October 29, 2015
Joel seemed to be avoiding the well-known story of many young men in his neighborhood, who without resources or family support end up doing drugs and stealing from a young age. At 14 he was doing well in school and living with both parents. But slowly his parents and teachers began to note a change. He started failing his classes and stayed out on the dusty streets late at night with a group of young men who were drug users.
In a country where the death rate of 15-19-year-old boys is 162 per 100,000 (in comparison to 7.5 per 100,000 in the United States), Joel’s parents were afraid that they would have to face the tragedy of burying their son if he got involved with drugs and other gang activity.
So, in desperation, they came to an AJS counseling center in their neighborhood for help. AJS psychologist Ivin Oyuela did an evaluation of Joel and of his parents and found that Joel felt abandoned by his father, who worked as a farmer outside of Tegucigalpa. Joel’s parents also were not united in their discipline strategy for Joel and his two younger brothers, which gave Joel room to act out.
When Ivin helped Joel communicate to his parents that he felt abandoned, his dad took action and decided to take him out to the farm to work during school vacation. Ivin notes with a smile that this decision had two effects, “Joel felt closer to his dad, and also decided that he wanted to continue in school. He said being a farmer was really hard work!”
Ivin encouraged Joel’s parents to make other changes too—discussing their discipline strategies, and communicating with Joel’s teachers. Joel’s mother is now part of AJS’s “Strong Families” group, a counseling program for parents and children that helps them to learn how to communicate openly and set healthy boundaries.
Ivin reports that Joel is now back in school, and has passed all the classes that he failed. But, she adds, the most rewarding part of cases like this is, “Not just seeing changes in the child, but seeing changes for the better in the whole family. Joel and his brothers are benefitting from their parents’ improved discipline techniques, and Joel’s parents are so relieved to see him doing well in school.”
Last year AJS psychologists provided 300 families and individuals like Joel with the tools to change their stories for the better.