Family holidays are important, especially for parents. Thanksgiving and Christmas are annual traditional opportunities to get together and enjoy a meal as a family. Mental health issues and substance misuse can seriously disrupt this idyll.
When your child needs help, family traditions may need to be postponed. Many residential treatment programs are not set up for long-term care but Turning Winds is different. Here, teenage clients stay long enough to achieve lasting change. In most cases that means, they won’t be home for the holidays.
That can be tough on the parents but for the kids the treatment program is a home away from home and that includes celebrating holidays. “In the summer they enjoyed fireworks for the Fourth of July and we had pumpkin carving for Halloween,” says program director Enoch Stump. “Holidays at Turning Winds are opportunities to have a unique day for the kids. We even make a big deal for minor holidays just to make it more fun.”
The treatment team at Turning Winds knows full well how challenging it is for their teenage clients to be in a treatment program away from their families for the holidays and there is always lots of preparation.
“We have groups discuss questions like ‘what are you grateful for?’ ‘How do you manage being here for the holidays?’ and we talk about their favorite holiday traditions at home,” says Stump. “We are preparing their minds in advance. Recently, they helped plan the day for Thanksgiving— they got to sleep in a little bit and had a special treat for breakfast.”
“They had fun day all day long. There was an outdoor football game and a lot of good food, of course. The kids helped with the cooking and we had a family-style Thanksgiving dinner with the whole group. We watched movies to finish off a fun and engaging day,” Stump remembers.
For family interaction, the kids can do Zoom calls. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone can do a check-in with their family. “It’s much harder for the parents that their kid is here than it is for the kids themselves to be away for the holidays,” explains Stump. “Parents often struggle much more with the situation because they are left with this hole at home while their kids are out here with their friends doing fun activities. So, the kids usually do far better than their parents.”
“I always tell the parents, the sacrifice you’re making now is for the many holiday seasons that will follow in years to come. If they look back they will probably realize that the family holidays before treatment weren’t all that great,” Stump says. The time in treatment is an opportunity to reset the family dynamic.
“I always have them reflect on the last holiday season with their kid and it helps them to gain a new perspective. What they want more than anything is to know that their kid is well and doing okay. And their kids are with their friends and they’re having fun and they have support.”
For the Christmas period, everybody gets to do a lot of decorating. “We cut down a few Christmas trees, and they make ornaments,” says Stump. “Parents will send presents and we’re making sure all of our kids get gifts. We’ll do a whole Christmas morning where the kids sit around and open their gifts. We usually take lots of pictures for the parents who can’t be there.”
New Year’s will be a time for reflection. “Where do they want to be one year from now? The focus is on gratitude and we look at the things in life we are grateful for.”
Our mission is to rescue teens from crisis situations, renew their belief in their own potential, reunite them with their families, and put them on a sustainable path to success. Contact us online for more information, or call us at 800-845-1380. If your call isn’t answered personally, one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.