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Mapping out the future, with a little help from my friends
Friday, January 8, 2016 By Tina Szymczak
“I’ll never be good enough,” my son Corbin, 12, muttered, over and over again, as he tried to fit his five-foot frame into my lap.
We were about to head out to drop him off at his treatment centre, when he simply fell apart. His despair was overwhelming and heart wrenching. I felt helpless.
Our family was concerned that the treatment centre was using punishment, rather than positive supports, to manage his behaviour, and that this was eroding his self-esteem and escalating his anxiety.
Later that day I shared this story with some good friends at the Windsor Essex Family Network and one suggested it was time to consider doing a “MAP” with Corbin.
MAP stands for Making Action Plans and involves bringing together family and friends at a meeting to help a person plan out their hopes and dreams. It was created by Marsha Forest and others more than 30 years ago.
Inclusion Press describes the process as: “a series of empty container questions that ask a person/organization to tell us some of the milestones on their journey, so we can get to know them, dream with them, and begin to build a plan to move in the direction of their dreams… MAP is about listening to a person’s dreams, acknowledging their nightmares, then building a rich portrait of their gifts and talents so we are able to focus on simple daily actions that move them in constructive directions. MAP is a wonderful way to ‘get to know’ someone, in schools, in communities, in life. It is powerful and requires skilled facilitation by two facilitators.”
So often, as parents, we are told we need to make our kids more independent. It’s in their report cards, progress reports and treatment plans. However, what we don’t talk about is the concept of interdependence. In All My Life’s A Circle, Marsha Forest describes interdependence as « the ability to connect with individuals within one’s own community and develop a network of supports to assist in accomplishing. » This is what our son needed—to connect with others in his community.
To be honest, friends had suggested we do this kind of planning numerous times before, but I’d always put it off. I was worried that the people my son chose to invite to the MAP meeting would say no, and he would be crushed. After doing some research, I was able to move past this fear.
I spoke to Corbin about the idea and explained that we would have a meeting and, unlike other meetings, he would have a say in it all. This would be a gathering of his friends and family—all of whom he would choose to invite. He would also choose the snacks and where it was held. He liked the idea that he would be in control.
When we began making his invitation list I was surprised by how seriously he took the task. (…)