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Posted - February 17, 2003 

An Executive Perspective:
What can parents do to help their children while at Oakley or Island View? What should parents avoid?

[This interview with Jared Balmer, Ph.D., Executive director of Oakley School, Oakley, Utah, 435-783-5001, written by Janice Pannell, Editor of the Newsletter: For Friends of Island View and Oakley School, Winter 2003, was reprinted with their permission.]

Q: How much of a role do parents play in the Change process as Island View and Oakley?
A: I tell parents every chance I have that they are the number one curative factor in the change process. Without their active, smart and loving involvement, we are greatly handicapped in affecting a lasting change in the adolescents we serve.

Q: Don’t all parents want to help their children change?
A: A few weeks ago my neighbor, Bob, heard a noise outside his house. As he stepped out to investigate, he found a teenager who ran his car into the corner post of the cattle fence. The boy apologized to Bob and said his father would be calling in an attempt to make restitution for the damage. Later that day, the father did indeed call to inquire how much it would cost to repair the fence. In lieu of accepting money, Bob suggested that the father and son should come by and assist him in repairing the fence. The morning of the “repair day”, the father called Bob and canceled. Apparently, his son was somewhat depressed over the mishap. The father found it more important to take his son skiing in attempt to cheer him up! So, to answer your question, YES, all parents want to help their children. But some parents love their child into further problematic behaviors.

Q: What do you mean by “loving their child into further problems?”
A: The majority of parents demonstrate a healthy balance between love and discipline. However, there are those parents who routinely mitigate maladaptive behavior. Fundamentally, they want to “protect” the child from having to “suffer” the consequences of his/her choices. They do so for different reasons.

Q: What may some of those reasons be?
A: Some parents are in denial. Others feel paralyzed with guilt. Some parents, not wanting to jeopardize their relationship with their child, cannot bring themselves to “draw the line in the sand.” Worse yet, when someone is trying to assist them in “righting the boat,” they rush to falsely rescue the child. Such parents cannot tolerate to see their child uncomfortable or in anguish as a result of any corrective process. This behavior, which we clinically refer to as “enmeshment,” is often major stumbling block in the healing process.

Q: What can a parent do in your setting to assist their children in the change process?
A: Our outcome studies are very encouraging. The number one reason for our success is parents who avail themselves to the corrective process. We encourage parents to work cooperatively with the staff who play a key role in helping their children embrace more pro-social and healthy lifestyles. Success comes when parents and helping professionals “sing from the same page.” We like to sing in harmony.

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