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Home pass from institution. 10 things to keep in mind!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, July 09, 2009

So your teenager is at Abraxas, Ridgeview, or Gateway and he is going to have his first block of time at home. Perhaps it's four hours, eight hours or several nights. What are the most important things to keep in mind?

1. Friends: Home passes are not to spend with friends. They are for family. Make that clear before you start the home pass. If your teenager has a problem with that then don't take him on the home pass. Some institutions make this clear to parents and some do not. This is a chance to flex some parent-muscle and demonstrate that things are going to be different from now on.

2. Home passes are triggers for teens. Supervise your teenager every minute or as close to that as you can: Consider that some teenagers are going to get high on home passes and some will even smuggle drugs back into the rehab. One girl that I used to work with went was on a home pass from Abraxas. She went out to get the mail. Unknown to her parents, she had already arranged with a friend via phone call to have some Heroin dropped off in the mail box. She went back to Abraxas high, smuggled heroin into Abraxas and got busted. The Mom was shocked. "I was with her every minute." Don't underestimate your teen. A home pass is a big relapse trigger.

3. Check your teenagers bedroom with a fine tooth comb before you bring him back home: Often this is when parents find drugs and money. Not only drugs but money should be confiscated because it was probably drug dealing money. Sometimes they hide things in the basement too.

4. Take him to a 12-step meeting: Choose a meeting labeled "open." This means that non-addicts (probably that describes you) are also allowed in the meeting. Go into the meeting with him but if he chooses a discussion group then let him enter that himself. Be there when he comes out of the discussion group. Ask him what he liked about the meeting. Try to get him to chat about his experience. See what your teens reaction is towards the meeting in general because this is a good way to get a read on how serious your teen is about his recovery.

5. Don't allow your teen to be in charge of the home pass: Show your teenager that you are not afraid to assume some leadership. You don't have to go the mall and walk around aimlessly. That is where he will run into peers. Anytime you suspect that your teenager wants to go to a certain place because he will run into peers, don't agree to go.

In fact you don't have to listen to loud music in the car unless you really like that kind of thing. Who is really in charge? If your teenager insists that you do what he wants because he has been cooped up in a rehab and it's only fair tell him he doesn't have to come on the home pass. Once again, it's time to show who is in charge. If you allow your teenager to be the one in charge on the home pass he has every reason to think that once he is released back home he will be in charge then too.

6. Decide whether or not you are going to let your teenager smoke cigarettes on the home pass and stick to your decision. This is a values thing. For example, your teenager is not allowed to smoke cigarettes in the rehab (unless he is in an adult rehab); therefore, don't allow him to smoke when he is off grounds because he is still a resident of that institution and he should continue to follow the rules. This is often a big point of contention. It is another place that parents can flex some parent-muscles.

Exceptions to this smoking rule might be if you smoke and you plan to smoke in front of him. That might be cruel. If he is 18 or over, the rehab might not care if he smokes on his home pass- check with his counselor and see how he feels about it.

If it has been bothering you that your teenager smokes cigarettes, especially if he is not old enough to purchase them himself, then this is not the time to go soft and decide to buy him a pack. Send him a message that says, "I don't approve and I will not enable you to smoke. Don't smoke on the home pass and if that is going to be a too difficult rule for you to follow, then don't take the home pass- just stay here in the rehab where you can follow the rules."

7. Don't try to make every moment a teachable moment: Your teen gets plenty of that in the rehab. Give him a break. Relax. Try to have a little fun. It's OK if you do something that he likes to do, like a movie or eating out at his favorite place. This might sound like a contradiction to #5, the "don't let your teen be in charge" but it's not. You are in charge and you should certainly plan to do some things that your teenager likes to do but, once again, if it looks like he is trying to use that to hook up with old friends or if they think they can torture you with rap music in the car that you hate- that's a different story!

8. Consider the music your teenager is listening to on the home pass- does it have a negative message? Then don't permit it. Confiscate it.

