A "UNITED FRONT"

One of the most impactful and effective aspects of treatment is for the program and the parents/guardians to be on the Same page and standing together as a United Front. Kids often come into treatment being masters at splitting authority figures (parents, teachers, etc.) and playing one against the other.  This has a tremendously frustrating impact on those authority figures because we dont want to send our kids conflicting messages and we may often disagree with someone elses approach or decision.  The question then becomes, What is the impact of this splitting/triangulation on the child? The answer is quite simply that it is unsafe. When the child learns that they can learn to split those authority figures, then they learn that boundaries can now be blurred and be manipulated in ways that are no longer constant, stable, reliable, and consistent.

As the child practices the art of splitting/triangulating, they reinforce that control is more comfortable than trust.  The interesting part of Control is that it is based in fear and that children of abuse, neglect, and trauma learn to preserve themselves (survival) through Control.  This means that control is a response to a core experience of survival and becomes Safer in their mind than the Unsafe rejection experienced with trust.

This response or drive for control becomes most evident in the splitting or triangulation of parents/guardians and the treatment program.  The child wants to maintain the Safety of control and getting parents/guardians to be in conflict with the treatment center becomes an effective tool for them to avoid the fear associated with addressing painful issues, being authentically cared about, experiencing vulnerability, and creating intimacy.  All of these different experiences are what creates long lasting change and avoiding them becomes possible when program and parents are disconnected. 

It is always amazingly effective when parents/guardians are a United Front and present to the student as one, sharing the same intention, purpose, and commitment to the child.  This is to say that disagreements and/or differing opinions get shared and discussed away from the child and that decisions can then be made that are consistent, dependable, and reliable in front of the child.  Through this United Front, the child then becomes to trust that the program and parents are making decisions based upon what is best for the child physically and emotionally.  Then child then experiences Safe Relationships that are based on care and not control.  This is when transformation begins to take root and the child can learn to trust those authority figures in their lives and begin to share the joy that comes through trust and intimacy.