Category Archives: Family life

An important message from the adoption community. 

Sue Armstrong Brown, CEO of Adoption UK, wrote on their website this week about the potentially devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown for families. Reassuringly, she also writes about the growth of online support, including the provision of therapies, and peer to peer work. Getting help early is important at the best of times, but even more so now, while so many families find themselves facing additional day to day stresses.  

The Support Gap

The past six weeks have taught us more about adoption support than the previous year. It’s been a deeply uncomfortable experiment into what happens to adoptive families when social, medical and academic infrastructure is disrupted, family routines are upended, pressure on relationships goes up and respite goes down.

This is what we’ve learned. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Family life

Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse during Covid-19

 

 

 

Last week I was interested to follow a number of conversations about some of the consequences of Covid-19 on family life. While there have been many tragic examples (for instance, increases in domestic violence abuse and homicides, in the risk of child exploitation, and in child care proceedings), it was notable that some people were also talking about the lightening of the load for their children, the increase in wellbeing even, and the easing of strained family relationships.

It was suggested that families start keeping diaries of what was working, to use as evidence in future, and I retweeted a post from the University of Cumbria asking for stories of families’ journeys through lockdown to inform council and government support services for the future.

Quite serendipitously, today, Professor Rachel Condry and Dr. Caroline Miles have launched a piece of research into the ways that lockdown has affected  families’ experience of violence and abuse from their children (aged 10 – 19), and of the ability to obtain support. They are seeking direct input from families and plan to use the findings to inform the development of policy and practice in the future. If you are interested in taking part, you are invited to complete a short survey. All contributions are anonymous, and the work has been approved by the university ethics committee. You will find more information along with the survey here, and also contact details if you have questions about the content or process of the survey. After you have submitted your replies you will be taken to a “Help page”.

Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles plan to issue interim reports as the work progresses, and I will post more here as these become available. Thank you all for your help!

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements, Family life, Research

Keeping safe: #CPV and lockdown.

 

Around the world, families are discovering just how stressful it can be to live in close quarters 24 hours a day, with no end in sight. Sharp words, spoken in haste, throw fuel on to anxiety, anger and frustration, often with no other room to separate people off. And there is only so much screen-time you can allow! Most families will hopefully come through this relatively unscathed; changed perhaps but still ok, still safe. But there has rightly been a lot of concern by government – and in the media – about supporting and monitoring the most vulnerable children now that schools are closed, those for whom school is their safe space or where they get their main meal of the day. There’s been lots of encouraging noise for parents about not having to recreate school, but to focus at this time on keeping kids feeling safe and secure, since these are things that are needed before any learning can take place. But what about the parents whose anxiety is about having the children at home for the next foreseeable because THEY don’t feel safe? What about the families experiencing child to parent violence, now quarantined or social distancing WITH their child? What advice and support do they need? The things we suggest for other families feeling tired and emotional start to sound rather trite and patronising.

It is well established that family violence is likely to increase at times like this. There is an excellent piece in The Conversation from Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini, explaining the additional stressors, and making helpful suggestions for ways to support individuals we may know over the next months, but again, the focus is on adults. For parents of children using violence in the home, some of the remedies are not available – leaving home for a refuge being the most obvious example, although the government have made it clear, following a certain amount of pressure,  that escaping abuse is an acceptable reason to be out of the house.

The experience of each family will be very different. The needs of an eight year old child will potentially be significantly different to those of a seventeen year old. The risks posed by each will differ, as will likely triggers, and underlying circumstances. Where the source of a child’s stress was itself in school, parents have already tweeted about the great sense of relief that has come with not having to force a child out of bed each day. Relaxing the rules CAN help, but there is anxiety then about the future – and rods made for backs!

I have tried to gather here bits and pieces from a range of sources. This is advice from parents and practitioners on the front line – living and working with child to parent violence on a daily basis.

Refresh your safety plan and check in with friends and neighbours who might be called on to help.

Those using NVR will be familiar with the need for a support network, with the importance of prioritising issues and not focussing on the small stuff. You will want to keep a modicum of normality for your own sanity, but the “tidy house police” will not be round any time soon!

Bring in all those de-escalation and stress relieving tactics and techniques you learnt wherever possible.

Rachael says: “Parents need to feel able and confident to reach out to their support network more now than ever.” (20/3/20) And that means friends and supporters taking the initiative and checking in regularly too – don’t wait for things to blow!

Have a talk right at the start about how things are going to work: Expectations of safety, what everyone will do if feeling angry or unsafe, what consequences might be brought in to play.

Keep expectations low. Sally Donovan tweeted: “After my experience of homeschooling through a fug of trauma, I’d say don’t. Focus on safety and fun and make the focus getting all of you through this emotionally intact. #unofficialadvice” (23/3/20) Other parents have also been talking about removing themselves from the educational aspect altogether and making use of online resources. With so much on offer, and much “education by stealth” there should be something there that everyone can use!

It is important for children to stay in touch with other people at this time, whether chatting, FaceTiming or gaming, but what this means will vary from individual to individual, and it still comes with all the usual concerns about who they’re talking to, what people are saying and what they’re being asked to do. And how do you limit screen time if there seems not much else to do? This might itself be a source of tension and create later risk for child and parents. Talk about the new rules about screen time and how they will be enforced right from the start.

What about leaving the house? Children and young people who insist on doing this are going to be hard to stop and it’s likely the people they are seeing are not positive influences. What are your usual expectations and what actions do you normally take? If the police are aware of your family then now might be a good time to have a catch up with a named officer.

Maximise your own opportunities to leave, whether for exercise, shopping or self-care. Remember to breathe!

