Parent Visits: Where "Good" is Good and "Bad" is Good
After being on hold for more than a year because of Covid precautions, parent field visits have returned to Evoke. And with that, they have once again become a source of many questions on my weekly parent phone calls preceding the trips. The most common ones often include “What can we expect them to be like?”, "What if they ask about the future?”, and usually some variation of “What if it doesn’t go well?”
That last question is the one most families are fixated on. What if it doesn’t go well? While I don’t necessarily expect this next sentence to be soothing, I do believe that it is true: there is no such thing as a bad parent visit. Of course, the thing that parents most hope for is a meaningful reconnection that is also pleasant. Often, this is the result. However, an important thing to focus on is that even if the connection is not pleasant, it can still be meaningful, and perhaps even more so.
An important thing to consider as you weigh whether or not your time was “successful” is: Did the information you got outweigh whether or not it met your expectations of being pleasant? Even when clients do their best to control their actions to convince you as parents that they are ready to come home/don’t require a next step/have changed, there will always be evidence that will either corroborate or disprove their presentation in their behaviors. Being the foremost experts on your children, you observing these behaviors in person can be inordinately helpful in any further decision making you have yet to engage in. If they say that they will be more committed to following rules, how does this look if you lay out a boundary in the field or challenge that notion during their family session? Did they seem to communicate in a genuine fashion, i.e. were they open and vulnerable with you? Did they apologize for past actions, or seem to have developed some insight about why they did these things or perhaps how to avoid them in the future?
Equally of note are the feelings you experience while with them. Are you able to communicate in a genuine fashion, and be open and vulnerable? What is your own insight into how you used to respond to stimuli from them and their behaviors, and how you are responding now? If you are weighing home versus aftercare, how ready do you feel to reengage with them and support their transition back to the challenging environment of being at home?
As with many other things at Evoke, the parent visit is more than it appears to be on the surface. And, as with many things, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture in moments of intense emotion. Take notes, or use another method that will help you recall things that were said and specific moments from the visit, and know that you will have realizations in the days and weeks afterward that will be important. Process these in letters with your child, and on the phone with your child’s therapist. And don't forget to be gentle with yourself through it all.