Provider Portrait: Cynthia Galaviz

(insects buzzing) (peaceful music) – There is a special magic that when you just even
interact or talk to a child, they can teach us so many things, because there’s more to that child than just the addiction in the family. My name is Cynthia. I’m the supervisor of
the children’s program here in California at the Hazelden Betty
Ford Center Foundation, and my mission in life is to help families and children find their voice, and to know that their stories matter. (peaceful music) Adults are usually getting help. There’s so many treatment
centers out there for people to go get
better, which is great, but there’s not enough for children to be able to say, “This
is how it hurt me.” And if I’m able to just listen
to them when they’re a kid, their lives can be a
little bit more hopeful, and have a little bit more healing, then by the time they do grow up, they can then say, “Okay, I
went through this experience, “but then somebody reached
out and helped me.” So it’s not about wait ’til all these kids are using drugs and alcohol
’cause they saw it at home. It’s trying to stop it
or avoid it earlier. Providers should talk about
addiction to little kids as when a grownup wants drugs
and alcohol more and more, and they can’t stop. (peaceful music) In our program, addiction is the bad guy, and we have a super hero. So T and R is our super hero
here in the children’s program. It stands for treatment and recovery. And when the children come to our program, they get to learn that when
people are stuck with addiction, they can ask for help, and T
and R will come to the rescue. I get to help kids learn,
“Things will get better, “if not for my loved one, but for me.” That instills hope in them without me actually having to say, “Everything’s gonna be okay.” (peaceful music) Our children’s program
is a four day program. On that first day, they’re
learning about addiction. So, how do people get better
from drugs and alcohol? The most important thing
when working with children is literally to teach them the
concept of the bag of rocks. (peaceful music) So, when I was a kid, I
used to have a question. – [Children] How do people get better from alcohol and drugs? – We’re gonna use this backpack to help us answer that question. So when it’s your turn, I’m
gonna ask that you grab this bag either by the handle,
gonna touch this board, and you’re just gonna walk it back, and place it gently on the floor. And be careful with your feet, okay? Let’s go, let’s do this, you got this.
There’s three categories of rocks in the bag. And kids learn that in order for a grownup to get better from drugs and alcohol, and make that backpack lighter, they need to let out and
talk about their feelings, they need to let out and
talk about their problems, and they need to let out
and talk about the secrets that don’t feel good to keep. Oh no, he’s pretty strong. You made that look pretty easy, but was that heavy or light? – [Boy] Heavy. – Heavy, let’s say that,
super important game, your team is tied. Right before you’re about
to hit the ball, I appear, and I put this bag on your back. Do you think this backpack
would make you go slower or faster to first base? – [Boy] Slower. – [Cynthia] And if you lost
the game because of this bag, how would you feel? – Angry. – And so for the kids
to just be able to see that that’s what Mom and Dad
have been carrying around, but again also without
us telling them directly things that they’ve been carrying around. Because they’ve felt
hurt, they’ve felt lonely, they’ve felt the shame, and
they’re able to let it out, and realize that, “Oh, the
more I talk about this, “my own bag feels lighter.” – [Boy] Guilty. – Guilty, another feeling. What does it mean when
when someone feels guilty? – [Girl] When you did something wrong. – When you did something wrong, right? You feel bad about it. A lot of kids tell us that
they feel like it’s their fault that their parents use drugs and alcohol. And did we say that it
could ever be a kid’s fault? – [Children] No. – No, right? So, if a grownup has this feeling and they’re trying to get
better from drugs and alcohol, should they keep it in or
let it out and talk about it? – [Girl] Let it out and talk about it.
– Let it out and talk. – Put that in the middle there. One of the other main
things that children learn when they come through our program is that it’s not their fault. Being able to take that
weight off of a child of, “It’s not my fault that my parents “or a loved one is
struggling with addiction,” I think is huge. I think it’s the strongest
tool in my toolkit. Kids will get it, because they feel it. They physically feel weighed down, and so, just even that concept of, let’s build a bag together, and you tell me what
feelings you’ve been feeling, and let’s put ’em in a
bag, and when you’re ready, you can pull out a feeling
and share it with me. Three things that they’re
letting out and talking about. What are those three things, yes? – Secrets. – [Cynthia] Yeah, secrets. – Feelings. – [Cynthia] Feelings. – [Boy] Addiction. – Addiction is a what? – [Children] Problem. – It’s a problem. One thing that’s always
good to keep in mind is that some kids will learn one way, other kids will learn a different way. Sometimes people don’t like
to talk, so we use art. Draw a picture of how
addiction’s hurt your family. (peaceful music) Other kids, they don’t think
they’re good at drawing, so they write a story about how addiction’s hurt
their family, a true story. (peaceful music) And then they end their story
usually with a hope or a wish. There is an activity where the
child shares their experience with their parent. You could just see a difference
after they’ve done that. They seem lighter, they seem happier, and then as far as the
families healing together, you usually see that on the last day. – My son is Mark. He’s seven years old and Ellie’s nine. They came here because I had a relapse. – My dad was hooked in drug and alcohol so he had to go to this
recovery center for 180 days, and it’s pretty sad is because I only got
to see him once a week. But now I can see him all the time. I’m so glad that my dad is not
hooked by addiction anymore. – We think because they’re
seven, or they’re five, or they’re six, they don’t worry. They worry, and they know Dad’s not right. And so when they
understand the terminology, and they understand
the thing of addiction, it makes everything better. So now everything’s on the table, and the forgiveness starts. We have to change the future. The future is our kids. If Junior doesn’t
understand about addiction, his chances of walking
down the same path is high. (peaceful music) – One of the main things that
we want kids to understand for self-care is to take
care of their kid part, which is to have fun and play. All children need to play. When they’re dealing with chaos at home, there is no time to play. And a lot of the times,
that’s what that child needed. I’ve seen kids that don’t wanna be here. Again, they either know
exactly what they’re here for, or have no idea. And they start to realize,
“Oh, okay, this isn’t that bad “because we’re playing.” – [Children] Six, seven, oh! – [Cynthia] Even with all this problems that are happening in the family, that it is okay to take
just a moment, 30 minutes, to just have fun and play. And when they see grownups
being able to do that, it encourages their own
childhood to come out as well. – 47, 48, 49, 50! (cheering) – When I see kids that walk in and there’s not that sparkle in their eye, or not that magic that
comes with childhood, and it’s lost at seven
years old, it’s sad. (giggling) It is hard work, it does get hard, but I have to have the hope that that little spark can be reignited. (peaceful music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *