France responds to “tyrannical children”

I was approached recently by a journalist covering the issue of child to parent violence and abuse in France – where the term “tyrannical child” is being used to describe the issue, for the International Business Times. You can read the article here.

It is always encouraging to hear about new work starting around the world. In France the specialist help that is being developed is located within health services. At the moment the only service is in Montpellier but after an initial trial, using a combination of CBT and NVR techniques and a support group for parents,  this to be rolled out across the rest of the country soon.

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I fear my son will kill me one day

This headline and the accompanying piece in the Family section of the Guardian last Saturday could not fail to shock those who came across it: a mother describing the terrible physical abuse she experiences at the hands of her teenage son.

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“Sarah” has found it almost impossible to admit that she is scared of her son, and yet when she first asked for help was told that it was unlikely she would get any – because he was loved and not in any danger. This reflects the prevailing story: that in a culture that separates children’s and adults’ needs and services, and focuses on the rescuing of children from danger, we fail to recognise the centrality of relationships in family lives, whether in their fragility of care or their strength to bring healing. Feeling undermined by professionals as much as by strangers and increasingly isolated at a time when their need for support on every level increases, the family is now offered 2 nights respite care every six weeks.

The story was picked up on social media by a range of people, including those interested in it as academics, as professionals, or as fellow travellers; with discussions about the availability of appropriate help in different countries, or the importance of schools “getting it right” in the way they respond to challenging behaviour and liaise with parents. The availability of long term care for the future is itself another story, fraught with risk and anxiety.

Following the death of an individual following intimate partner domestic violence, the police will often say that it was “an isolated incident”, a phrase that has been picked up and challenged repeatedly by campaigners in the field. Let us assert here that serious abuse from child to parent happens across the land, across the world. A diagnosis of autism is one factor that may sometimes be associated with this; and an increase in violence and abuse as a child hits adolescence or other times of transition is also a common feature. Parents frequently report that young people may just about cope with school and then explode with the effort of it all when they get back to the safety of home. This is not an isolated incident.

It can be too easy to make our own judgements from afar without understanding the different needs and circumstances of each individual family, and indeed without any specific help to offer. What parents need above all else is to be understood and to be believed, to be able to work in partnership and not in conflict with those agencies they come in contact with. To feel themselves they are held in mind and not brushed aside as we move on to the next story.


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Children who have experienced loss and trauma

I was very proud recently to be asked to contribute to an educational programme developed by the University of Sunderland.

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Children who have Experienced Loss and Trauma is an online training programme consisting of a series of short modules, each of which can be completed over a period of ten weeks, focussing on this area of work. My module, An Introduction to Child to Parent Violence, is available from mid July, and more information can be found on the CELT website.

The programme addresses the need for easily accessible CPD and introductory training for a variety of professionals and carers, and anyone interested in learning more.


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Learning Links funding secured for NVR

Some good news at a time when we are becoming used to hearing of funding being cut. Congratulations are due to Learning Links, a charity based in the south east of England, who announced last week that they have secured funding from Children in Need which will enable them to continue to run their Circles of Support programme for a further two years. Circles of Support consists of Non Violent Resistance (NVR) sessions with additional parent and child relationship building activities. The target is to reach and support parents and carers of 90 children aged between 5 and 17 years.

The Business Development Manager, Clare Mussell  said: “Our NVR courses have been absolutely crucial in supporting families who are living with child to parent violence. It is crucial that families get support to alleviate stress and to ensure that children achieve the best outcomes in life. The BBC Children in Need funding will enable us to deliver NVR and build bridges between parent and child and bring the family back together”.

Learning Links has offices in both Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, and details of how to contact them can be found here.

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Child to parent violence, a background hum

Is it me, or have things quietened down a bit at the moment? Granted, I’m not on top of everything across the world, but in terms of big news making events we seem to be having a down period. How do we keep the momentum going in such a situation?

Personally I very much value the opportunity to talk through ideas, listen to those on the front line, apply learning and support each other. It’s also how we test theory, develop new work and highlight areas of need. Without comradeship and support, practitioners as well as parents can feel discouraged and isolated. And there is some quite discouraging news about as budget cuts within the Youth Offending Service in England and Wales take effect and CPV programmes are axed or subsumed into general work. But against this background there are other moves which are worth celebrating.

Child to parent violence is a topic which receives considerable attention from students each year, with numerous dissertations at undergraduate, Masters and Doctorate level. I love hearing from students setting out on this process, and look forward to posting their contributions to our knowledge and understanding.

