In November of 2014, Shontel Hamilton’s life took turn for the worse. She lost her job, got behind on her bills, and eventually she and her two sons found themselves homeless. With no car and an impending bankruptcy to compound matters, all this stress in their lives put them on edge.
“There was a lot of bickering and fighting,” Shontel says. “It was a very ugly.”
After a brief stint in a motel, Shontel and her family went to the Vincent Village homeless shelter, where they found life to be much more challenging. The strain showed up at home with more conflict, and at school with more calls about her son’s behavior.
The people at Vincent Village recommended a program called Your Journey Together (YJT). Run by Catholic Charities, YJT is a curriculum designed to promote the social and emotional resilience of children and their families.
“I wasn’t sure about it at first,” says Shontel. “But with my case manager’s help, I’ve seen a complete change in my sons.”
Resilience in children helps them cope with change and adversity, and, in the process, experience more positive outcomes in their lives. Through the YJT curriculum, Shontel learned the techniques that would enable her to be a better parent. The first task with YJT is to understand that all experience fits into a figurative suitcase. And the contents of one’s suitcase determine outcomes in life.
“Our experiences define us,” says YJT Case Manager Megan Brendell. “Negative experiences produce negative outcomes, while positive experiences produce positive outcomes.”
Through this course, Shontel learned techniques for better managing conflict as well as growing in understanding of the emotional and psychological needs of her sons. In turn, this understanding helped Shontel create a more positive environment for her kids so she could begin building resilience in them.
“To be resilient, kids need to have confidence,” says Megan. “This program gave Shontel the tools to build confidence in her children.”
YJT teaches parents how to create a positive environment by giving kids structure, well-defined expectations, and affirmation of their strengths. The program also teaches parents how to set boundaries and diffuse tensions when they arise.
Thanks to YJT, Shontel is now better able to help her sons cope with challenges and setbacks so they can reach their full potential. All of this works in service of her main goal, which is to be a loving mother, who is raising her sons to be successful.
“Even though we are still homeless,” says Shontel, “I’m thankful because I’ve got the most important thing – a better relationship with my kids.”