Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scoring the home pass
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, December 29, 2012

(Originally posted November 7, 2011)
Just a note about scoring home passes. This is where you set the bar. If you rate the home pass "successful" mostly because you've seen improvement and you want to encourage your teenager, then consider this: his goal is to have a successful home pass. Period. Oh sure he may have other goals but none of them rise to the importance of just having his home pass rated as successful.

Once you say it was successful you have told him that's good enough. Not only does this have repercussions for future home passes but it has repercussions for the behavior that you can expect once he is returned home from placement. This is really a rare opportunity for you to send a strong message of where you want the bar set and what your expectations are for his behavior.

For example, perhaps you were tested over and over about his wanting to break the rules. Each time you used your parenting skills, e.g., use of power words such as nevertheless and regardless to win the day. OK, you correctly say to yourself that he has to test you to see if you are really going to enforce those rules or not. Fine. However, at the end of the day, or in this case at the end of the home pass you feel exhausted and couldn't wait for it to be over, what does that mean?

In answer to that I'm not sure we have a hard and fast answer. Because he did follow the rules and isn't that what counts? Well, yes on the one hand but if in fact this means that each and every home pass is going to be an exhausting affair, and return home after placement is going to begin a lone exhausting battle to enforce every rule, then perhaps we have to look at this and wonder if set the bar to low. After all, it's not like these rules wern't laid out ahead of time.

In other words, while some testing of the rules might be considered OK and might even be expected, acceptance of badgering might be a missed opportunity for the parent to set the bar higher. Trust your instincts on this. If the visit felt bad, are you being honest when you report that it was successful. One reason that this is important is that Kathie and I like to see three successful home passes before discharge home.

All I want to do here is challenge PSST parents to make the best use of the home pass that you can. It's a window of opportunity.

Here's a suggestion for home pass guidelines that I don't' think we've given in any of our other posts about home passes. Try to strike a balance between some testing and too much testing of rules.

Teen: Mom, I want to call my girlfriend. She's going to be upset if I don't at least call. I mean C'mon, at least one phone call is that asking too much? You get one phone call in jail even.

Mom: [Mom is tempted to cover, once again, the purpose of "family only home pass" but she reminds herself that this is ground that has been covered before over and over and over. So instead she tries this.] I know you hate that rule, you feel it is terribly unfair. And while I don't understand exactly how important this call is, I hear you that's it's pretty darn important. Might not be life or death but it sounds like it is just under that on the scale of importance in your life.

Teen: Right! I gotta call her Mom please let me please let me please let me.

Mom: This is the best I can offer. You go ahead, say for the next hour, ask me if you can call her. I know you need to test us on this. We'll have this conversation or whatever you want to call it, until 2:00 O'clock. After that, I need you to stop asking if you can make that call. Otherwise, I'm afraid our whole weekend is going to be exhausting, at least for us. Do you see what I'm saying?

Teen: You're saying go ahead and ask but if I ask all weekend that's unacceptable?

Mom: Right, that's exactly what I'm saying- great job hearing me.

Teen: But that's not fair.

Mom: How would this be more fair? [Use of open-ended question. More effective for opening up teen than saying "why not?"]

Teen: Well, it shouldn't matter how many times I ask, as long as I don't make the call I should get a successful home pass, because I followed all the rules.

Mom: That's a very good point. Maybe I'm being too harsh about this, and by the way, I appreciate that you and I can have this conversation, but you see, this isn't working for me.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, it works fine for you- you can ask me a thousand times, and push me all weekend to let you make that one call, and as long as you don't make it, you're good. Meanwhile, it hasn't been any fun for me having to deal with this over and over and over again all weekend. That's why I wanted to set a limit on it. You get to ask me that same question, or lets' say questions about violating the rules that we have already agreed on, for a certain time period. Maybe I can negotiate the time period, if you feel that ask me up to 2:00 PM is to restrictive for you. You can suggest a different time period, but I'm not comfortable that you get to ask me the entire weekend, then i'm exhausted, and you still get a "successful home pass." I don't feel that that is fair either.

Teen: Oh, I see, so if I ask all weekend then you'll tell Outside In that I was unsuccessful?

Mom: Yes, but I'll negotiate the time frame with you if you like.

Teen: Like what?

Mom: Well, let's say if 2:00 Pm is too restrictive for you, then how about you can badger us about that rule until 5:00 PM, that's three extra hours, that means you can badger us for almost four hours is you start right now, then drop it- just follow the rules the rest of the weekend, and we'll call that a successful home pass if nothing else unforseen happens? How's that- do you feel that is more fair?  [Notice labeling the behavior as badgering.]

Teen: I guess so.

Mom: OK, then that's a deal. Let's get started. Ask me if you can call your girlfriend or whomever you want to violate the home rules that we already agreed on before you left for the weekend.

Teen: Can I call her?

Mom: No. [pause.] go ahead ask me again.

Teen: This is stupid.

Mom: Kind of - yes, but at least I feel that it's more fair.

Teen: I'm not going to get to call her no matter how many times I ask.

Mom: I agree.

Teen: I'm done. I'm going to my room. Don't bother me OK?

Mom: Take a break Son it's OK. We'll talk about this later.

Teen: Don't think you won or you heard the last of this.

Mom: Oh no. I'm sure we'll talk about it later.

This role-play was not intended to be the end-all-be-all prototype of home pass rule negotiations. Many of you could write better ones I expect. My only intention was to show that you do not have to have an exhausting weekend and still rate it as successful. There is a way or perhaps call it a goal, to let your teenager know that enough is enough. "It's fine that you are following the rules but if the entire weekend was spent testing me, then no I'm going to have a problem calling that successful."


Jenn said...

Thanks for this posting, Lloyd – you spoke directly to our home pass issues – you’re so good at tapping into our minds & recognizing what issues we are facing! It helps to be reminded that home passes are a rare opportunity to set the bar for the behaviors that we expect to see. Yes, we were tempted to believe that Dylan’s home pass could be called successful, because we saw improvement & we wanted to encourage him. But, as we counted up all of the rules that he had broken, some of them repeatedly, it was clear that the pass could in no way be considered successful. While it is good for us to recognize & applaud the positives about the home pass, it’s equally important to admit to & learn from the negatives. Back to the drawing board!

Rocco said...

"DO NOT KEEP SECRETS; SECRETS KEEP US SICK" - A.A. Many of us have experienced wanting our child's recovery more than they do. We want so much for them to "get it" and "get better" in a matter of weeks. We want that child we used to know to come out on their pass and show us they are back. When we take them back we try to spin our experience into a "successful" visit while inside our head is still whirling like a ride at a carnival.

Well as veterans of many passes Sally and I have always made "telling like it is" one of our top priorities in our family's recovery. Beginning with one hour passes on up to 4 and 5 day passes, YOU are the one who determines if a pass was "successful", not your teenage addict and not their counselors who only know what you let them know.

Passes are your teen's first opportunity to take back the power - "I need a cigarette / cell phone / my music...", and on and on, as soon as they reach the car.

Let the counselors know everything, bad and good, that went on. Let your child's P.O. and psychiatrist know.

Be sure that you let your child know that you will not keep secrets.

They will tell you how much that makes them hate you and mistrust you and how you make them want to use and that they will never tell you anything again and that is all part of their recovery and yours.

It is always easier to set the bar high and drop it a notch than to set it low and raise it later.



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