Small steps result in big changes for a family

By Slim Nash
Director of Community Based Services, Western Kentucky

It is the time of year when many of us have made wonderful New Year’s resolutions and already shifted our focus to other things, allowing our hopes for change to fall by the wayside.

Often when we think about change, we think about the major changes we hope for and fail to recognize the small steps we have taken along the way that are still leading us toward our goals.

The case managers with the Family Preservation, Reunification and Diversion programs work daily to help families make changes and encourage them to notice the strengths they do have and the small steps they are taking toward their goals.

Recently, one of our case managers has been working with a family that is currently living in a motel in a very confined space. The single mother and her daughter have been referred to the program for assistance in obtaining more permanent housing and to increase the positive interactions between parent and child. These are big goals for a four-week intervention, but the case manager recently received the following feedback from his client:

“Someone must have switched children on me because this one looks like [my child] but is being very sweet.”

“Wait until you see how much better our room looks; so much better and we did it together!”

The case manager believes the operative word in the latter statement is “together.” The change occurred when Mom realized that being an Authoritarian or Permissive parent does not work. She became an Active Parent by utilizing empathy (listening to her child, allowing her child to participate in decisions, etc., and having consistent rules and fair consequences).

Recently, the case manager told the mom that her way of communicating was exacerbating her child’s anger. A few days later, Mom told him, “I never realized that I was whiny until you mentioned it. You’re a [explicative] genius!”

Today, the family is still living in a motel but has plans to move into assisted housing soon. They are confined in a small space that can hinder even the best relationships, but they have hope for their relationship and a commitment to improve it together. While the surface situation may appear the same to others, they have taken some very important small steps toward big change.