THINGS TO REMEMBER AS YOUR CHILD IS TRANSITIONING BACK HOME
Home From The Lodge
- The family has been working while the child is in residence to create a healthy unit with the parent figures (moms, dads, staff) operating together, making decisions and supporting each other so the child does not split or try to manipulate one adult against the other. Adults need to discuss decisions. It’s okay to say, “I will get back to you. I need to talk with your mom/dad.” The family unit works together rather than evolving around a demanding child and their needs.
- As there was a transition when the child left home, the family and child will go through another transition to return to the family. Do not succumb to “EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL”. Children can play on guilt that you “owe” them for sending them away and as a result, they have a whole list of “things they want”. It is okay to say “No”. Children need to feel confident that adults will provide what they need and that as adults you will distinguish between wants and needs. Children need help to differentiate. Adults will provide needs and help children can come up with a plan of how to save or work to get “wants”. You do not have to be guilty for sending your child to Forest Heights Lodge and contributing to turning the child’s behaviors around to become more socialized and functional in the home and school environment.
- Children need a secure base. They do best when a consistent structure is set in place. A schedule they are used to is attached. Although families do not operate on a “rigid” schedule, children need to be told daily what to expect. Wake up times, bed times, meal times should all be consistent. In divorced cases, the child needs one home to operate from with visits set back and forth. Equal time at both homes without declaring a primary home works for adults but does not give children the security and consistency they need to grow and feel good about themselves. Know where your child is and what he is doing. This is a big chance for everyone. Slow down and keep it simple.
- Structure and consistency acts as a “frontal lobe” for the child. Patiently remember they are trying their hardest, teach steps to complete chores, how to fold their clothes, bat a ball, steps broken down to complete a task. Adults do this through modeling (show the child) and teaching the crucial skills of flexibility, frustration tolerance and problem solving. To do this, remember to begin with EMPATHY-(feeling heard makes people feel understood). Empathy acknowledges that the child has a legitimate concern and defines that concern. Teach children that their concerns matter. “I understand how that could happen.” Model and teach feelings. It is okay to be sad, angry, scared. State the feelings. If routines change, it is important for children to be taught flexibility and “go with the flow”. Prepare them for the changes and expect them to go with the flow.
- Chores, room clean-up and organization gives a child order and consistency. A chore means you are part of the family and contributing to the family as a whole.
- When difficulties occur:
Help the child identify the problem.
“My brother stole my CD’s.”
Help the child identify the feeling.
“How does that make you feel?”
“It makes me mad when he comes into my room and takes my stuff.”
Remember, behavior starts with feelings and then thought.
Devise a plan to solve the problem. Invite the child to collaboratively plan solutions. Set up win-win situations. Remember, if it hasn’t ended well, it hasn’t ended yet. Keep working and have faith in the process. Don’t make the problem bigger. Solve the problem you have, not the one you think you are going to have. Make sure that you put the problem into words. Don’t live with an elephant in the room. Once the problem is solved, move on. Let go. That one is over and start again. Don’t let problems build. Confront and solve problems in the beginning and prevent an explosion.
- Be optimistic. Remember your child’s strengths. Point out what they are doing right. Praise whatever and whenever possible. Children borrow off your confidence that they will get through this. Adults have to believe! Life is good. Come join us!
- Break down tasks into steps and celebrate, point out successes. (Example: teaching child to pay for items and get correct change. Begin by giving them money and going through the process with you there. Move to giving them the money and you setting on the curb waiting outside the convenience store, etc. Praise the child’s success.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated. Respect is an important value which needs to be modeled through adults and to children and siblings. Do not tolerate or excuse disrespectful behavior. Help the child state his frustrations in a respectful manner and in a way he will be heard by others.
- Siblings need time to readjust. Children need to know you know how to meet their needs and there is enough of you to go around. Find a time during the day when you can spend quality time together with the child, as a family or an individual, sharing thoughts and ideas. “I enjoy hearing what you have to say” or “I enjoy being with you” is an important message.
- Children will need discussions and help coming up with acceptable activities for free time. Make a list and have it available when the child comes to you and says, “I’m bored.” Help children build activities with independence outside of the home. This begins slow and with adults available through organized activities to children coming to your house to play so you can provide supervision and support to your child.
- Routine and “downsize” electronic time. There needs to be a balance in peoples lives of indoor and outdoor activities. “Fresh air” and “breaking a sweat” never hurt anyone. Too much isolation and sitting is breaking ground for trouble.
- Areas of the child’s life that will need focusing on during transition is increased production in school, family and with peers. Take it slow. When the child begins school, make sure there is a designated time and place for homework. Decide when is the best time for homework–after school or after dinner. When he has play activities, be sure there is adequate supervision to see how the child is reacting and determine if the activity and relationship is fun. Being respectful to adults and following through with expectations within the family, as well as out of the family, needs to be maintained.
Remember to laugh! Life is short. Everyone is trying hard and putting forth effort.
- You are on the same team.
- Reread the Discharge Recommendations when in doubt.
- Begin with the end in mind. Keep an optimistic picture.
- Everyone is scared. People don’t “over-react” but they do react according to the level of anxiety they feel. Children feed off adults who are anxious.
- Stay calm and collected.
- Even though children react with anger, there can be other feelings of fear, sadness underneath the anger which needs to be expressed.
- Adults need to help and support each other. Give yourself and others a break. It is important to remember everyone’s needs must be met with in the family. It is okay to take a break. A family therapist can be helpful.
- A child needs to feel loved and accepted in the family.
- Ask yourself, “How come things aren’t worse?”
- Do not be afraid to confront or talk about issues. It is not helpful to be ruled by fear.
- You are not alone. Use your team (spouse, therapists, child & Forest Heights Lodge ) if you need to talk; brainstorm.