It is difficult for any family to navigate transitions, but when a loved one has been away due to incarceration, it can be especially challenging. Here are five items to consider when preparing to welcome a family member home.
Acknowledge potential culture shock. Depending on the duration of your loved one’s absence, a lot could have changed in the time they were in prison. Technology advances quickly, as does politics, pop culture, and health trends. It can be frustrating and confusing for former prisoners to return to a home that seems to have changed so much. Understanding culture shock and assisting your loved one through this adjustment will play an integral role in reentry to everyday life.
Be aware of depression and anxiety. In addition to adjusting to home life, prisoners are also working toward financial independence and obtaining a job, creating an often frustrating and stressful situation. Depression and anxiety among recently released prisoners is common, and should be compassionately addressed. Group support and talk therapy are wonderful resources for those adjusting to re-entry and experiencing mental health issues.
Communicate openly. Transitions back into a routine may be difficult for everyone in a family unit. Rejection, frustration, anger, and resentment may be felt by both the family members that were still at home, and the loved one returning from incarceration. Relationships often change while one is away and it takes a while to re-establish a “new normal.” Being able to openly communicate in a safe manner is crucial to a stable environment.
Combat addiction. Habits change in new routines and stressful situations. If you, or your loved one, is battling an addiction and trying to adjust to a whole new lifestyle, a supportive environment is necessary. Find local resources to help support healing, and enlist the care of of health professionals.
Avoid peer pressure. This stressful time can be amplified without the support of family and friends. Avoid any negative influences in your life, and don’t place value on the opinions of those that are not understanding of your situation. Discuss your boundaries and expectations, as well as what you believe are your best interests, with your friends and family. Decide how to address any negative perceptions or restraints.