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Being a parent or caregiver is hard work. We constantly ask questions of ourselves. Is this behavior normal? How do I best support my child? What else can I do?
Matthew and Jen asked themselves these questions first when their older son Thomas began to have “big behaviors” at four years old. It was a period of significant transition for the family. Matthew was traveling extensively in a new, high-stress job while navigating the uncertainty of a potential deployment with the Navy Reserves. Jen was also working while taking care of two young children, baby Joshua was always sick, and nobody was sleeping well.
Matthew and Jen had sought their own counseling during this stressful time, and it was their therapist who recommended St. David’s Center to help them address Thomas’s behaviors. “We knew right away that St. David’s Center was the right place,” says Matthew.
Thomas began working with a therapist at St. David’s Center who helped him and his parents build up his confidence and develop tools to navigate his daily routines. And while Thomas’s treatment was transformational for him, it was the impact on Matthew and Jen as parents that delivered the most unanticipated revelations. “We got the support we needed to look at our family system and think about it differently,” explains Matthew. Jen adds, “It really helped us to understand our own emotions—what’s coming up for us
when certain things happen—and then being able to stay calm and patient.”
After the onset of the pandemic, both parents noticed Thomas’s younger brother Joshua was struggling. Once again, they turned to St. David’s Center for help. Joshua enrolled in St. David’s Center’s Family Place program. Recounts Matthew, “As part of Joshua’s assessment to go to Family Place, they went out and observed him in his preschool setting and came back with some insights that we hadn’t heard or hadn’t even really considered.”
With the support of his therapist, Hannah, Joshua made impressive gains, learning how to engage with his peers and manage his outbursts. While both boys had different therapeutic experiences, Matthew and Jen recognized the same positive impact on the family dynamic—and their ability to parent. “Going through that initial counseling and then continuing with Family Place was a huge education for us as parents,” declares Jen. “As a parent, I just feel like I have so much to draw on now—more tools in my toolbox and how to approach my kids in a compassionate and empathetic way.”
At St. David’s Center, families have access to a team of professionals who take an integrated approach to support the development of each child. With your support, we can collaborate with families to address each child’s unique needs.
Both Jen and Matthew agree that for many parents, themselves included, one of the biggest obstacles is simply reaching out for help, out of fear of a potential diagnosis and their child being “labeled,” and uncertainty around what constitutes “normal” child behavior. “It was a huge hurdle to admit for ourselves that we needed help,” acknowledges Jen. Agrees Matthew, “I think there’s a hesitancy for a lot of people to want to reach out.” Now they advise it to any struggling parent. “You’re going to learn something about yourself, and it’s going to make you better and your relationships better with your spouse and your kids,” affirms Jen.
Six-year-old Joshua, now a kindergartner, recently graduated from Family Place and is thriving at the same school as big brother Thomas, now eight. For both boys, their time at St. David’s Center has given them the tools to recognize and articulate what is happening to them emotionally. States Jen, “They are able to deal with those big feelings in a safe way and come back and re-engage with the family.”
“St. David’s Center is like a family,” says Jen. “It just feels like this network of support and people who know how to help you. In our society, you’re on an island, and you don’t have that community to support you in being a parent. St. David’s Center can be that community.” Echoes Matthew, “Knowing we’re connected to St. David’s Center definitely gives us the ability to come back and get support with the teams when we need them in the future. We have a foundation now to continue that work.”
Healthy development depends on the quality of the relationship children have with their parents and caregivers. Your support gives children and families that strong foundation—the tools in their toolbox—to navigate challenges and thrive in their daily lives.
Because of caring people like you, we have been able to adapt during difficult and uncertain times to continue to provide services to more than 4,000 children and families each year. Will you make a gift today to give children and families the resources they need to thrive?