It’s exciting to host families with us here at Free Spirit. Holidays or not, we try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate families who make their way to Israel to visit their son or daughter. Some families come to this experience all tense and worried: Teens worried that old habits will prevail, while parents anxious that they’ll encounter nothing but anger and resentment.

The family visit actually starts a couple of weeks prior to the parents’ arrival, as preparations on both ends focus on creating the right atmosphere. For teens, accepting parental involvement and defining some goals can be a challenge. On the parents’ end we focus on goals for the visit, and together set up the right expectations.

And then the parents arrive! We first focus on creating a positive and strength based experience for the family as a unit, while allowing their teen to show off some of the skills and progress he or she had worked on. After an emotioanl and exctinig meeting, either at the airport or in the Kibbutz, we sit together and review the past few seeks, with photos, videos and stories. This “honeymoon” period can include a tour to our facilities, a short city tour in Acko, and invariably ends driving to a remote location where we spend the night in a semi-outdoor conditions (i.e., forestry immersed huts with very basic facilities). The

 best part is cooking dinner together: Dad and mom may peel tomatoes and cut vegetables, while their son or daughter may light the fire. We make a stew with some unlikely ingredients and it all comes together as we eat, after a couple of hours.

Following dinner we sit together for a more formal session, talking about the strengths we had observed and listing some of the topics and issues different family members would like to address. Our focal message at this stage is that we’ve experience the family as something positive, worth working and being flexible for.

                                                          We typically devote two staff members to the visit, as parents tour the Kibbutz and teens show them around. Each family typically comes at a different time, allowing us to give full attention to the family process.  Two staff members allow for some parallel work and appropriate breaks when the whole family process becomes intense.

On the second day, we venture on a 5 mile walk together. We stop periodically for breaks, snacks, and more focused sessions. This unique experience can be chellenging at times, but is always filled with incredible magical moments: A son helps his father as they pass through the water stream; a family session amidst a natural pool of spring water; Simply walking silently together, and above all – spend some time as a family outside of the known comfort zone.

The day ends with a more formal and structured session, when each person addresses the other family members and staff. It’s a great time to be thankful for the experience, address some thoughts or worries regarding the return back home, or to talk about the ‘here and now’ experience. It is usually a very moving session, as many things are expressed verbally

 for the first time. The positive vibe allows the family to enjoy a few more days touring Israel. During the rest of the family visit to Israel we are available for phone and in person consultations, and eventually have another wrap-up session before the parents depart back home.