When McKayla, 13, came to Eagle Ranch a little over a year ago, she had a hard time containing her emotions. Tantrums and arguments were the norm.
“I was having blow-ups that weren’t appropriate for my age,” she recalled. “I was screaming and kicking and not following anything my mom would say. I couldn’t go a day without fighting with somebody.”
Part of McKayla’s struggles came from trying to gain attention while finding her place in a blended family, which includes two step siblings and two half siblings.
“It felt good to get it all out, but afterward I’d think, ‘Wait. Should I have done that?’ I didn’t think things through.” Seeing the negative reaction of her family, including embarrassment when the outbursts were in public, added to the regret she already felt.
For children like McKayla, Eagle Ranch works to increase resiliency. “We are helping her identify how she feels and communicate that in a more controlled way,” said Eagle Ranch girls’ counselor Jeannine Keller, LPC. “She is learning that setbacks don’t have to ruin her day.”
“Learning to say how I feel is a way to calmly express my emotions. It’s not a sin to be angry. So if I can say, ‘I’m angry because…’ instead of blowing up, it’s better,” McKayla noted.
Living at the Ranch while working on her struggles has provided McKayla the space and time she needs to find success.
“This is a safe environment to mess up. You can be yourself and you won’t be judged. It’s a free place to learn from your mistakes.” She says she has particularly benefited from:
- Being able to speak freely with, and seek advice from her Eagle Ranch houseparents and
- Learning through the therapeutic equine program how horses respond best to calm, structured communication and translating that into her interaction with her family.
- Experiencing increased confidence in her abilities as her faith and reliance grow in Christ.
“It’s rare that I have a blow-up now. I have more self-control of my emotions,” she said. McKayla continues to work with her family to find more connection. “If we work together, we can learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and know what to do during a hard time. It’s a team effort.”