Planning for Your Family

How Can I Create a “Family Behavior Contract” With My Child?

“Family Behavior Contracts” are part of the recovery curriculum at Fire Mountain Treatment Center. We believe that recovery does not begin and end with a stay in a treatment facility. Recovery for your child involves a commitment to supporting your child following their stay at Fire Mountain. We cannot “cure” or “fix” your child without your help and collaboration. Parents and caregivers provide an important role in the recovery process. By creating a “Family Behavior Contract” before your child returns home, both you and your child know what to expect when they get back to their home. Recovery is a lifelong journey that will continue for your child following treatment and beyond into adulthood.

Key Components of Family Behavior Contracts

Family Behavior Contracts are almost like treatment plans, except they are set up like a contract and are negotiated upon by parents and their kids. The Family Behavior Contract outlines clear expectations for behavior and the consequences of not following through with the expectations. The Contract also goes over what interventions will take place during a crisis. Some components of the Contract for crisis planning can be thought of like a traffic light:

  • Red Light: 
    • This signifies a crisis and discusses what needs to happen when everything in the contract needs to “stop” to provide immediate intervention.
    • You need to discuss what a crisis looks like for your child and be as specific as you can. 
    • Some behaviors may signify a crisis for your child that are not indicators of a crisis to another.
    • This could mean that relapse is dangerously close to occurring or that one already has.
    • Have a plan for what to do in case of a crisis. 
    • When a crisis occurs, we may not be in the right frame of mind to plan effectively due to our heightened emotional state. Work out a crisis and intervention plan ahead of time.
  • Yellow Light: 
    • This means that there are some warning signs of relapse and communication breakdowns occurring.
    • There may be a lot of arguments within the family unit.
    • Host a family meeting to address these issues before they lead to bigger problems!
  • Green Light:
    • This means that everything is going smoothly and working well.
    • Conflicts may occur, but they are quickly resolved and your child stays on track.
    • While we often focus planning on dealing with what goes wrong, we need to define what things look like when they go right.
  • Plan “B”: Have a contingency plan in place in addition to the preferred crisis plan. 
  • Setting up rules and consequences
    • You will want to set up the rules and expectations for behavior upon returning home.
    • Discuss the consequences of not adhering to the rules.
    • Set up expectations for “checking-in.”
      • How often do you want your child to “check-in” with you during the day?
      • By what means will they be checking-in with you? Text? Phone call?
      • Do they have the means to follow through? (ex. Do they have a phone to use or access to one?)
    • Make sure to have some leverage and rewards set up within these rules.
      • Consider that your child can gain privileges by “Earning the Right Way” (ETR).
      • Try to connect the consequence to the behavior in some meaningful way. For example, if your child wants a video game console, they can earn it by proving that they can stay safe and not destroy property in the home for an agreed-upon duration.
  • Triggers
    • Make sure to discuss triggers and have a plan to deal with them.
    • Be sure that everyone in the home is aware of any potential triggers and make sure to have family agreements about minimizing the presence of triggers.

Benefits of Coming Home Contracts

There are benefits for both you and your child for developing Family Behavior Contracts. You both will have peace of mind for knowing that things are planned out. Just knowing that there is a plan can alleviate some stress from your mind, especially in the event of a crisis. This way, you are not scrambling when your child needs you to be taking charge. Developing a contract also opens up the floor for honest communication and sets up rules that will help you both be consistent. Consistency and honest communication are paramount to success in recovery and creating a happy and healthy household. Both you and your child will gain the benefit of learning to negotiate with each other when discussing the contract and treating each other with respect. Your child will also learn how to advocate for themselves, identify their triggers, take charge of their recovery, and solve problems. Family Behavior Contracts can help you create peace and harmony in your home when your child returns from residential treatment!

Family Behavior Contracts can help you and your child come together before their treatment ends to come up with rules and expectations for their behavior when they return home. You and your child can benefit from feeling prepared and ready to deal with crises. You can open the floor to talk about difficult subjects and facilitate honest communication. Family Behavior Contracts help alleviate the stress of not knowing how to react when things go wrong. You can also teach your child to recognize triggers and advocate for themselves while working on the contract. Family Behavior Contracts are an important part of the recovery curriculum at Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center. We encourage parents and children to negotiate terms before their child returns home. Recovery is a lifelong process that does not begin and end with residential treatment. The whole family needs to be involved for successful outcomes to occur. For more information, call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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