they need someone who believes in them and who will never give up. 
    I don’t have all the answers and I second-guess myself sometimes. I get upset when disrespected and challenged. But I’m trying harder to see my role as an anchor in the midst of a storm (life). They may not like me all the time, but like you, I speak positively and with a smile as I stand strong in my values and expectations. That has helped me if no one else.
    Sorry to be so long!!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Betsy, RU kidding! LOVE long comments. Means I made you think! Lots of wisdom in your words Betsy…thanks so very much for sharing them!

  • Mila Araujo

    Having issues with children as they enter the teenage years are some of the most frightening times,  it makes us question our abilities as parents, the choices we have made to date (in upbringing) and often it makes us feel isolated. The most important thing is to have faith in what we have done so far, seek support from our community – if friends and family don’t have experience with issues, or aren’t giving the support, then go further, turn to guidance counselors and/ or other guidance, raising a child is a collaborative effort of an entire community – sometimes when things get hard, you need that community to step in and help. Be patient, move forward, and stick to your values as you work with your teenager to help make it through. Troubles with teenagers often seem the hardest because for the first time in parenting we realize everything is *not* in your control, you can’t save the day, you just have to work with them and be the guide.

    thanks for sharing this Bruce! All parents go through something like this at some time, but so often we feel like, “wow…i think I may have failed”… we need to have faith and never give up hope. One incident, or one phase does not delete everything you have put into that child! The sun will come out if you work hard at it, its just a new challenge – a hard one – but with determination and love – as parents we can get through!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Your comment is EXACTLY why I’m so glad you are co-hosting our #DadChat on #Teens tomorrow, Mila. Being a parent is like having an emotional bank account in that you hope the things you taught them are banked somewhere in their addled teen brains for use later in life when they become sane again!

  • Peg Fitzpatrick

    Great piece Bruce!
    This can apply to everything, not just teens “Life without hope is life that is not worth living. We may not be able to change things, but we sure can try and we sure can choose to see the upside and examples of success rather than dwell on the negative”
    I have so much hope for my teens. Being a parent is not always easy or fun but I love it, maybe almost as you do Bruce.

    • Bruce Sallan

      yes, Yes, YES Peg! Hope is essential, but hoping without effort is childish!

      • Peg Fitzpatrick

        This is a brilliant quote Bruce: “Hope is essential, but hoping without effort is childish!”

        I really enjoy your thought process and take on life. Happy to learn more with each piece I read from you.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Thx Peg. I just added it to my scrolling quotes. Hope to see you at #DadChat Thursday when we’ll be discussing teens and referencing this column!

  • manvdadhood

    I have worked in middles schools in the Seattle area for 7 years.  Kids WILL go through something.  Those teen years that are supposed to be the “best times of our life” are very trying for some.  But these kids are resilient.  I have talked middle schoolers through pregnancy scares, sexual identity crises, broken home lives, deadbeat pot-head boyfriends.  They just need to know you care and love them.  If that is in order, they will forgive you for being human. 

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  • Sonia Donnelly

    Thanks for sharing this.  I think it’s so difficult to watch our kids go through any type of pain.  Emotional pain can be difficult because it’s not something we can always identify or fix.

    • Bruce Sallan

      And Sonia, sometimes when we fix it FOR THEM we are NOT doing them any favors!

  • BigHeadDad

    HAHA! I think it should say so Deprived but I agree they are Depraved and Deprived. Poor poor souls! First World Problems.Ill have to read this a few times because as it does not apply to me (yet) it does apply to what a friend of mine is going through. And it scares me. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Just stay AWARE and don’t hide your head in the sand. OUR teens are VERY smart and know how to fool us – especially us, their parents!

      • BigHeadDad

        I agree, but with an 8 year old and a 4 year old Ive got a few golden years of innocence left. Even in this day and age. 
        Thanks for making me think today. I was starting to wonder if my brain would kick into gear or not today. 

        • Bruce Sallan

          The cliche is so true that it goes by so very fast. So, BHD, enjoy it while you can! Hope to see you at #DadChat tomorrow!

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  • netster

    Stay Positive! 🙂 I stay positive all the time. sometime I thought I was acting to be calm and cool and started to question what the hell am I doing. yes – was unsure sometime while in the stay positive mode.

    sometime we do have our day where it is no use for the positive because the Negative is greater but good thing about this world – the real fact – nothing last forever so does the negativity in ourselves. 

    if we look forward (or not) (I know it’s freaking hard) it’s always hopes at the end. 

    I miss being terrible teens hahahaha (I still can’t forget the day people humiliate me on the first day of Chinese New Year — my 12 years old was a disaster right through the age of 20s. – a simple words can kill people’s life and hope) Yup… too long a story 🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      Yes, I so agree about staying positive!

      • netster

        Maybe one day I should share my story how a teen like me (23 years ago) from super energetic, positive, everything can to the opposite and the worse part — hide away from people and hide away from everything. #failparenting hahaha I sure will not repeat the same mistake for my kids when I have my own.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Write about it!?

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