Family Programming Director On Supporting Parents During the Holidays

MG 7981The holidays can be a difficult time for parents and siblings of teens who are away receiving treatment. The holiday season often brings a flood of emotions which are confusing for many families to work through.   At Trails, our family programming provides the emotional support many families need to get through this time of year.

Supporting Parents During The Holidays

For parents, not being with your child during the holidays can be an isolating, lonely experience. When other families  in your neighborhood are reuniting with their children and celebrating the holidays together, it can feel strange to have a member of your family missing. During the holidays, weekly parent support calls can be very helpful for parents struggling to process their emotions.
During weekly parent support calls, parents of Trails students come together to share their experiences. Hearing how others are navigating the holidays can be an empowering experience for many parents.
Family programming provides additional support for parents struggling to work out how the family holidays and traditions will look different this year, now that their child is in treatment. It’s important for families to understand how to work through the emotions that come along with the holidays in a healthy way.

Common Struggles: Family Members

When family members come into town during the holidays, it can be hard for parents to address questions regarding their child in treatment. At Trails, we encourage parents to be very clear with their family members about their personal needs during the holiday. Parents should be clear about whether or not they would like to answer questions about their child. If talking about the situation is helpful, then parents should let family members know that. Likewise, if staying focused on the present moment instead of what’s going on with their child is helpful, they should inform family members of that.
Many parents have spoken of extended family members who are gracious in honoring their wishes. This can really help parents get through the holiday season.

Common Struggles: Social Media

Many parents also talk about struggling with social media during the holidays. Throughout the holiday season, people post pictures of their families and the fun activities they are engaging in. Seeing those social media posts can be a real downer for many families because they are missing a huge part of their family this holiday season. Because of this, many Trails parents have made a commitment during the holidays to either decrease their amount of social media use or stay off of it altogether.

Continuing holiday traditions at home

We often talk to families about being mindful of holiday traditions that need to continue at home while their child is in treatment. Sometimes it’s helpful for the entire family to keep some normalcy and structure around the holidays. Parents also consider what parts of the holiday experience to recreate or continue when their child has completed treatment.
Many families choose to continue with their holiday tradition, but save parts of it for when they child comes home. For example, some families save one or two gifts that they can open up together once a child completes treatment.
One year, during graduation from the Family Camp Common Ground experience, we had a family who found a small pine tree out in the woods. The family decorated the tree like a Christmas tree and they brought a gift for their child attending Trails. The student had actually made gifts out of  natural objects for each of their family members. This family talked about how powerful this experience was for them, compared to other holiday experiences previously.

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Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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