Life gives us our fair share of lemons to decide what to do with them. Within the therapeutic residential setting we probably see a few more lemons, both those of our girls’ and of our own. The cliche, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” serves as a reminder that every challenge that comes our way is an opportunity.
As a residential staff, one of the biggest ways we can help our girls grow is to help them recognize those opportunities. But in order to teach this, we need to be able to be able to do it ourselves. Outside of a stressful situation this is a pretty easy task. However, in times of high stress, practice and intentional effort are needed to respond. This fosters growth and creates an example of constructive responses to the challenges that arise in everyone’s lives.
On a daily basis this often looks like residential staff coaching a girl through a conflict, whether it is with her peers, another staff, or a family member. Each of our staff does this many times a day, and this is one of the areas where we (as residential staff) have the biggest impact on our girls. We are able to show them alternate ways of meeting situations. We are able to show them that their past ways have been unhealthy enough to lead them to the kind of supports a school like Chrysalis can offer.
A large part of our ability to do this is to see past the behaviors and address our student with their motivations. This helps them achieve what they really need through healthier means. Perhaps she is resistant to boundary holding from a particular staff. Another staff may talk with her about this and explore what is behind the resistance. It might come out that the particular staff has a way of framing the boundary that reminds her of a teacher she struggled with prior to treatment. We can then help her express this in a healthy manner, and help them problem solve a way to still hold the boundary, but in a way that is easier for her to hear.
Rare occasions can bring much larger challenges, or the chance to make lots of lemonade. Sometimes issues test all of our abilities to see the opportunity in the moment. And when we can see the opportunity, it can be the vehicle for program wide change, and the greatest benefit to the whole community.
I recently had the privilege of working with our girls through such a situation, it was an honor to see them show up and take ownership of their community. They were surprised to not be “in trouble” and rose to the occasion to meet the challenges laid out before them. The result is our entire community moving in a positive direction that supports each of our girls in achieving their highest self. It is incredibly moving to be a part of such an event and is one of the many privileges of doing the work we do.
– Dave Schuster, Program Director