News that Swindon Borough Council have approved funding from later this summer for a two year programme of work and data collection with families experiencing child to parent violence.

Sweden recently hosted the 4th International Conference on Non Violent Resistance. Declan Coogan, who was a member of the team working on the RCPV project, attended, and brought this to my attention. Hopefully the slides from the presentations will soon be available on the website.

We look forward to a new Palgrave Macmillan publication in 2016 from Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles, bringing together the findings of the Oxford APV study; and I know that there are other books at various stages of creation around the world. More information as it becomes available!

The number of courses on Non-Violent Resistance, particularly favoured by the addition community, continues to grow and there are now opportunities for online training too.

And last, but certainly not least, some interesting conversations I have had with a number of people recently which I will be exploring on these pages over the next months:

  • Delivering group programmes to parents with a mixture of languages, and issues to do with bi-lingual work.
  • Working with families with children with special needs – can we adapt programmes or do we need a different understanding and approach?
  • “Intentionality”: Thinking more about agency, and the control young people have over their emotions and actions.

So, a background hum perhaps, rather than a fanfare, but certainly things to keep us going and drive the momentum for the next months. And do let me know about other events, publications and reasons to celebrate, so that we can all benefit from learning, wherever it takes place.

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Royal Commission on Family Violence, 2016

Of course I knew it was a very serious and extensive problem, but I don’t think I realised the dimensions and the scale of it“, the words of Justice Marcia Neave, who was the head of Australia’s first royal commission into family violence, which reported at the end of March, after a mammoth 13 months, during which the commission heard evidence from more than 200 stakeholders to come up with a final list of 227 recommendations. The commission was set up by the government of Victoria specifically, but the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, promised to accept every recommendation, and it is hoped that the federal government will also act in areas over which they have jurisdiction, such as the Family Law Act.

The report, which is available here, includes significant mention of adolescent to parent violence, including statistical analysis and six specific recommendations. You can read comments here from Jo Howard of Kildonan Uniting Care, who is amongst those who have been at the forefront of developing services for families experiencing child to parent violence in the State of Victoria.


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Happy Birthday, Holes in the Wall!

Please allow me a moment of self-indulgence as I celebrate 5 years of this website, Holes in the Wall, ‘born’ in May 2011 out of a desire to make a contribution to the understanding of children’s violence to parents, known sometimes as parent abuse. As a present to myself I have ordered shiny new postcards to leave with people at conferences and events, explaining how ‘Holes’ came about and how you can be part of the community!


Looking back, I shudder at my own naivety in imagining firstly that I could do this, and secondly that after the first few posts I believed I had run out of things to say already. But the last five years have seen a slight increase in my technological skills, and a more impressive development in awareness of and understanding about children’s violence to parents, not just in the UK but right around the world.

On my watch there have been two large research projects in Britain and Europe; four books published specifically about children’s violence to parents – and others at various stages of completion; a number of major reports, including that into adoption disruption in Britain and family violence in Australia; campaigns to change the law; international conferences linking research around the world; and in-numerable journal articles, Ph.D. and Masters dissertations. And that’s just what I know about. I am acutely aware that I probably miss huge swathes of work around the world, because of my search terms, personal contacts or language issues. In terms of practice, we now have full evaluations of a number of approaches to working with families, which enable practitioners to work more confidently and appropriately, and families to identify a possible response.

What is clear though is that as we move forward and the complexities of the subject open up, we become more aware of nuance, less confident in generalisations. Whether with regard to the development of violence and abuse, or in terms of support systems for families in effecting change, there is no ‘one answer’. Individuals are complex, family life is complex. As Cottrell stated so clearly in 2004, when we search for commonalities, it boils down to the parents’ despair and self blame. I am thankful to the various groups of people who keep me on my toes in this regard, whether via twitter or in other ways, “yes, maybe, but what about ….”.

My site is heavily skewed to English speaking work (with a nod to Spain), and for this I can but apologise. I welcome contributions from everywhere and anywhere and am always pleased to hear from individuals wishing to post guest blogs or research papers, or advertise events. As I have said many times, I am not an expert by experience or practice, but I do listen, and this seems to be one of the most important things to be doing in this field of work.

For the next months and year ahead I look forward to conversations and working parties particularly about young people with additional / special needs. I have conference bookings and an imminent piece of work as part of an online CPD programme. And then of course there is the book! I count myself privileged to be part of this community and look forward to more years ahead. Thank you!

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