As the Family Support Therapist at Blue Ridge, I work with the parents of our students in the field. My role is to offer space for families to experience their own process, which often parallels the student process but is distinctly different for obvious reasons. Teens are in the woods, with both the discomfort that it brings and the luxury of not having to attend to their “normal” lives.
They get to be completely present with their feelings, wrapped up in 24/7 support. On the flip side, parents are trying to manage day to day life, kids, finances, responsibilities, etc. AND participate in this incredibly intense emotional experience. Parents have often been in crisis mode with their kids for months or years leading up to the wilderness experience and are quite simply exhausted. This sets the stage for discussion of self-care…before we can do meaningful work on family dynamics, parents must restore some semblance of their own emotional balance and stability. This is the essence of the oxygen mask.