The successful journey involves everyone – student, parents, family, peers, and counselors. Open communication between all parties is a key aspect of our program, one that creates new, strong family bonds and encourages further successes in your son’s journey. The ability for your son to speak openly about his challenges and how he is managing them, to share his successes and newfound passions, to have an open conversation, the power of such a conversation cannot be overstated. Getting to that point is, in and of itself, sometimes a challenge for all involved. One of our primary goals is to achieve that level of open and honest communication and allow it to grow into a pillar of support.
The first month of a student’s time at Building Bridges is a challenging period for him. During this period we strongly encourage letters from the family and ask that he write his parents in return. Knowing that his family is committed to his continued well-being will help him to adjust and acclimate to his new surroundings. Letters also have an intangible quality that can make them more special than a call. Students may receive an unlimited number of letters, from parents at first, then extending to immediate and extended family, and then healthy friends and other relatives.
Phone Calls and Zooms
Every week, your son will be able to make a call or Zoom video conference with you. Initially, these may be supported by his therapist, but will quickly move to individual calls. These phone calls are the first step to opening up communication within the family. This offers him the opportunity to express what he is working on and for the family to tackle some of the challenges that they may be having. His counselor will continually work with him and the family on how to positively communicate their way through these issues. As the communication begins to strengthen parents will begin to see a side of their son they haven’t seen in years. The information the parents receive from the counselors during their weekly updates is of immense help in preparing for these calls. Once a student has demonstrated the appropriate level of progress, it is possible for him to have access to email, social media, video conferencing, and other forms of communication with his family and healthy friends.
Emails & Social Media
Once a student has progressed to the point of earning the privilege, he will be allowed to have regular access to the internet and will be able to communicate by email and social media outlets. In terms of communicating with family, this opens up a much more natural and immediate form of communicating, one that is much more in line with how they might normally contact friends and family. Students who have earned this privilege will have shown an ability to manage all of the responsibilities that it entails.
Each week, parents will receive an update from their son’s counselor which will go over the current challenges and what strategies are in place to handle them. This is the time for parents to gain an understanding of what their son is experiencing and how they can support him in his work. Our counselors may also ask the family to take on specific assignments or tasks in order to strengthen their abilities to take this journey with their son. When needed, staff may communicate with parents in order to handle more time-sensitive matters with efficiency. And, of course, parents are always encouraged to communicate with us should they have any questions or concerns.
Parent Coaching Sessions
We ask that all our parents participate in six Parent Coaching sessions. These sessions are designed to provide you with some additional skills and tools to help you understand what your son is experiencing. These calls take place between parent and coaches only, they are meant to provide another channel through which our parents can understand our process, give feedback and advice on numerous parenting styles, as well as how to go about the sometimes difficult process of setting appropriate boundaries. This will help each parent build a framework of realistic expectations for their son and discover what does and doesn’t work in creating a healthy family bond. These sessions have been of inestimable value to our families and greatly improve relationships between families, sons, and counselors.
Family Conference Calls
Every other month parents, sons, and counselors participate in an hour long short family session via conference call in order to facilitate open and honest communication. This will be coordinated in advance and both you and your son may be given some work to accomplish in anticipation of this call. The goal here is to provide an open and mediated environment to tackle those issues that have proved difficult outside of such an environment. Having everyone on the same page and moving forward with the same goals and expectations is an important part of the process, and these calls make that easier to manage.