Whether one week or ten weeks into the Open Sky journey, it can be an emotion-filled experience for parents. Parents may feel anxious, overwhelmed, concerned, hopeful, relieved, or a combination of all of the above. The Monday Night Parent Support Group call provides an opportunity for parents at all stages of the journey to come together and utilize many of the same skills and tools their child is acquiring in the field or have gained post-graduation.
Family support is central to the Open Sky experience. Monday Night Parent Support Group calls are facilitated by a Family Services team member and are offered at no additional cost to parents of currently enrolled students as well as alumni parents.
Regular participation in the calls helps parents to process emotions, practice mindfulness, and be reassured that they are not going through this experience alone. For alumni families, it is an opportunity to provide others the guidance and support they received and to reconnect with valuable tools and concepts.
One emphasis of the Monday night support group call is the importance of mindfulness; more specifically, meditation and interoception. Interoception is the process of bringing awareness to physical sensations throughout the body. Acknowledging these sensations helps to build our emotional regulation by stimulating brain structures responsible for “resetting” when we are triggered. Participants learn how to connect with their emotions in order to act and speak purposefully. Additionally, by practicing proper posture and breathing techniques, parents feel a sense of relaxation. Interoception occurs when parents are physically and mentally relaxed and able to step back from a fast-paced world.
We also take time to connect with any tension in the body. As humans, we tend to ignore physical tension. Instead of ignoring it, we intentionally bring our awareness to it and the tension begins to loosen. This process of bringing our awareness to physical tension is called breathing through the sensation. These simple mindfulness practices can bring relief to parents during and long after their Open Sky journey. These are practices students learn in the field, as well.
The second half of the Monday Night Parent Support Group call is an open forum. This is a space for parents to share emotions and experiences, ask questions of one another, and offer input. A variety of topics are covered during this portion of the call. These topics often include information and guidance about letter-writing, what to expect the first 3-4 weeks of the program, fire-making, graduation, Wellness Weekends, the Family QuestTM experience, and more.
The experience of sharing with one another creates a sense of comfort and community for parents. The Monday night call facilitator provides a structured space for parents to attend to their own needs and well-being while their child is doing the same in the field or post-graduation. We encourage all enrolled parents to utilize this valuable resource to increase their understanding of the program, become familiar with the tools their child is acquiring and to give and receive support.