02 Jul How To Help Your Life Sharing Friend Feel Welcome On The First Day
The arrival of your Life Sharing companion can be an exciting moment for you and your family. However, when that moment arrives, it might also have the natural awkwardness of any new relationship. It’s nothing to worry about. It takes time for bonds to form. Still, it’s important to understand that your new companion might struggle to feel included in the family and community until he or she feels comfortable and welcome.
Life Sharing offers a unique opportunity to share responsibilities, successes, and challenges that occur in the course of normal day-to-day family life. The companions and their host families receive support from health care providers and coordinators, so everyone can have the best experience possible.
Even if those expectations are communicated, it might be difficult to build trust and understanding right away. The first day especially can be challenging, but once the initial excitement wears off and your Life Sharing companion has moved in, you will overcome that hurdle.
Here’s how to help your Life Sharing companion feel welcome on the first day, and start building the foundation of a strong relationship.
#1: Make sure their personal space is prepared.
A prepared room can make a huge difference, and having a space to call their own will make them feel safe. This shows that you respect and welcome them into your family and home. Better yet, do some inquiring with your coordinators to see if your Life Sharing companion has a favorite color, or something else that will help personalize their space. Even if it’s just a bedspread or curtains, the effort in welcoming them will come through.
Showing your Life Sharing companion that they are more than just a temporary guest can be the first step to building a relationship, and will help put your companion at ease on that first day.
#2: Plan a special meal.
It doesn’t have to be dinner, but a family meal will help establish a bond with your Life Sharing companion. It will give you an opportunity to share stories, discuss personal experiences, learn about each other, and deepen the relationship you are developing.
Meals are a unique opportunity, because they can serve as a natural icebreaker. Invite your Life Sharing companion to help with the preparation of the meal, ask them about their likes and dislikes, and ensure you’ve paid attention to any allergies or food sensitivities. By including them in the meal, and tailoring it to their needs, you’re providing an inclusive opportunity for them to feel part of the family.
#3: Be accepting.
Accepting your Life Sharing companion’s limitations, whether physical or mental, can help them feel like someone understands them. However, that isn’t to say you should hold them back.
Let them try new skills and experiences to build their self-confidence and personal growth, but understand when they might not feel comfortable in a situation. This might even include a reluctance to speak or have physical contact, or a number of other behaviors, on the first day. Until they feel comfortable with you and your family, your Life Sharing companion might be resistant to some behaviors you would regularly use to welcome someone to your home. But have patience, be kind, and understand that they need time to adapt.
Pathways is one of the largest national providers of accessible, outcome-based behavioral and mental health services. Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981, and is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc. We believe every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time.