I first met Zach nearly one year ago. He was referred to the Hirschfield Center for Children by his elementary school counselor. Zach was already meeting with a therapist, but the school staff saw how his behaviors were related to instability at home. Poor social skills, defiance and anger towards teachers, and a lack of self-confidence were the symptoms. The Hirschfield Center for Children [HCC] collaborated with Zach, his mom, and the professionals already involved to peel back some of the layers and understand more about what was going on for our new young client. Zach’s mom, a single parent, was smart and made a good salary. She cared deeply for her son but was struggling to find the time and energy Zach needed as she was running on fumes herself. Our plan was multi-faceted and centered around working with the family on their goals to strengthen their relationships.
Zach would meet weekly with HCC staff in the community: having fun, building trust, and learning social and emotional skills to use at home and at school. Mom also met with us on a weekly basis. She found support and a place to process and brainstorm. She tried new parenting techniques and built in time for connection and fun each day with Zach, even if only for 15 minutes. As their attachment and connection grew, not only did the blow-outs reduce in frequency and duration, but Zach’s issues at school also lessened. He was getting positive attention in other venues and was also able to vocalize and express his more difficult feelings. By focusing on empathy and connection, as well as self-care, Zach’s mom found renewed energy, which, perhaps to her own surprise, she needed to tap into less and less.
Sharing a space with Zach and his mom, as we occasionally do in family check-ins together, is warmer, freer, and more natural. When things are difficult, as they still can be, having the added depth of connection built on empathy, laughter, and shared experiences allows for more choices to present themselves. Zach is excited about school, has had many positive experiences with peers at camps this summer (including JH Leadership Program!), and is excited about a long weekend trip to Salt Lake City that he and his mom have been planning together.
By welcoming families from all walks of life, and meeting them where they are individually, the Hirschfield Center is able to offer a window into the rewards their efforts will garner. People sometimes ask us how we keep working in the face of trauma, abuse, and family dysfunction, the answer, always, is focusing on the strengths present.