Thursday, June 8, 2017

What’s my role as a Parent with my child in Treatment?

What’s my role as a Parent with my child in Treatment?

Having a child in residential treatment, no matter if you are living across the country or in the same town is very difficult for everyone that is involved.  The focus in a treatment center is mainly on the child that is in treatment and it seems that the parents often feel left out or lost at times.  I know that parents usually want to be as involved as possible with their child and their treatment.  This can be very difficult depending on the individual’s and the family’s past and current circumstances.            
Feelings of worry, loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. can often creep in and affect you as a parent when your child is away from home.  These are pretty common and normal feelings that individuals have.  With a child that has struggled for some time, there is a myriad of emotions that can be felt.

Because a parent’s core emotion for their child is normally unconditional love, we want only the best for our children.  At times we have to reach outside ourselves and get professional help from those that are trained and have experience working with the issues that children and families face.  There is nothing wrong with getting outside help for children that have struggled in one way or another and do not have a solid foundation.  As a parent with a child at Logan River Academy, remember that we are working with you to help you, your child and your family create the most successful opportunities possible moving forward.

I’d like to share an experience that I have had with a parent of one of my students, (we’ll call the student Tyler).  Tyler had been here at Logan River Academy working on himself for several months.  He was getting ready to do his first home visit.  This was a great opportunity to see how everything would go outside the environment that we have here at Logan River Academy.  I got together with Tyler and his parents and we set up some boundaries and rules, as well as some fun things that they wanted to do as a family.  Tyler went home for the weekend and came back from his home visit thrilled.  He expressed how well the visit had gone and that it was a problem free experience.  My response was not what he had expected when I said, “Dang it, I was hoping for at least one problem to happen!”  As we talked I went on to explain that I was really happy that he had such a great visit, but at the same time, when there are problems or issues that happen, we get to see what he has learned put into practice and if he was able to problem solve with his parents.
As this comic suggests, if we implement the same solution over and over that doesn’t work, and are not willing to make any change, we end up with the same results, (there is not some magical result that will happen).                           
 As Tyler’s mom is learning, sometimes things don’t have to be perfect or go exactly as she wants them to.  One important part of your child’s treatment is looking at yourself as a parent and seeing what types of adjustments or changes you are able to make as well.
As Tyler and I talked with his parents and we did family therapy that week, Tyler’s mom suggested that because she was so worried about everything going perfect that she tiptoed around every possible problem so that there was no arguing or fighting.  She felt that she had messed up the whole visit.  I let both Tyler and his mom know that the visit went great, they did a wonderful job, and that we don’t expect things to go perfect.  I expressed to Tyler’s mom and dad that it is okay to have problems.   We want to be able to learn to handle problems differently from how they were handled before.  I continued to explain that our ultimate goal is to help Tyler be able to be back in his home environment, be able to have problems and situations happen, be able to problem solve with his parents or whoever is involved, see what skills Tyler can put into action, and create balance in the lives of the individuals and family system as a whole.

Balance is extremely important and as parents, finding a balance between you and your child is crucial.  As your child grows, knowing how to create new boundaries with your child and letting them be involved in their own decisions and consequences is difficult.  It is fairly common to give our kids more restrictions and boundaries as they grow older.  This restricts freedoms and commonly causes them to rebel or be oppositional, which then back-fires this more restricted process that we are trying to implement.  Once the child is an adult he or she will be on their own without any parental restrictions, but with societal restrictions.  It is key for them to learn how to make decisions, problem solve, etc.  Teaching children the skills that they will need to succeed is vital so that as they get older they have fewer restrictions and more privileges to help them understand how to succeed in life when they are on their own.
So back to the initial question, what’s my role as a parent with a child in Treatment??  Here are some ideas or suggestions for while your child is in treatment as well as after they return home.
1 - Support your child.                                                                                                                    
2 - Give them opportunities to build trust.
3 – Work on communicating effectively.                       
4 - Take a course or get advice from a professional counselor that works with families.
5 - Work on yourself and the barriers that you face when working with your child.
6 -Be open to making changes or adjustments to parenting styles.
7 - Don’t be too hard on yourself or blame yourself, but make self adjustments where they are needed.
8 - Set up limits and boundaries.  Be positive but firm with them.
9 - Evaluate if you are an enabler and stop enabling.
10 - Recognize that there are going to be disagreements and problems.
11 - Don’t expect perfection all of the time.
12 - Make sure you know how to problem solve appropriately depending on the age and maturity of your child.
13 - Allow your child to have part in the discussion and they will be more likely to follow through, set your child up for success.

Jeffrey Openshaw LMFT

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Adventure Learning Trip Report- Grizzly Ridge Yurt

I have been looking at past blog posts hoping to find inspiration for writing this one when I read a trip report from July 2015 about our canoe trip down Stillwater Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. In that post I described the special opportunity we had as student and staff to share the grandeur of true adventure together as none of our staff had done the trip before. With great responsibility and care for our students, and a few dozen years of shared outdoor experience, it is not often that one of our guides has not completed the objective of the trip prior to striking out with our students to be more aware of the risks intrinsic to that adventure. When it came time to plan for this year’s yurt trips we decided to again look for adventure and selected a yurt unfamiliar to our adventure learning staff. Of course true adventure is hard to find these days with online resources providing so much information, but we still wanted to experience the challenges together of finding the figurative needle in a haystack (small yurt in a big forest).

