Exactly two weeks ago, our coach from Homeward Bound entered our home and lives for the first time. Our educational consultant recommended HB as a last attempt to keep our family together before we succumbed to the anger and pain our family was experiencing because of our oppositional, drug-dependent 16 year old son. My husband and I were sure he was the problem, and that if he didn’t “shape up” he’d have to go. We were tortured with that decision, however, and were desperate to avoid it. (We had already gone through years of psychologists, psychiatrists, courtrooms, and tears).
I cannot over-exaggerate the impact of this home visit. We had spoken on the phone a few times the week before the coach’s arrival, and we knew he was getting a good picture of the challenges we were facing, but he entered our lives at exactly the right time and place. Over the next three days he helped us identify and understand our part in the family equation. My husband and I learned how our parenting styles–as well intentioned as they were–were perpetuating the ongoing, explosive battles we were having with our son. My reactivity and my husband’s anger were as much true impediments to family peace as was our son’s drug use. We discovered what now seems intuitive and obvious: we cannot “control” our children in the traditional sense of the word but we can control how we react to them, how we parent them, how we express our love and concern for them. We needed to do a better job.
During the coach’s visit, we studied and absorbed HB’s “parenting principles” to develop a plan for our family. We articulated our family values, and listed the expectations and consequences all three of our children would be held to. We committed to implementing our new plan consistently, calmly, and patiently. Our son was part of the process, but it would have happened with or without his active participation. Our transformation was a change of heart in dealing with each other. This “heart at peace,” as it was described, is a driving force in the new directions our family is headed.
When our coach left, I cried. I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. I was afraid that all the despair and hopelessness we had experienced would come right back. It hasn’t. I keep studying the materials he left with us, and I keep hearing his sound, compassionate voice reassuring me that we are on the right track, that sustained change takes time, that we DO have the tools to handle whatever comes up. My husband and I are much more of a team now. When our son challenges us — which he continues to do — we are much better at parenting with a clear plan and purpose. We have more of a script to work with, and it’s becoming more natural all the time. Meanwhile, our coach is available if we need him, and continues to work with us by telephone in extensive weekly sessions.
I am profoundly grateful for the work our Homeward Bound coach has done for our family. Problems still exist, to be sure, but we have a vision and the confidence to move forward. We are hopeful, for the first time in a long time, that our relationship with our children will endure the difficult adolescent years and continue into adulthood.