Abuse -the soft signs

man and woman sitting on bench

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Abuse – what is it and how do we deal with it?

Anyone who has been watching the news this week may have heard the term “Coercive Control”

Coercive Control falls under new legislation which makes it illegal for your partner to abuse you using softer tactics than physical abuse.

The new behaviours which are covered by the law are…

When your partner

  1. Shares indecent images of you
  2. Restricts or denies your access to money
  3. Stops you seeing family and friends
  4. Scares you
  5. Threatens to reveal private things about you
  6. Places tracking devices on your phone
  7. Puts you down
  8. Acts with extreme jealousy
  9. Forces you to obey their rules
  10. Controls what you wear
  11. Makes you do things you don’t want to do

On their own and even if we think of just a few of these things, we may dismiss them as nothing to worry about or we may make excuses for our partner saying that they have issues which means they are a bit controlling but it’s fine we can handle it.

The thing to remember about this type of behaviour is that it is the same as bullying. All bullies need a victim and once they have found the victim, they steadily increase their control over them. The relationship falls into a pattern and before we know it, things have gone too far.

Figures show that 9 out of 10 women who were murdered last year were murdered by someone they knew. A shocking 85% of women were killed in their own homes.

Of course, domestic abuse does not only affect women in heterosexual relationships, it affects men and women in any type of relationship and can devastate lives.

In my job as a counsellor working with young adults, I often come across behaviours which fall into the above categories. I feel it is important to look at how people arrive in these relationships.

It’s easy and nice to have someone care so much about you that they want to do things for you, they may even defend sharing images of you on social media by saying you are beautiful or hunky and they want everyone to see that. But this is not OK!

I am not an expert in this field so if you are reading this and you are in the least bit worried about yourself or someone you know, PLEASE visit the Domestic Abuse Hotline for help and information for victims or for friends and families of victims.

PARENTS – Don’t think this only happens to adults!!!! Please talk to your young adults and help them to understand the definitions of abuse as early as possible so that they can recognise these behaviours sooner. Check out this powerful video…

https://www.nda.services/control

Also, if you are putting up with an abusive relationship because of your children, you are putting yourself and them in danger.

There is help out there, it only needs to be a click away

If you like what you see here, please hit the “follow” button, leave me a comment below or contact me directly.

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If you liked this article, here are some more you might be interested in…

Where have all the Spice Girls Gone?

Divorce – what to tell the kids

 

 

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Gee – A real life story – Part 2

Following the success of the first part of Gee’s Story, I feel honoured to share her next chapter with you. It’s almost impossible to sum up in a relatively short blog post, the trials and triumphs of Gee and many others like her but i’ll give it a try.

Please also look out for another inspiring story coming soon – Chantelle’s Story

Year 11

Year 11 for Gee started out in much the same vain as she had ended Year 10. She was sulky and complained about her awful summer break. She was glad to be back at school.

There were still problems for Gee in school and she was dodging lessons and shouting at teachers who were trying to get her back into them. Patience for Gee was wearing thin and, with GCSE’s looming, I knew that her chances of exclusion were high.

I decided to work through a timeline with Gee. This is a method I use often with young people as it can help them in many ways to make sense of events in their lives and can also help with less talkative students. For more information see my article on timelines.

Gee’s timeline revealed that she had lived in Basingstoke and Devon for her early years and moved to the Midlands around the age of 8. Her early childhood had, it seemed, been largely uneventful.

The last two years, however, had been too traumatically eventful. The extend of which I would not discover for another two years. As it was, what she revealed explained a lot.

At age 13, Gee’s parents had started to have a lot of problems and they had to move to a new house. At the same time, Gee was visiting her Nan in a care home regularly and her granddad collapsed and was ill in hospital.

Just before Gee’s 14th birthday, she was told that her Dad was, in fact, not her Dad and that she had a different Dad to her two younger brothers with whom she was living.

From her 14th birthday onward, things seemed to spiral. Gee’s Nan died and Gee wrote and read a poem at her funeral, a big step for any 14 year old.

Her Mother and Step-father split which resulted in a court case for custody of her two younger brothers.

Finally, the icing on the cake, Gee was being bullied at her previous school and moved to this school; her last chance.

In the space of 10 minutes working through the timeline, it was easy to see why Gee was a mess.

There had to be something inside of her, something that had grown within her in those early happy years that was inside waiting to fight back and break through the blackness that now resided in her mind.

I felt Gee’s sense of hopelessness as she told me that she had discovered that her biological father had been abusive towards her Mother, due to his own awful childhood. “That’s my Dad…am I like him?” she asked.

Her Mother had told her during an argument in a crazy moment of anger that she was indeed just like him.

I had a vision of a desperate child, helpless and suffocating as giant shovels of dirt were falling over her head. With each shovel, she was disappearing, and I knew it wouldn’t take many more to lose her altogether.

