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Children’s Prevention Program

What we do

This comprehensive program helps children impacted by parental addiction. Through peer support groups, working with horses, and an evidence-based curriculum, HHH provides children with hope, community, and empowerment to build a brighter, drug-free future.

 

Why we do it

“We want to stop the generational cycle of addiction. At HHH, the children gain the skills, desire, and courage to overcome their ‘unique struggle.’ Their confidence and ‘toolkit’ enable them to design an exciting & promising future – free of drugs & alcohol.”

Liz Olszewski, Founder HHH

 

What makes HHH effective?

Safe Place + Horses + Specialized Team = Essential Components for Healing

A Safe Place to Share

HHH provides an empathic place for children to share their true feelings and listen to others. Through the support of our staff and volunteers, children can discuss painful daily experiences with peers in situations like their own. Many times, this is the ONLY place they feel safe and understood.

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Oftentimes, when children try to express their feelings at home, parents respond with statements such as “You shouldn’t feel that way,” “Grow up,” or “You don’t know what it means to be upset,” making it virtually impossible for children to safely share emotions.

Horses Teaching Connection, Communication and Trust

As intelligent and social animals who must evade predators, horses are equipped through evolution with finely tuned abilities to read the emotional state of anyone in their environment. This unique ability makes them very adept at recognizing “incongruent feelings” in humans.

What does this mean? If a person is feeling a specific emotion (on the inside) but expressing a different one (on the outside), the horse knows. The horse translates this as, “If you cannot be honest with yourself, what are your intentions with me? Will you hurt me?” Feeling unsafe, the horse will not connect.

In an effort to connect with the horse, the children are highly motivated to be authentic, despite the initial pain they may feel. This is a crucial step in healing – to trust a horse with their deepest secrets and release their pain without being judged.

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We explain this concept to our kids by saying, “the same way that a dog can ‘smell fear,’ a horse can sense if your ‘insides don’t match your outsides.’ (Incongruence) If you want to connect with the horse, you must be authentic and honest with your feelings.”

 A Specialized Team

Our professional staff and volunteers complete comprehensive and on-going training covering the following topics.

a) emotional needs of COAs (children of addiction),

b) protective and risk factors of COAs,

c) trauma-informed communication,

d) reflective and active listening, and

e) experiential education to best meet the needs of the children.

The Addiction Crisis

A Complex Societal Problem

In 2017, the Surgeon General announced overdose as the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for those under 50. Many of those who died were parents with children.

The effect of parental addiction on children

It is virtually impossible for anyone who misuses drugs or alcohol to parent effectively, to be physically or mentally available to meet the social or emotional needs of their children. Not only are the children of parental addition four times more likely to misuse drugs or alcohol, the damaging effects of these unmet needs manifest in a variety of ways such as:

1) neglect/abuse

2) decreased ability to form a healthy self-image

3) diminished social skills, including:

– communication

– set and maintain boundaries

– develop effective relationships

The Solution – Prevention

With understanding, comes acceptance and growth

Children often ask, “What’s wrong with my family?” “Why is this happening to me?” They mistakenly blame themselves for their parent’s misuse of drugs or alcohol after hearing a parent say, “If you were better behaved, I wouldn’t have to drink so much.” At HHH, they learn the powerful truth that their loved one’s disease is NOT their fault; they are NOT alone, and there is HOPE for the future.

Most importantly, the children begin to understand their loved one’s addiction is a bad disease; but having this disease does not make their parent a bad person.

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While we cannot explain why someone becomes addicted, we can help children understand why the erratic and confusing behavior happens — why parents break promises, act differently when drinking, feel and act sick when not drinking, forget things, etc.

Through prevention education, children learn that their mixed feelings are common and valid. It is completely understandable that they would “love their parent” and simultaneously “hate the addiction” which causes their parent’s confusing and painful behavior. Essentially, they learn to separate themselves from their parent’s disease, which is a big step towards healing.

*Concepts & verbiage above are from NACoA “Children’s Program Kit” and Jerry Moe.

Story of this transformation: (told by Liz Olszewski)

We had a teenage girl a few years ago say, “I’ve not felt my feelings for so long, I don’t know if I remember how.” We told her “It’s ok, just spend some time with the horse and it will happen naturally.” For the first few times around the horse, she was quiet.

During her third visit to the farm, she was brushing the horse’s neck when I noticed her shoulders were shaking. She was sobbing, but trying to hold it in. As I approached her, she said, “These feelings are all coming so fast and all mixed together. I can’t tell one from another or what they are. It’s like the flood gate busted open.”

As we took deep breaths together, she suddenly looked in the horse’s eye and asked, “Are my tears… is my crying upsetting the horse?

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I said, “No, he is very comfortable with you crying because he knows you’re being authentic. Holding back your tears would upset him.” She exhaled deeply and pressed her face into the horse’s neck. A few minutes later, she kissed him on the neck and wiped her face. Smiling through her tears and dirt-stained face, she said, “I feel lighter all over, and I am proud of myself for being brave enough to ‘feel’ even though I was scared. These horses are brave for us every day.

NOTE:

The Children’s Prevention Program is an education and prevention program and is not mental health therapy.

Staff and volunteers are required to pass a Level II background screening and complete safety/first aid instruction.

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