As a parent I have tried to establish a strong and healthy relationship with my children with a key component being communication. This past week at a family event we jokingly discussed the things that our children will do that many times we will not know about until after the fact. Even though we may think all is good between our children and us it is still very important to be proactive and involved in our kids life. I can recall a number of conversations with parents where a parent felt as though they new what their children were doing until something was found online. A number of weeks ago I attended a workshop on “Cyber Bullying” I found some amazing resources that I wanted to pass on. These resources would be healthy for parents to watch and encourage their children to watch as well. Some of them are very compelling to say the least. For today’s blog I will pass on “6 Degrees of Information” and “Your Photo Fate” . You can find more resources on www.netsmartz.org.
A superhero can be defined as “a person possessing extraordinary powers.” Who’s to say that all children aren’t extraordinary in their own ways? Every child has a gift or a talent that makes them special. They are blessed with purity and innocence; something most adults wish they could have. Children can be strong, fearless and have no regrets. A child has the ability to persevere through the unthinkable and still change and grow into the responsible person their dreams are made of. Some people wish they were super or had special powers, but there are plenty of true superheroes all around us.
Jamar had been in case management services through the Juvenile Drug Court Program for only a few months when he learned that his father passed away. Throughout his life, Jamar had seen his father’s health degrade more and more as he battled a debilitating disease. Although he loved living with his father when he was younger, Jamar was forced to move in with his mother and her boyfriend when his father’s health concerns became too burdensome to parent with.
Jamar’s new home proved to be challenging. At his mother’s home, he and his two sisters were at the mercy of mom’s boyfriends that cycled through the home. And although his mother never harmed him directly, her drug use, unmet mental health needs, and insatiable pull towards abusive men kept her children in constant fear and chaos. Jamar found sanctuary by running to his father’s home when things were at their worst. Eventually, services determined that Jamar and his sisters be removed from the home, but instead of returning to their father, they were placed in foster care.
It took 9 months for Jamar’s mother to leave the man who had abused her children to have her children returned to her. Jamar still refers to this as his mother not being able to choose him over men who abused him.
Jamar had a rough childhood, and has had a difficult life as an adolescent as well. Having services in his home for most of his life has left Jamar untrusting and skeptical of outside services and authority figures. Over time and with relationship building, Jamar has learned to trust his PCMS case manager in drug court. When his father died, he was linked with mental health support and a grief counselor. Now that the relationship is established, Jamar has finally been able to divulge the real problems in his home and discuss his struggles with his mother. After years of trying to protect his family from outsiders, and guard against criticism of his mother, Jamar is reaching out to the resources he has and is learning to cope with his past and life today. We have been privileged to see him grow in character and strength as a young man.
A few weeks ago I had an “aha moment”. My teen son had assisted in doing some chores earlier in the day on our family work day. As he passed by me later that evening I called to him and said “Thank You for your help today.” He paused for a second and said “are you kidding? I asked what did he mean by his reply and he said “no” I’m serious I thought you were kidding.
As the weather warms up, spring arrives and the families in our communities get busy enjoying the weather and all the many activities it has to offer. We over commit to activities and we get busy. My “aha moment” reminds me that no matter how busy you get, take the time to admonish each member of you family. Model an attitude of gratitude and one that is uplifting. It is so easy to take the lives that are so near and dear to us for granted, as I have learned from those who have gone before me. Our children are young for only a short time and before you know it they are on their own and you are left to ponder how we did as parents.
Take some time today and affirm those who are dear to you. Encourage them, thank them, and build them up. You may be thinking “well they don’t encourage me!” As I respond to this as I do too many of the children I work with two wrongs don’t equal a right. Only you can bring change to someone’s life, so go for it. Model it, and watch it change countless lives.
When was the last time you said something to build someone up?
Like many parents we have a tendency to try to save our children from discomfort and negative experiences. Some experts would call this being a helicopter parent, hovering near by ready to swoop in and save the day. Unfortunately, this practice sets the child and the parent up for failure over the years. The child learns that my parent will save the day no matter what poor choices I make. It may seem like not a big deal when they are little but it’s quite different when they are 22 years old or better yet in the 40’s. The parent on the other hand will find themselves anxiously awaiting the next calamity when they will need to foot the bill or fix the situation.
A healthy parenting tool is to begin by asking yourself whose problem is it really. Then instead of engaging the problem, ask the child in a loving way how they could fix it? It amazes me how resourceful children are. When given the opportunity they can solve problems and figure out how to fix situations and make things right. Depending on their age they will need some coaching but they will not need you to save the day. They just need the opportunity, support and love. A little bit of discomfort because of poor choices can teach us a great deal that can help us in the real world.
A word from one of the JDC Family Services Case Managers:
As a Juvenile Drug Court Family Services Case Manager we have the opportunity to build relationships with our clients that give them the support they need to succeed. All of our clients have various challenges and strengths. I have seen clients who struggle with everything from mental health issues to family dysfunction and are using drugs to help cope with these situations. We have had teens come through our program who have parents that aren’t supportive of their work toward sobriety. Some parents won’t attend court, will call our staff for every little infraction to try and get their child in trouble, and consistently express their disbelief that their child will be anything more than an addict. However, through working with their Family Case Manager many of these families receive help and support to move past these issues. We have helped set up family therapy, parenting classes, individual therapy, and more in order to give parents and teens support in their family relationships. Once these are put in place we see our teens desiring to engage in therapy and work through issues with parents. We see parents grow in supporting their teens and we see teens grow in confidence that, not only can they complete Juvenile Drug Court, but they can succeed as a sober and necessary member of society. We have watched teens come into our program who are struggling to stop using but when they leave they are not only sober, but engaged in sports, taking classes toward college through Upward Bound at HCC, working within community non-profits such as Teens Have Choices, the SPCA, Habitat for Humanity and others. They also leave investing in positive relationships with family members and friends. Our participants’ attitudes change while in our program and, because of our Family Case Managers, many of them leave realizing that, despite past belief, many adults desire to support and help them accomplish great things in life. It is rewarding to work with teenagers who leave our program making us proud to have known them and honored to have worked with them toward their sobriety.