Then something happened…

Gee told me that her Mother had left the area and had told her and her brothers that she didn’t want any contact for a while. Surprisingly, rather than the final shovel for Gee, this was to prove to be the hand that she needed at the time to pull her up.

As sad as it was for Gee to have lost contact with her Mother, it took away a lot of the emotional angst that she felt, and she had to help her Step-father who was struggling to work and provide for them all. I felt this gave her some focus when she needed it.

Within a couple of weeks, I saw what I always knew was inside of Gee. She was a strong, kind girl; committed to making things right for her family, whatever form that took. A light had been ignited inside of her and she shocked everyone with her determination.

Gee announced that she was going to pass her GCSE’s! A naturally clever girl, she had missed so much work that this was a tall order. She had been predicted D’s in most subjects. Gee also announced that she wanted to stay on in 6th Form as school was the only place she felt safe and happy.

We looked on, helpless spectators, willing her through it. Teachers stepped up and gave her extra help, even those she had told to “Fuck off” seemed to have been placed under her spell.

The time came for Gee’s GCSE’s, she got through every single one. She continued to see me until the school broke up in July. Then came the anxious wait…

If you like what you see, please follow me here on wordpress or twitter or Facebook

Here are some more articles you might like…

Time for time

Gee – A Real life story

What label are you wearing today?

It’s Always the Quiet ones…

Gee – A Real life story

I feel blessed to be able to do a job I love and to have met and continue to meet the super heroes that share part of their journey with me. The icing on the cake for me is that a few of these amazing individuals have agreed to share their stories with me.

I’ll be chronicling their stories in short bursts but will also make their full stories available on this site to devour and enjoy.

I hope that these stories will help teenagers who are in crisis but also educators and parents who want a chance to delve into the lives of young adults.

I am in a unique position to see a person as they really are. No pretence, no fear of disappointment, “no holds barred”.

I’ll also be following up the stories with information and help and advice for those who may be able to identify with some of the stories.

A quick disclaimer here… the following stories have been written with the knowledge and permission of the young people concerned. Names and some details have been changed to protect their identities and to maintain confidentiality for them and their families.

For my first Story, I’d like you to meet Gee.

What can I say about Gee… She’s smart, funny, awfully hard on herself, crazy, creative, strong, independent. She literally crawled and clawed her way through school and is now studying at University! Gee wanted me to tell her story as an inspiration to others and also as therapy for herself. She’s excited to see herself through the eyes of another.

Without further ado, please meet Gee.

Gee’s Story

Introduction

Gee first “stropped” into my life around 4 years ago when she was on the verge of exclusion for her behaviour. A miserable Year 10, teachers and support staff had tried everything to get Gee to engage. I noticed very quickly that a lot of the staff liked Gee and wanted her to succeed. After a couple of meetings with her, I understood why.

Gee had a quiet determination about her. She was stubborn, barely spoke, constantly ducked out of lessons and didn’t seem to care what happened to her. Looking into her conker-brown eyes which were framed by endless black lashes, I saw a deep soul. It would be 3 years before I really knew more about Gee’s problems or before I would come to know the real “her”. I’m not sure, even now, if I or anyone else has, or will ever really know her.

Of course, this immediately became interesting to me and I wanted to help her reach her full potential.

Our first few sessions were quiet. Gee spoke exceedingly quietly and would cover her mouth making it even more difficult for me to hear her.

“No one understands” would become a stock phrase of Gee’s.

“Help me to understand” would become a stock phrase of mine.

We plodded through the last few weeks of year 10, I tried all the tricks in my toolkit to help Gee to open up, but I never gave up on her, and she never gave up on me. I was always honest with her and as time went on, I felt a maternal affection for her which I sensed was lacking in her life.

Gee’s relationship with her mother was strained. She had never known or met her father who was abusive towards her mother. Gee had two older brothers who had grown up and left the family home and two younger brothers who were the product of her mother’s relationship with Gee’s Step Father. The relationship had broken down and Gee’s Step Father took on a flat nearby, so he could still see his kids. To Gee’s disbelief, this included her.

Finally, things came to a head with Gee and her mother. Her mother threw her out of the home following a bitter row. Gee had nowhere to go and her Step father took her in. Gee’s mother would not speak to or have any interaction with her 15 year old daughter. The only person she had in the World was her Step father.

As Year 10 came to a close, I had little hope for Gee making it through Year 11. We agreed we would work together when she returned to school in September. That was when our journey really began.

If you feel that you can identify with Gee’s story so far, check out my tips for anxiety  and a look at what causes anxiety. Also what to look for when teenagers are unhappy.

Look out for my blog covering hints and tips for parents who are separating, coming soon.

