When Parents Confuse “Comfort” with “Kindness!”

Posted by Dr. Paul Goddard on September 08, 2014

The first few weeks in wilderness are not only challenging for the program participant, but also for the parents. The plethora of emotions that parents often experience can be overwhelming. The relief of not having to worry all night about a child’s safety can morph into guilt over feeling that relief, combined with fear for the child’s wellbeing in a new environment, augmented by anxiety over the probability (or lack thereof) of meaningful and sustainable change beginning with this wilderness experience – just to name a few! It is not uncommon for anger to emerge with the realization of just how disrupted their lives have been by the child’s issues and poor choices.

I often reflect with my group on the notion that, if I want to become the best NFL football player in history then I should sit comfortably with a large bowl of popcorn and watch the rerun of every NFL football game ever played. That way I will know just what to do when I get into the game. Even my “befuddled” teens can see the absurdity of this proposition. Real growth and real change take work, and lots of it!

Although there is no “magic cure” for the barrage of emotions that parents (and kids) feel, perhaps some solace can be taken in the experience of other students. In their own (anonymous) words:

“I know I struggled with any sort of openness within the group at first, which was an obvious fear of attachment. But then as I opened up to the group I found it made things easier and that I actually thrived with the support and understanding of the girls and staff that came with opening up and being honest and trusting them.”

“A year ago today I graduated from 2NE on Air Phase. I had never felt so accomplished in my life. Thank you all so much for supporting me and helping me to be where I am today!”

“It’s hard to find someone who loves you enough to call you out on your BS and challenges you to be one the person you actually want to be. Wouldn’t be the person I am today without your help!”

“I honestly miss Entrada. It was fun being out in the woods getting down to nature. There you could really talk to people and I can honestly say in all the pictures that were taken of me there I was very happy.”Paul w group

“Dude, I feel the exact same way. & in my pictures my face was practically glowing & I had such a pure & sincere smile. Being in nature was so healing for me, & I’ve been craving that again. We should all go on a camping trip or something.”

Life still presents many challenges, even post wilderness! It is hard to apply what we learn. But still, the kids (and as well as the parents) are often much better equipped to deal with challenges than before. Again, to quote an expert:

“I remember the night before I left I was finally in a relationship with who I thought was the love of my life. I was told i would only be going to 2NE G4 for 6 weeks, when i was told it was going to be more than that i was devistated, only cuz i wanted to get back with him. What the hell was i thinking? I didnt care about me, or what i was doing out there in the middle of no where. I didnt care about the girls i was with. I wanted to get back to him. I wasted my entire time out there because i didnt love myself. I thought i needed someone to love me so i knew it was okay to love myself. Me and him arnt together and i ended up pregnant. I wish i had known how amazing it was to be at 2NE G4, how lucky i was to have this chance at life. Luckily i have turned my life around using tools i didnt know i learned out there. But it would have been much easier while i was still there. MUCH LOVE TO THE BRAVE GIRLS OUT THERE!!! Learn to love yourself, learn your own self worth. Dont look outside yourself, its somewhere inside you.”

Paul w group 225x300I couldn’t agree more – the tools are there for when you decide to use them. So, to all of the parents (and kids) out there who are wondering and worrying, I say: “take heart, there is much living yet to be done, and the ‘good stuff’ is right in front of you.” Don’t confuse comfort with kindness, for it is in the midst of life’s battles that we find the courage and strength that we need to prevail and go forward!

Dr. Paul Goddard works with adolescent females at Second Nature Entrada in St. George, UT.


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