Today's the day—your loved one is coming home! You and your family are excited. Now everything can go back to normal, right?
The truth is, your loved one is going to have to adjust to life on the outside. They will most likely have to deal with culture shock, depression, and anger. In addition, they will also have challenges with the social stigma and the collateral consequences that come with a criminal record.
How can you help your loved one adjust to life after prison? Here are seven ways to consider.
1. UNDERSTAND CULTURE SHOCK
Depending on the length of your loved one's sentence, one of the greatest challenges to reentry may be culture shock. The longer they were in prison, the greater the culture shock may be.
Your loved one will notice new technology, the rise of social media for communication, newer versions of cell phones or cell phones in general, and new language that has been introduced since they were last out of prison. They will need your help to adjust to their new "normal."
The key to helping your loved one with culture shock is to be patient and show them your and God's love. Offer them help with decision making, new cultural norms, and life organization.
WHAT IS CULTURE SHOCK?
Culture shock is the disorienting feeling a person can get when they suddenly have to adapt to an unfamiliar culture or way of life. It can also occur when a person returns after a long period of absence to his or her former culture. This is sometimes called "reverse culture shock."
2. BE AWARE OF DEPRESSION
Depression after incarceration is very common. Readjusting to daily life is challenging, and working towards finding a job with a criminal record and gaining financial stability can be frustrating.
If therapy is not an option, there are other steps you and your loved one can take to improve their mental health and happiness.
SET SMALL GOALS
Start with one goal a day. Encourage them to reward themselves with something small, like take a long walk or enjoy a special meal, when each goal is achieved. The more success they have, regardless of how small, the more confident and happy they will be.
WORK WITH YOUR LOVED ONE ON THEIR SELF-TALK
For example, if you're loved one is prone to think, "I can't get a job. I am a failure," encourage them to tell themselves something like, "I haven't gotten a job yet. If I keep applying to jobs, I will eventually get one." Reaffirming positive thinking and connecting with others who think positively will eventually change the way your loved one sees the world around them.
If improvement is slow or nonexistent, consider reaching out to a therapist or other professional for additional help.
3. COMMUNICATE YOUR FRUSTRATION
Frustration for both you and your loved one is expected at this stage of your relationship. Your loved one may face frustration in their adjustment to living in a home, troubles with vulnerability, their employment search, treatment, and culture shock. You will also face frustration with the changes that occurred during their incarceration. Many times, they may not leave incarceration the same person you envisioned.
The best way to improve feelings of frustration is through communication. Talk to each other about how you perceive the way they express their frustration and decide the best way to express these feelings. Finding a middle ground and keeping accountability will keep the dialogue open to improve your communication.
4. MANAGE ANGER
In prison, aggression and anger are methods of protection. Outside prison culture, these displays are not as acceptable. Your loved one will need to find a way to control this anger and channel it into productivity.
Whenever they feel angry, encourage your loved one to take a step back and focus on slow breathing for 10 seconds. Then try to discuss and isolate the cause of their anger. Lastly, try to understand what they hoped to achieve with their anger and how they can achieve it in a more effective and controlled way.
5. DEAL WITH REJECTION
Rejection will come in many forms during your loved one's first months at home. Employers, former friends, and even some family, may reject them due to the stigma they associate with incarceration. You will need to help them learn how to accept the rejection, move on, and continue to improve themselves and their circumstances.
Remind them to be easy on themselves. They are not a failure. They must keep working, stay focused, and give themselves credit for the progress they have made. Encourage them to focus on their ultimate desired outcome rather than their past failures.
6. RESIST NEGATIVE INFLUENCES
There is always external pressure to conform to the group to gain acceptance. If your loved one's friends and family are pushing them to improve, work hard, and take time to connect with God and other followers of Christ, they will find that they will want to do the same.
Otherwise, the best way to resist negative influences is to be aware of them. Discuss your loved one's individual restraints, comfort levels, and what they believe is right and wrong and encourage them to stick to these restraints in all scenarios. It is important for your loved one to understand their own individual needs and goals before going into more group settings.
7. COMBAT ADDICTION
Your loved one may have developed an addiction before or during their prison sentence. When released, they may not be the same person you expected them to be.
Addictions are incredibly difficult to work through without support. Your loved one will need your emotional support, love, care, and guidance to help them. Many times, they may need help from a licensed therapist or doctor to provide a clear, research-backed path to beating their addiction. Ultimately, it is your love and support that will guide them through the process of healing.