I have been inspired tonight by a single mother (let’s call her Jill) who has put her trust in me and in our processes in spite of her dis-comfort over what I asked her to do.
One of the things we have found to be helpful in maintaining change, is to involve the community (family, friends and others) in the transition process. For some parents it\’s a difficult thing to do.
When I asked Jill to invite friends, family, and any influential others she could think of to her home to celebrate her son Matt’s graduation from a treatment program, she wallowed hard and hesitated before saying “Oooookaaay….” She had sent him away for the summer to a wilderness program and had been sharing with others that her son was at “camp”, not unlike what she had done each year to give her kids growth experiences and fun.
As most teens will do coming home from treatment, he didn’t want to tell anyone where he had been and why he was there. In fact, if he could have buried the whole experience somewhere deep in the back yard, he would have (as many others try to). Matt certainly didn’t want to invite lots of people to his house to celebrate his return from somewhere he felt embarrassed for having been at all. But like most of our teens, he went along with it.
At the appointed hour, guests started showing up to the home. Neighbors, family friends, old friends Matt had before getting into trouble (and their mothers), his school principle, their pastor, a school counselor, his band director, a past nanny, family members, etc., etc. Jill followed the program in faith, reached out, and was overwhelmed with the response. In all there were nearly 40 people there!
Amazing things happened as people reached out to Matt in love and affirmation for the changes they could see in him. He demonstrated confidence as he showed the group what he had made with his own hands while in a desert in Utah . The Director of his private school asked some poignant questions and counseled him in wisdom. His band director exuded warmth and a mentoring spirit, excitedly engaging Matt in plans for the upcoming year and ways he could develop his talents and passions.
Two mothers of boys in his class asked me what their sons could do to help. By the end of the night, the boy who swore he had “no friends” was swimming and laughing with five other boys from school. The principal was pumping my hand and promising he’d do all he could to help this family. Others were affirming Jill for the decisive and wise step to get her son help, and to honor them by asking for their support.
While this is not a “and they lived happily ever after” ending, because the story will continue to unfold from here, the fact is Matt has started to re-write his story. Not only in his mind, but in the minds of others who know him. There will be tests ahead but they have successfully captured the momentum of treatment, through a planned ransition process and a powerful social support network. His mentors are both numerous, passionate, and in position for months and years to come, to help him through the tough times.
Today I honor this mother, and the many others who are willing to put their trust in us and in our field in general, to do uncomfortable things. They inspire me!
To Your Family’s Success and Happiness!
Tim R. Thayne, Ph.D.
Homeward Bound/Family Front