Treatment Aftercare–The Value of Extended Family
Regardless of whether you tap your own family members or engage the support of neighbors and friends, a consistent community of trusted adults can be a critical part of your child’s healing after treatment. Here are some tips for building up a strong support system of family members and/or friends and neighbors.
- Routine: Routines help normalize activities and relax participants. Rather than shocking the family system with sudden and unexpected social events, make these events part of the family routine. A monthly barbeque, church or synagogue on the weekends, etcetera can create great opportunities for relaxed connection.
- Boundaries: Trusted aunts and uncles can provide a safe place for your children to express things they may not be comfortable sharing with parents. This is healthy and important, so honor it by allowing a level of confidentiality to exist between your child and aunts, uncles, or trusted family friends. But be clear that the privilege of confidentiality goes away when issues of imminent harm to self or others are presented.
- Support: Extended family should support, not undermine, your broad-strokes family values. While it’s not the job of others to parent your child or to pretend to agree with you, gross violations of your family rules and expectations by extended family members should be addressed directly.
- Fun: The role of a good aunt or uncle is to provide an adult relationship that is supportive, relaxed, safe, and fun. When those qualities are present, the mental-health benefits of extended family relationships are maximized and your child is more likely to feel she has real support as well as a safe place to go to in times of crisis.