Sam, eight, was recently referred to Fegans as he was presenting in school with physically aggressive behaviour, this had resulted in an exclusion.
Our counsellor explains:
“In our first session together, he seemed apprehensive which is completely expected, I tend to explain how counselling works: the contract, safeguarding and confidentiality within the session. I also tell them that it may feel uncomfortable being placed in a room with a complete stranger and asked to talk! They usually laugh and their body language tends to relax a little, then I will introduce either art or a game to enable the young person to relax more and this helps to bring their guard down as the session progresses.
“Sam and I played a game of ‘Top Trumps’ and started to chat about school, his likes and dislikes, friends etc. Then we moved onto home, he drew who he lives with and his home. When we looked at the drawings of his family members, I could see dad’s face looked angry, mum’s face looked worried… We talked about the picture and it was then that he disclosed that home is very loud, there is lots of shouting and his father will often punch both him and his siblings. The way he said it was so matter of fact, like it happens in every household.
“I reminded him of the safeguarding element in our contract and that now would be a good time to go and have a chat to the Child Protection Officer. Once we had chatted to the CPO, she explained the procedure and told him that she would now talk to his parents, as I only visit the school once a week, it was important for him to have a member of staff he felt comfortable to talk to if any further incidents occurred at home. He did not feel comfortable talking to anyone, however he felt he could give a member of staff that he trusted a sign, when something had happened and this could then be followed up.
He agreed using a Top Trump card would work, as he could show it to the staff without his peers knowing what was going on, he seemed happy with this. I told the CPO about our parenting programme and how we may be able to offer support to the whole family.
“The CPO sought advice from the safeguarding team at their council office and had a meeting with both parents.They both admitted to really struggling with family life, but were eager to engage in the parenting programme. The father was keen to talk to me on the phone.
When I did speak to him he was guarded and quite defensive but once we had spoken for a while, he softened and I could hear a father desperate for help.
“Following on from this they were referred for urgent assistance by our parenting team and it was obvious from sessions with Sam after this, dad was on board and trying really hard to make things right. Sam was more settled in class and the weight seemed to have lifted off of his shoulders.“
It seemed that Sam was following learnt behaviour from home, which was having a significant negative impact at school. Sam was unaware that dad’s aggressive behaviour was unacceptable, in his world it was ‘the norm’, when he hit peers at school he did not understand that this behaviour was not appropriate. Through changes at home and a new understanding of acceptable behaviour, Sam’s friendships are starting to repair and everyone is now working on positive reactions and choices.
Without the holistic approach of Fegans involving child, family and school, this work would not have been possible.
*not his real name