9. Don't be afraid to make your teenager angry. The success of the home pass is not going to be evaluated on how smooth it goes. In fact, this is the time to take the bull by the horns. If he can't handle a bit of supervision, and he flips out, then you carry that information back to the therapist. Now you've generated some therapeutic grist for the therapy mill. In other words, now the therapist has something important to discuss with your teenager. Likewise, if your teen decides not to go on the home pass, then the therapist can raise his eyebrows and pay attention to the fact that your teen doesn't even want to go off grounds unless he can call the shots. Ooops, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready for release, does it?

10. Don't keep secrets. No matter how small, if your teenager asks you not to tell his therapist that he has done something, e.g., smoked, saw a friend, has a fight with you, ran off without supervision, failed to attend a 12-step meeting, or just about anything else that he thought it important enough to ask you not to report on- DON'T do it. Secrets keep us sick and, once again, if you keep secrets on home passes, he has every right to expect you to keep secrets once he released back home. This is where he will try to guilt you. "Awww you're going to ruin everything! Just when I worked so hard! You don't want me to come home at all, do you? Click here to read more on how teenagers guilt parents on a regular basis as a manipulative technique.

Parents of PSST: please let me know what other things you think are important to consider by leaving a comment. If you are having trouble leaving a comment you can email to me at lloyd.woodward@court.allegheny.pa.us


Anonymous said...

I came to a few of the PSST meetings but just don't feel comfortable. I know that I need some help with parenting my children but just don't feel comfortable! I try to keep up with the blog and think that might be enough. Any suggestions?
Don't take this personally but my child isn't as bad as some of the other ones whose parents come to the PSST group?

Lloyd Woodward said...

Thanks for giving us a try. Glad that you follow our blog. Sorry, if for some reason we didn't help you feel comfortable. On the other hand, PSST isn't for everyone.

We also have some parents in group who came a year ago and they stopped coming only to return more recently when their teen's problems progressed. These parents mentioned to me recently that they wish they had kept coming when they first gave us a try. Some of this could be considered nipping it all in the bud.

We believe that our approach will also work with teenagers whose issues are less severe. For example, active listening, I feel messages, structuring, consistent limit setting, agreeing where possible are proven tactics that work with teenagers whether or not they are abusive with drugs, or involved in the Court system. In other words, we feel that our approach will work with lots of different teens.

One last point; feeling comfortable isn't always necessary in order to benefit. Sometimes it's very good for us to step outside of our comfort zone. To some degree, everyone attending PSST has done this. After a while, you get used to it. After all, you are literally fighting to save your teenager's life and/ or his future

Having said that, it is also true that parents with teens in the Court system and/or teens with serious drug or behavioral issues might feel more comfortable in our group because we are Probation Officers first and foremost, and social workers secondly. We are used to dealing with the out-of-control teenager.

I'm not aware of any other programs that you could attend although I'm sure there are some out there. Maybe some other readers from our group could comment with some info that might help you out.

Thanks again for trying us out and thanks for your support by reading our blog. We appreciate that you left us a comment.

LM said...

Regarding "...10 things to keep in mind!" Excellent guidelines.

Parents -- don't underestimate the importance of following through and sticking to your guns. With my son, who was discharged a little over two months ago, continued consistency and support are crucial.

My husband and I are very pleased with the services our son has been provided through the county as well as the facility where our son was treated.

Lloyd Woodward said...

Another thought: Teenagers sometimes engage in sex. Make sure it isn't happening on your watch. I once had a girl return to Abraxas after a home pass and she thougth she was pregnant. She wasn't but it brought the whole matter up of what she was doing on her home pass. Her mother said that she knew her boyfriend didn't use drugs and she thought it would be nice to give the couple some alone time. Not! Her pass was deemed unsuccessful and her mother, who had assured everyone that she supervised her daughter 100 percent of the time, was embarrassed.

Ok, sure it's what might have happened if she was still living at home, but she wasn't living at home- she was living in the rehabilitation program.

Sex can also be a relapse trigger as some teens will want to "take the edge off" when they have sex.


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