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Opinion & Essays - Dec, 2000 Issue #76 

Creating Healthy Friendships
By: Kristie Vollar

[Kristie is the daughter of Woodbury Reports publisher, Lon Woodbury and his wife Denise. Her presence at Woodbury Reports is a demonstration of the positive relationship that has evolved since she has returned from the special purpose programs she attended in 1993-1994.]

After the publication of my last article, Friendships of the Past, Issue #75, I was asked, “Once a child graduates from a program, how do they find new, healthy relationships and support groups, so they don’t revert to the old and negative peer groups?”

I attended Mission Mountain School, which used a 12-step program. If the school/program that your child attended used this type of program, it would be helpful to locate one in your area that works on the issues that your child has addressed, for example, overeating, sex, alcoholism or drugs. These meetings could be a good opportunity for your child to meet others who are actively working on their issues. Usually, support group meetings are announced in the local newspaper. The local sheriff’s office generally has information about AA or NA meetings in your community.

Many kids attend college after leaving a school or program. In my situation, I had graduated from high school and was getting ready to go off to college, however I left MMS a little early. If I had stayed through the summer, I would have gone directly to college after MMS. Since I chose to leave early, I never made it to a formal college, though I am currently taking college courses over the Internet. When students who complete a program immediately go to college, they have many opportunities to make friends through support groups, or in their classes at school. Once students have successfully completed a program, they have the tools that can guide them to make the right decisions about choosing friends. They can determine the difference between what is right and what is wrong, and are able to trust their instincts about which relationships are healthy. A strong support system can help them remember the insights they gained in the program, and will then remember their decisions when they are tempted by old behaviors.

Staying in touch with the school or program also helps; they are always glad to hear from an alumnus, and can tell whether or not something is wrong. If the program counselors notice that something feels a little offbeat, they will address it, asking questions. Often this can cause the alumnus to think about what the program noticed that caused the school or program to question him. Sometimes these questions are enough to get your child’s attention so that he asks for help.

At the time I came home, my mom happened to know someone who had been dealing with some of the same issues that I had been working through. This person helped me stay strong, and would listen to me, understanding how I felt. It helps to be able to talk to someone who has experienced the same issues because they do understand. The last thing a kid who has just graduated from a school or program needs is someone who has never “been there” telling them “I know how you feel,” or, “I understand,” because that person doesn’t understand!

One thing that I pointed out in the last article is that when I did come home, I tried to get back together with my old friends. I couldn’t do it; it felt uncomfortable and wrong. We didn’t really have anything to talk about anymore. This is an example of how when students have been in a program long enough, they know what is right and what is wrong for them. They may not always make the right decisions at first; I certainly struggled with making the right choices. Eventually, though, they will realize what they need to do to stay healthy and strong, and they will know who and when to ask for support.

The point is that when someone has been to a school or program long enough to seriously address personal issues, then usually he or she has acquired the tools necessary for continued success. She or he is able to develop healthy relationships and positive peer groups and is able to make good decisions. The parents should be supportive while at the same time be able to give their child some room to find positive relationships on their own.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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