When your child returns home after completing treatment in a residential treatment center, parents naturally feel anxious about helping him or her maintain gains from treatment. Advance planning can help him or her transition to living at home again. In fact, preparing for discharge should begin as soon as he or she arrives in treatment so that you’ll be able to implement the plan immediately upon leaving the program.
Follow the Discharge Plan
- Meet with the residential facility staff to prepare a detailed discharge plan that specifies where, when and who will provide follow-up services. The discharge plan should present an outline covering the six months following discharge. Find out what you’ll need to do to help arrange aftercare services and what role the RTC will fulfill. For example, will they offer in-home services, respite care and help with school placement? Will the program just provide you with recommendations and contacts, or will they also take care of scheduling appointments for your daughter?
- Be sure to discuss your concerns about discharge with your daughter’s treatment team. Let them know about any limitations at home as well as strengths that can help with your daughter’s adjustment to returning to the family home. Talk with your daughter to find out what worries she has about leaving the treatment center and what sort of support she thinks might help. Additionally, find out if there is aftercare available from the treatment center that’s located near your home.
- Identify and arrange services for your teen, such as counseling or other community support services. Make appointments ahead of time so that she has a smooth transition from leaving the residential facility and the continuation of any needed treatment, including medication. Ideally, your child will leave the residential facility with at least a week’s worth of medications, giving you time to have the prescriptions filled without any gap in treatment.
- Consider attending family therapy, either at the RTC or at a separate program, before your teen arrives home. Also, you might want to hold weekly family meetings. Your teen will be coming out of a highly structured environment and can benefit from continued structure at home. Improved communication in the family can also help any siblings in the home who might be worried about their sibling who is in treatment and what will happen when the teen returns home.
Prepare for Setbacks
After your child returns home, he or she might experience setbacks. Find out from your child’s RTC if you should contact them if there’s a crisis shortly after discharge or if you’ll need to contact your local community mental health services. If you need to seek help from your community mental health agency, connect with them before your child comes home and tell them about his or her diagnosis and needs. Make sure they’re ready to help in the event of a crisis. Remember that setbacks are common. Remain flexible during this time.
Returning to School
Returning to school provides learning opportunities along with structure and daily socialization for your child. However, after residential placement, classroom needs and learning skills might have changed. If possible, talk to teachers to make them aware that your child is returning from residential treatment and what needs and challenges your teen has. If your child has a pre-existing IEP , contact the school’s director of special education to discuss whether that IEP might need to be amended. To request an IEP if one isn’t already in place, the parent typically needs to submit a request in writing to begin the steps of the evaluation process. An IEP ensures that any child with a disability identified under the law receives the specialized instruction and services that they need. A child who doesn’t qualify for an IEP might still qualify for a 504 plan that will allow accommodations for the child in school.
Helping your child maintain a well-structured daily schedule keeps him or her in a routine and provides predictability during the transition to living at home. A child who returns home from an RTC and suddenly has no set routine or plans might feel adrift without guidance on how to arrange the day for recreation and socialization.
Before your teen leaves the treatment center, talk to him or her and the treatment team about possible interests upon release. Check with your local parks and recreation department as well as with the school district to learn about the activities that are available. Try to line up activities before your child returns home. Opportunities to meet other children with similar interests can help your child form relationships that will assist with his or her continued well-being. School clubs, team sports and volunteering also help connect your teen with adults and authority figures outside of the home. Forming healthy relationships with coaches and new peer groups can provide trusted sources for advice and emotional support.
Remember Self Care
Taking care of a child with behavioral problems or mental illness usually requires a great deal of energy, time and patience. Similar to those who take care of loved ones with physical illnesses, you need to take time for yourself. All members of the family need to pay attention to their own mental and physical well-being. Find ways to reduce stress, such as going out to coffee or dinner, exercising, enjoying plays, television and movies, and talking with friends and family. Consider attending support group meetings with other parents who understand what you’re going through. Some RTCs offer support groups for parents as well as speakers and activities that connect parents with each other.
Give yourself grace and patience. You should offer support and love to your teen and family, but you’re not a magician. Remind yourself that your concern, care and presence means the most to them. Try to take time out for fun and to acknowledge the good things that happen every day. You can better serve others as a caregiver when you take care of yourself.
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