Alternatively, check out some articles of interest here

Attachment “disorder”

Personalities and how they affect us

Mindfulness

Please follow me on Facebook or Twitter or for more information, please contact me

It’s Always the Quiet ones…

Focus on what’s NOT being said by teenagers

During my first aid training (many years ago!), the first thing we learned was that if faced with multiple casualties; we check the quiet ones first. They are the ones who may not be breathing or conscious. If someone can shout, they’re alive.

I was inspired to write this blog by my nail technician (she’s also a friend and a very amazing businesswoman! as well as being an ESFJ). Her son is due to start high school next September and like many parents, she’s worried. Will he suddenly morph from her blue eyed angel into a dirty, drug addicted, self harming, bully?

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in life, but we can take an educated guess. His parents are both business people and both accomplished in their chosen fields BUT, their overriding mantra above all else is FAMILY COMES FIRST! both of their children are taught that hard work pays off but that love and support underpin everything that can make a person successful. Sounds like the perfect combination…but

As parents you should always be vigilant of what your child is NOT telling you. Tales of dramatic events in school, like in life; always make the headlines. Thankfully, the reason for this is that they are rare. So, stories about so and so telling a teacher to f**k off or someone self harming because their boyfriend cheated on them do not define a school or, indeed, a high school experience.

What can define these experiences are hurtful comments made by others, a broken friendship, a bad relationship with a teacher or even the child’s personality type.

For example, if my friend’s son is an extrovert like her, the chances are he will enjoy the busy hustle and bustle of school more so than if he is an introvert which could leave him exhausted at the end of the day and in need of some alone time to re-charge.

So, what do we do as parents then? the only thing we can do…

Trust – in ourselves that we have done the best job we could

Trust – in our children and let them have the space to learn and make mistakes like we did

Listen – to ourselves. We are the best judge of how our child is doing. Look for changes in behaviour which are outside the realms of stroppy teenage angst.

Listen – to our children. Follow these tips

  1. Don’t judge – you were there once
  2. Don’t interrogate – try doing an activity together or talk in the car to avoid intense eye contact, they’ll just switch off
  3. Ask them what they want you to do. It may be nothing, they may just want to talk. If you let them, they’ll do it again.
  4. Respect their wishes – this is one of the biggest complaints from teenagers. they are human and deserve respect just like we do

Hang in there! You can do it! And so can they!

For more info or advice please contact me

Attachment-Do we really have a generation of Velcro kids?

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When I first came across “Attachment” I was very early on in my counselling studies and I found the concept very simple. I studied the work of John Bowlby and Harry Harlow. Bowlby theorised that attachment “issues” such as withdrawal and inability to interact, arose in children whose relationships with their primary care-giver; usually their mother had been either non-existent or damaged in some way. Psychologists later went on to theorise types of attachment and to argue about whether attachment behaviours and reactions in children are learned or inherent from birth.

Later, Harry Harlow thought it would be a good idea to deprive baby monkeys of their mothers by separating them at birth for the first few months of their lives and then monitoring their behaviour when they were re-integrated with other monkeys. The experiment had horrific effects. The baby monkeys indulged in disruptive behaviour, such as screaming and holding themselves rocking back and forth. They were bullied by the other monkeys and they also displayed self-harming behaviour. Further experiments found that when baby monkeys were provided with two “surrogate” mothers, one was a food source and the other, a doll wrapped in cloth; the monkeys developed an attachment to the doll and would cuddle it when strangers appeared, or they were scared in some way. They only visited the food source when hungry and returned to the doll for the rest of the time. I find the whole thing particularly distressing!

So, we now know how “attachment theory” works in principle. I hear the word a lot in my work and it seems to be one of those words that can be overused. It also seems to be portrayed as a bad thing.

Is Attachment “Disorder” a Disorder?

Attachment behaviours displayed in babies include clinging and returning to the person or people (or doll) they have decided is their primary caregiver. The caregiver does not necessarily have to return the favour (like the monkeys and their fake “mother”). Babies are drawn to those who will protect them and help them thrive, its basic human instinct.

Like any human instinct which is designed to protect us, we get pretty good at it.

Fast-forward 11 years and we have a teenager. Perhaps they don’t feel supported at home as their relationships with parents are changing. Perhaps their parents are absent, either physically or emotionally or perhaps they are cruel and uncaring. Teachers have the unenviable task of teaching 30 plus students and are not able to act as caregiver.

I was never that good at maths but to me…

1 teenager – care = trouble (think deprived monkeys here)

Bring on the school counsellor, student support specialist, caring teacher or adult. Our job is to listen, to not judge and to take these young adults at their word, giving them unconditional positive regard.

This helps

They become attached

To us…

Is it wrong? Or are they perfectly performing human beings?

I often experience this in my work and early on I was very scared that a young adult would become “attached” to me. I now feel differently.

Of course, they will become attached!

One of the roles of the caregiver is to support the child and to eventually guide them on their own path.

That’s counselling isn’t it?