Our failure to plan ahead when helping loved ones adjust to life outside of “the Prison Industrial Complex” is comparable to re-teaching a youngster how to walk again after a serious injury. You take it one step at a time.
Here is a letter recently received by the JJIE:
I have a grandson in prison in North Carolina. After he is released, he is coming [to Georgia]. I am trying to get things together for him before he comes. Can you offer me any advice? -- Lynn
This is a common occurrence for far too many grandparents. One of the first things I would advise is gather as much personal information about this young man that his parents, family or former neighbors can offer. It is important to attempt to develop a healthy adult relationship with him.
It is equally important that your expectations are discussed in detail so that misunderstandings can be avoided. I would be careful not to dwell on the past but instead highlight the realistic things this young man can accomplish in the future.
When dealing with young adults it is essential that boundaries be set that are reasonable and productive. Life is full of rules whether we like it or not. I would encourage you to explain to your grandson that this is an opportunity to restart your life and to explain how better opportunities can be available when you constantly put your personal view of the future in proper perspective.
I would emphasize over and over that this can be a new lease on life for your grandson. One that requires being very intentional and committed about what he wants and expects out of life.
This is a time when the emphasis on careful planning must always be highlighted. I would strongly urge you to find out what specific work skills your grandson has. I would take him on a visit to a technical school or career academy that has personnel to assess the level of interest he has in a given profession. These are probably ideas that no one has truly taken the time to explain to your grandson.
I would then encourage you to sit down with him and discuss the options and then insist he commit to one of the professions after careful consideration. I would help him list the pros and cons of his decision making.
Many grandparents will discover that these young men typically have not given much thought to developing long-range personal goals. This is an opportunity to discuss the importance of having significant life goals. It is also an appropriate time to discuss the importance of working hard and smart to achieve personal goals.
This is a key time when grandparents must deliberately guide their grandchildren into healthy relationships that potentially will have a positive impact in their lives. I would try to provide several healthy group options for interactions for your grandson. I would not hesitate to take advantage of some of your personal contacts whether it is in the church, valued friends or other community based organizations.
It is possible that there are already support groups in place that address many of the issues that you and your grandson will be confronted with.
I would challenge your grandson to come up with his own personal plan, with your input, of course, so that he has ownership. I would then encourage you to monitor the success of this personal plan on a weekly then on a monthly basis.
There is much research out there on what it takes to turn around troubled youth. My advice would be to access some of this information as quickly as possible and implement your plan.
The information contained in JJIE.org columns are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for legal, professional or medical advice that meets your personal needs, it is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a professional who understands your personal issues related to the topics discussed herein.