Hi there!  This latest blog comes from our Children and Young Person’s Service – and it’s good to be back!  How have things been for you and your family?  We hope you are well.

Indeed, school is out for summer but actually it’s been out since before the start of the Spring term.  It feels an age since we had the routine of school around us to help us manage our day and our children could socialise with their friends as they used to.  We know schools are often the heart of our community and act as a place of safety for many of our children who are living with or have experienced domestic abuse. 

Our staff who have children say they miss that interaction at the school gates with other parents, or a friendly smile from your child’s teacher, or an impromptu trip to the park at the end of the school week with other families to chat to.  And what about home educating?  For the families we are supporting, we can see it has been hard enough to keep children feeling safe and amused let alone educated.  With this in mind, we have been really clear with parents and carers and have given them these tips to help:-

            Keep your expectations realistic – you are not expected to deliver a full curriculum!
            Keep your spirits up – this will help them keep their spirits up!
            Focus on the basics – build on what your child already knows.
            Follow their interests – what topics are they interested in?

Despite heroic efforts of local services and charities such as ours we know that domestic violence was likely to increase following the stay-at-home order as children, young people and parents were not seeing people as they used to and every day stresses became magnified.  We didn’t see our neighbours or teachers or family.  We didn’t have access to those avenues of support that perhaps we took for granted pre-lockdown. 

So, we wanted to use this blog entry to remind you of things you can do to keep you and your children safe both physically and emotionally during the summer school holiday and give resources for you to look at.  Here’s what we call our ‘traffic light’ system to support. 

RED

As always, if you or someone else is in immediate danger – call 999 and ask for the Police.  Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak.  Use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55 when prompted.  If you can’t use a voice phone, you can register with the police text service.  Text REGISTER to 999.  You will get a text which tells you what to do next.  Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.   

You can also call the 24/7 Helpline for Essex - Compass on 0330 333 7 444 - to talk through your options.  Below are links for guidance also:-

Perhaps you find yourself in temporary accommodation right now or you spent lockdown in cramped or overcrowded conditions, maybe you had to sofa-surf with friends and family due to domestic abuse.  We have experienced Domestic Abuse Practitioners who can look at your housing situation and support you to seek help.  Together we can make a difference. 

AMBER

We know that child contact may have changed due to the pandemic.  We also know this can cause stress and anxiety for not only you, but your child also.  Children cope with stress in different ways for example, they may be withdrawn and non-communicative or hostile and aggressive.  They may not understand what is happening which may cause confusion and feelings of fear and uncertainty. 

Your ex-partner may be using child contact to further control and abuse you.  If you have court orders in place which are not being followed, contact your solicitor or the Police to enforce them.  Here’s some guidance if you need it:-

https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-information/family-law/coronavirus-and-child-contact-arrangements/

And some resources for your children:-

https://www.monkeybob.org.uk/resources

You may find yourself going through the Family Court process and with increasing cuts to Legal Aid, you could be facing this alone. This can feel daunting and overwhelming.  Our Domestic Abuse Practitioners can provide emotional support if you are experiencing abuse from your ex-partner.  Another useful website is https://www.supportthroughcourt.org/

Sometimes when we find ourselves having to navigate painful emotions, we may momentarily forget that our children will be experiencing this too.  Help get the focus back on you and your children by completing some All About Me activities.  These will help to gently re-connect and perhaps take your mind off court for a while.

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resources/topics/ourselves-all-about-me

As well as concerns about child contact, you may well have concerns about your child’s mental health because of lockdown.  Poor mental health may come in the form of mood outbursts, anger, tears, depression or anxiety and we would recommend you seek guidance to avoid problems escalating in to a crisis.  Remember, there are support services locally – take a look at what’s available in Essex:-

https://www.essex.gov.uk/topic/support-for-residents

And for our teenagers:-

https://www.essex.gov.uk/news/staying-connected-during-covid-19

GREEN

Don’t forget to have some fun too.  Play is the way in which children exercise so make sure you get plenty of time outside and make use of parks - following current social distancing guidelines and ensure washing of hands on your return home! 

We came across these excellent Summer Survival Packs and wanted to share them with you:-

https://www.annafreud.org/schools-and-colleges/resources/selfcaresummer-primary-pack/

https://www.annafreud.org/schools-and-colleges/resources/selfcaresummer-secondary-pack/

There is so much information available at our fingertips and we’ve included a few links for you to take a look at should you wish to.  We know during lockdown we have all have been spending more time on our screens – scrolling through social media, or watching You Tube.  Whilst this has offered great relief to us while being stuck at home it does mean our young people are more exposed to dangers such as grooming.  Help keep them safe

https://chayn.gitbook.io/diy-online-safety/

And remember to pause – there’s power in that pause!   It can help break the cycle of action, reaction, even bigger reaction and back again.  Pausing really can be done anywhere and as many times a day as you like. No one need know!  So pause, check that your tongue is not clamped to the roof of your mouth and your shoulders aren’t up to your ears.  For anyone who has lived with domestic abuse the feelings of isolation now may re-trigger feelings from before – pausing will help you stay grounded and present.  You’ve got this. 

Enjoy your summer!