We have had a near-record year in Utah with snowfall totals being way above-average as well as a few odd warming events that brought rain and snowmelt to many high elevation locations. Having experienced a handful of yurt trips where low elevations and warming have caused issues we selected this yurt for its nearly 10,000’ elevation location. Little did we know this was not quite enough…

One of the earlier mentioned warming events just so happened to coincide with the week directly preceding our trip into the southern flanks of the Uinta Mountains outside Vernal, Utah. This weather brought rain and rapid snow melt to the region and wreaked havoc on the snowpack. Trail breaking to the yurt turned out to be an arduous feat as the top 18”-24” of the snowpack was dense, heavy and water soaked, but the bottom 4’-6’ was powdery, light snow incapable of holding the load of a crew of snowshoers and their gear. For five hours we randomly broke through the top of the snowpack, up to our knees and beyond, and struggled to get back on top of the snow to further our progress up the four-mile trail to the yurt. By the time we reached the yurt in darkness we had effectively traveled less than half the rate we had anticipated had better conditions been available. And so the adventure went.

Once at the yurt we enjoyed our rest and the sunshine the next day brought. We explored the area, split wood, cleaned the yurt, played many card games, read, rode the sled, and ate food to lighten our load for the return trip. The spirits of the crew were regained as the knowledge that hiking down the trail would be vastly easier than hiking up. However, the weather felt like challenging this notion and dropped another 18” of snow the night before we were to leave. The hike out proved to be nearly as daunting as the storm brought driving winds in addition to the snow and erased the trail we had so painstakingly packed out on the way in. When all was said and done, we learned from this adventure and are one notch closer to knowing what challenges we are capable of overcoming when we keep the end goal in mind and focus on enjoying the process and understanding what it can teach us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How important is it to always be Right?


As I have worked with families at Logan River, I have seen the issue of someone needing to be right come up often during family therapy sessions. Sometimes there is conflict between a child and a parent because both are set on being right. This typically leads to arguments and each individual trying to prove his or her point to get the other person to agree or yield. However, once this conflict starts, it can be hard for people to change their viewpoint and they often get locked into very rigid thinking. But what if that conversation could go differently and people realized that often the other person thinks they are right based different life experiences? I came across this picture the other day and I think it makes a good point. 

Something I try to help the people I work with do is to go into conversations with other people with an attitude of trying to understand where they are coming from first before they try to prove their own point.  When parents or children do this, they typically have more empathy and understanding for the other person. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be conflict or that people will change their minds, but typically it can help those conversations be more productive. If you find that you are often locked into arguments or conflicts with people, try to seek understanding of that other person and why they are thinking a certain way. You may be surprised that the conversation will go differently and be more positive.
Kristjana Green, LCSW

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reflecting On Achievements and Accomplishing Our Goals

January is often a time of reflection and pondering. We think about the prior year and what we accomplished. We reflect on the goals we achieved and the ones we ignored 11 months ago. Gyms are bursting at the seams in January but often go back to a regular flow in late February. Sometimes our goals can be difficult to achieve and to track. 
Some people dislike "New Year's Resolutions." I often hear the argument that January 1st is just another day of the year. I think some dislike them because we have had such little success with follow through in the past that we automatically think the setting of goals is pointless. My view is somewhere in the middle. I believe that many people set goals which are not realistic or achievable which defeats the purpose. I would like to share with you what has worked for me. 
Concept #1: Reduce the number of goals you set.  
I think the reason why many individuals fade in their motivation to achieve their goals has to do with the concept of multi-tasking. The human brain is not meant to multi-task. We are much more efficient if we focus on one thing at a time. This is why we should not text and drive! In my opinion, we are much more likely to achieve our goals if we focus in on just a few of them. 
Concept #2: Write them down. 
A goal that is not written down is not a goal. It's a wish or a thought. We need to write the goals down somewhere where we see them often. I personally use the 'notes' app on my Iphone to track my goals. Some like to post their goals on their bulletin board or in their closet. Find what works for you. This allows you to track your progress and remember what you are working on and trying to achieve. 
Concept #3: Make them matter. 
I like to really ponder and consider what goals I want to work on. If the goal is superficial and constructed on the spur of the moment, one is likely to lose motivation quickly. Typically I am able to come up with a few things I really want to achieve or work on if I carefully ponder my life. 
Concept #4: Check them off. 
I am a believer in the power of checklists. Checking off an accomplishment brings feelings of satisfaction and achievement. When I have accomplished a goal it feels good to check off the goal and know that you truly did it. 

My hope is we will all find a few goals this year that really can make a difference in our lives. More importantly, I hope we can formulate a good plan and stick with that plan until we have accomplished our goal. 

Matt Erickson, LCSW, Clinical Director
Logan River Academy