Look for the positives! Can you use this time to connect over shared activities you both enjoy, however brief? Use kind words where you can. Write thankful notes to each other if real conversations don’t work.

Make use of specialist support groups more than ever at this time, whether with regard to adoption, special guardianship, special educational needs, disability, substance use, parenting. Check out their suggestions for filling the days, and resources they may offer.  Put helpline numbers in your phone.

Wishing everyone safety, and looking forward to a better time in the future. Keep well!

CapaUK     https://www.capauk.org

Parentline Plus   https://www.familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/confidential-helpline/

Parenting NI   https://www.parentingni.org

Adfam   https://adfam.org.uk

Adoption UK   https://www.adoptionuk.org

SEND/VCB     https://www.facebook.com/TheSENDVCBProject/

Bereavement   https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/helpline

Young Minds   https://youngminds.org.uk

Beacon House   https://beaconhouse.org.uk/resources/

Safe Hands Thinking Minds   http://www.safehandsthinkingminds.co.uk/covid-anxiety-stress-resources-links/

 

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion, Family life

Supporting adoptive families experiencing #CPV: making things better, not worse

This is a post that has been a long time brewing. My thanks to a friend for her contribution in helping me work out the many issues involved. Any errors or lack of clarity in the way this is laid out are down to me.

The experience of violence and abuse from children within adoptive families has been well researched and documented. (See for instance Selwyn et al and the work of Al Coates and Wendy Thorley here and here.) Greater recognition and the provision of the Adoption Support Fund within England have made it slightly easier for parents to access help when needed within the last years, but it remains the case that many families feel let down by services who have misunderstood their requests for help, or their degree of pain, or even the mechanisms by which such violence might have come about. (If you are in any doubt about this, the website of Special Guardians and Adopters Together is a record of the anguish and anger of a group of parents who feel betrayed in this respect by the system.) I can speak personally about the individuals who have contacted me or spoken to me at events. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Family life

A message of hope for 2020, Break4Change in Rochdale

When I sent out an invitation in November for people to write something for me, I never expected to receive such interesting contributions!  I’m thrilled to be able to start a new year with the first of these contributions from Emily Nickson-Williams, who I have been following on twitter after seeing some very positive comments about the work her team were engaged in around child to parent violence. Emily is the lead for the ‘Relationships Revolution’ at Rochdale Council.  She has worked in Children’s Services for the last 17 years and has pioneered a number of initiatives for vulnerable families.  Her work has been described as ‘inspirational’ and her more recent efforts developing work around the relationships agenda, including responses to child to parent violence and abuse, led to her receiving the Innovation Award in 2017. Emily brings us a letter from a parent who has attended one of the Break4Change programmes running as part of this work.

I think that for me this open letter is a message of hope.  Hope for other families who may be too afraid to come forward to speak to someone because of the fear of consequences from Children’s Services and the Police.  The message we would like to give families living in Rochdale is this… Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Family life, projects

#CPV on Drivetime

A huge thank you to Eddie Nestor, of BBC Radio London Drivetime, who devoted more than half his programme yesterday to the topic of “children who hit their Mum.” You can catch the programme by following this link. The show is available till the end of May. Eddie starts off by interviewing Yvonne Newbold from about 1:21.00 and then takes calls from around 1:48:00.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Family life, radio and video

Living with a child with mental illness who is violent

It would be so much easier if we could point to one clear cause of violence and abuse from children towards their parents. Once that was made obvious we could then wheel in bespoke solutions and solve the crisis in an instant. Sadly the reality is much different, with almost no end to the factors that might increase vulnerability, and often layer upon layer of complexity for families affected. Some situations get a (relatively) large amount of coverage: exposure to domestic violence and early childhood trauma for instance. Others are highlighted less often. While each family’s experience will be unique to them, there is much to learn from the experience of others, and the despair that is common to parents across the board. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Family life, TV and video

CPV: Standing together

I am breaking my silence.

I am breaking my silence for any person who is a stepparent, and they are living in a dangerous situation at the hands of their stepchildren.

I am breaking my silence because I know what it is like to scourer the internet trying to find someone or some resource to signal that I was not alone.

So begins a post from Dr Sam Kline. You can read the rest of the post here, and there is the promise of a follow up on her site in a week or so. You will recognise many of her comments: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Family life

A far from normal life – the impact of child to parent violence

My life now is radically different … But I still can’t sleep. Putting my child into care was searingly painful. I am often paralysed by recriminations, guilt and despair. 

The words of a parent, writing in the Observer this last weekend, in a long, tender and heartwrenching piece about her experience of abuse and violence from her teenage son. Tom’s violent behaviour was thought to come from his acute frustration, communication difficulties and problems regulating his emotions, due to a range of diagnoses. It included actual violence to his mother and siblings, damage to property, and controlling behaviours which took over the life of the family, making a normal existence well nigh impossible. The writer, Lesley Clough, describes calling the police on numerous occasions, and the good support of local DV services, but ultimately the impossibility of finding any solution other than her son’s move out of the home and into care. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Family life, news reports

Confined Spaces, an interview with Sophie Cero

Do you like your art calming and reflective, or maybe you enjoy the challenge of something complex and abstract? For thousands of years, artists have used their work to comment on the human condition, and to explore ideas of power, truth, and reality. Nevertheless, you might be thinking, “but what can art tell us about child to parent violence?”

What I like about any new way of looking at things is that the questions are slightly different, the insights often trip us up and change the direction of our thoughts, and we can be left with new questions that we hadn’t even thought of before! So I was excited to come across artist, Sophie Cero on twitter and to hear about her work exploring child and adolescent violence towards parents. Sophie kindly agreed to be interviewed for Holes in the Wall. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Discussion, Family life, Research