If you ask anyone who works at Renascent how the organization views addiction as it relates to the family unit, they’ll let you know that we recognize and treat addiction as a family issue. This means that Renascent works toward supporting the recovery of every member of the family unit – from the person who is living with addiction, to their close family members and children.
Renascent’s Children’s Program is an important part of our treatment continuum and Cassandra Switzer’s role as a Family Counsellor focuses on providing support to our littlest clients. Having parents who are in active addiction, Cassandra brings a mixture of passion, empathy, understanding, and knowledge to her role.
“I felt that I was put on this path so that I can give other children and family members hope. Renascent’s Children’s Program is what I needed when I was a kid and I encourage children to view it as important starting point for their own recovery,” says Cassandra. “What children learn in our sessions will serve them well in an array of situations, including helping them manage stresses related to COVID-19,” adds Cassandra.
In each group or one-on-one session, Cassandra’s aim is simple – to provide children with the tools and confidence they need to help them navigate addiction and have a healthy relationship with substances when they get older. And it’s these tools and empowerment skills that translate into other areas of life.
For example, Cassandra encourages children and teens to practice three habits to help them stay centred when dealing with uncertainty:
- 1. Make healthy choices (Eg: go for a walk, eat healthy meals)
- 2. Communicate feelings (Eg: speak with a trusted and supportive friend or adult)
- 3. Celebrate yourself (Eg: paint your nails, play a fun game)
“Children who grow up with parents and loved ones who are addicted substances have a higher risk of experiencing addiction themselves,” explains Cassandra. “By treating addiction as a family illness we are able to provide various interventions and make the overall focus on the program more positive for children. We focus on trying to help families rebuild relationships damaged by addiction, restore hope and trust, and give everyone involved a platform to discuss what they’ve been through with openness and without judgement.”
At Renascent, children attend sessions for four weeks where they follow a set curriculum. At the end of that period, they graduate and are able to access Renascent’s bi-weekly Children’s Check-in where counsellors like Cassandra offer support and help address any challenges. This is a unique approach, as most treatment centres focus on providing care and support only to the person who is actually using substances.
“It’s so important to provide ongoing support to children and teens at all stages of life. Children sometimes need to be reminded about how to use the tools as they grow and have new experiences,” says Cassandra, who has watched the Children’s Program continue to flourish during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The children who attend this program have created their own little community where they support each other through their experiences. Seeing them learn from one another and support each other is truly rewarding.”
When asked about some of the common misconceptions people have about children and addiction, Cassandra shares the following:
- 1. People often think they have successfully sheltered their children from the effects of addiction and that is never actually the case. I have never come across a child who did not notice that the impact of addiction on their parents.
2. Some people think that teaching children about addiction at a young age is not good for them – that it is sharing too much information too soon. I believe that knowledge is power and by speaking openly about addiction you are able to equip your children with valuable knowledge and help control the narrative.
If you think your children could benefit from participating in Renascent’s Children’s Program, please contact us.