An email to the RTE Radio 1 show, read out by Ryan Tubridy on 30th April, expressed a mother’s despair and sense of helplessness over her 9-year-old son’s behaviour towards her: “I wonder if it’s possible to admit that you can’t help your child … It’s extremely difficult to talk to people about it… You feel like you have failed your child… like it’s your fault, you’ve done something to create this.” Despite assessments, medication, therapy, courses, and other support, the violence towards her continues and she feels as if there is nothing left she can do. Reading the transcript from the show, it is easy to share the sense of helplessness. Where do you turn when all the traditional methods have led nowhere?
The email prompted a call to the show from Madeleine Connelly, senior social worker and family therapist. She highlighted the importance of parents feeling able to say they have come to the end of the road – without then being subject to shaming and judgemental responses. Talking about the abuse; ‘pressing the pause button’ – choosing to respond to a crisis at a later moment; and finding a support network, were then described by her as powerful steps to take as reported by the parents themselves. Finally, she stressed the importance of separating the behaviour from the child, with an expression much used in the practice of Non-Violent Resistance – the child is not the problem – the problem is the problem. “What we do is encourage parents to see the behaviour as an uninvited guest or an infection, that it’s not the child, it’s a behaviour, to separate it out. The problem is the problem, it’s not the child, and that helps parents to look at different ways of seeing the problem and then working together with the child.”
Working together with the child to overcome the issues – since we should not assume the child is happy with the situation – and offering hope in an apparently hopeless situation, two strong messages to take away!
It’s great to see a new book in the field of child to parent violence and abuse coming out later this year from Declan Coogan, who has driven the development of understanding and use of Non Violent Resistance in Ireland.
The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon now, or you can sign up to receive more information from the publisher, JKP, once it is available.
Addressing the under-reported issue of child to parent violence and abuse, this book presents the effective intervention method of Non-Violent Resistance. Tips for adapting the method, alongside case studies and downloadable forms make this an invaluable tool for practitioners working with affected families.
Providing an authoritative overview of the growing phenomena of child to parent violence – a feature in the daily life of increasing numbers of families – this book outlines what we know about it, what is effective in addressing it, and outlines a proven model for intervention.
Based on Non Violent Resistance (NVR), the model is founded on a number of key elements: parental commitment to non-violence, de-escalation skills, increased parental presence, engaging the support network and acts of reconciliation. The book outlines the theory and principles, and provides pragmatic guidance for implementing these elements, accompanied by case studies to bring the theory to life.
Declan was part of the team who worked on the pan-European RCPV project which reported in 2015; and continues to teach, train and develop the work within Ireland.
I spent last Friday at the NVR UK 2017 conference in London, where it was great to catch up with colleagues and people I had previously only known through twitter, to make new friends, and to learn how the practice of Non Violent Resistance (NVR) can be applied to all areas of life.
There were two keynote speeches, followed by a series of workshops; and one I was particularly interested in was about the establishment of parent groups connected with de Wiekslag, an organisation in Belgium working with high risk young people and their families. These groups are for parents of young people exhibiting very serious challenging behaviour (including violence to parents), or engaging in school refusal, self harm or running away, and they are described as “slow open groups”, with no course beginning or end, and parents can attend for as long as they like, or need – typically 9 to 12 months. When they leave, a place becomes available for another family. Continue reading