It’s Friday so that means another week done!  We hope you’re doing ok.  The Children’s Team wanted to use this blog entry to check in with our young people – do you have a teenager in your home?  How are they doing?  What issues or challenges are they facing right now? 

Before lockdown our Children’s Service went in to schools to talk to young people about domestic abuse – what struck us was that actually the young people didn’t relate to the term ‘domestic abuse’ using the word ‘toxic’ instead to describe unhealthy behaviours and this encouraged us to think about our use of language with young people and what they relate to. 

We’ve talked about emotional support for young children, staying safe at home and child contact but for young people there may be further issues that need to be thought about – how do we reach in - relate - and make sure they feel supported living in a household with abuse or experiencing abuse in their own relationships?  We had a brainstorm of what issues in either situation they might be facing:-

  • Pressure from their perpetrator to go out therefore breaking lockdown rules – risking their health, risking a fine either to them directly or parents
  • Pressured to live with the perpetrator – increasing their isolation
  • Schools, services or employers unable to see what’s going on for them
  • Increased use of social media – more vulnerable to exploitation
  • Impact on mental health and well being
  • May not feel safe in the family home – increasing vulnerability
  • Feel ashamed or feel they are to blame – isolating themselves

Sometimes in families where there is domestic abuse, young people may be needed to protect younger siblings or a parent.  Our teens and young adults may find themselves in a caring role – and having to grow up much quicker than their peers.  Perhaps because they are older there is an expectation they should be able to cope better – or are expected to ‘just get on with it’. 

With the country in lockdown, there will be a sharp uptake in the use of digital technology and social media.  Whilst positive for our children and young people to be connected to peers, this also comes with an increased risk in technology-enabled exploitation.  The young adults in my house are making use of apps with ‘locked room’ functions – are these spaces safe for young people?  There are no observers. 

Young people can be difficult to engage with – navigating adolescence is tough but with other pressures heaped on them right now, they may be finding comfort wherever they can.  So how do we engage meaningfully with young people?  What can we do as parents/carers?  Our practitioners gave the following tips:-

  • Make use of the one hour of exercise a day – encourage your teen to walk and talk with you
  • Relationship is key – go slowly to build trust
  • Find out their routine – do they have one? If not, can you help?
  • When is the best time to talk – probably not the mornings!
  • Take time to find out their interests and what influences them

Our young people can see, hear and experience what is going on, and have access to a much wider social influence – social media for example – than young children do.  There is so much information around – some true and some false – that it can seem like the only option is to withdraw emotionally and seek ‘connection’ elsewhere.  Our young people can then become vulnerable to exploitation and being groomed.  So, keep an eye on your teen – some resources below, you can either look yourself or encourage your young person to look.

 

The Mix offer a range of support for young people, including online chat, forums, helpline and counselling: https://www.themix.org.uk/

Online safety advice for children and young people: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/

And what about our young people in an abusive relationship?  The lockdown might be a perfect opportunity or ‘window’ to get them help and the protection they may need.  It could be the perfect time to ‘reach in’ and start the conversation – or perhaps a friend or an extended family member can.  May just need one person to throw that lifeline. 

Perhaps you are a young person worried about your relationship?  Check out these websites for help and support https://loverespect.co.uk/help or https://www.giveusashout.org/ and of course https://www.childline.org.uk/

Keep communicating with your teen/young adult as best you can and in whatever format works for them – my own young adults are so much quicker on the internet than I am so encourage them to surf – there’s loads out there:-

https://thehideout.org.uk/young-people/home/

https://youth.essex.gov.uk/young-people/free-resources-for-you/  

https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/calm-zone/

www.bigwhitewall.com

https://midessexccg.nhs.uk/livewell/startwell/kooth

https://www.galop.org.uk/

That’s it from the Children and Young Persons Team for now – we would love to hear from you, what was useful?  What would you like more of?  The blog will continue with tips, advice, insight and information from other parts of our organisation but for now stay safe, stay connected.