Why detentions don’t work? Is a sea change required?

I was inspired by an article a friend shared on social media – the link to which I will post at the bottom.

I am a counsellor specialising in anxiety, a parent to 2 adopted children and a teacher of 10 years experience, a blogger on all things mental health.

I know that detentions don’t work, I have a feeling in my gut, a bodily sensation that tells me they are unkind, counter-productive and a waste of time for MANY children.

    How do I know they are a waste of time?

I do think that our actions have a consequence and that we need to know there is a consequence for our behaviour. However, there needs to be a seamless link between the action and the consequence. For example – “if you keep on with that behaviour, we won’t be able to go to the park” – natural, immediate and clear. There isn’t a time in the distant future or a disconnect between the action and the consequence – it’s an immediate learning point. Or “if you don’t complete that paragraph you will need to stay with me at break time to complete it” – natural, immediate, easy to understand. Instead of which a date is set in the future, the child is stuck in an unfamiliar classroom, with unfamiliar children and often unsupervised, they may be too scared to go and get their lunch, they may be scared of the older children and if they had a tricky start in life, they may feel deep, debilitating shame – not a good place for anyone to be.

So why do I want to write about this – I have started to find it really interesting, how we punish ‘so called’ poor behaviour. I have read a few articles recently that have got me thinking, (as well as my own family situation).

It feels as though our schools (in particular secondary schools) are set up only for the most robust and academic of children, only the most resilient will get through unscathed (I am talking mental health here). Schools could be a great place to nurture, encourage and educate children on feelings, self care, society and coping and not a pathway to prison for some young people (notice some of the same language is used: detention, isolation etc). If you have a robust child – great, they will probably survive – however, if your child has mental or psychological difficulties, attachment difficulties, had a poor start in life, ADHD, Autism etc this could be much more tricky.

Most secondary schools (and some primary) are set up as follows: verbal warning, name on board, note in planner, several notes in planner, lunch detention, after school detention, isolation, short term exclusion, permanent exclusion. Schools are institutions they need structure. A clear policy that everyone understands (hopefully). As we are all human beings they are usually applied inconsistently and are subject to our own prejudices and judgment.

    Do they work?

I did some research – I asked in a couple of parenting Facebook groups what parents thought about detentions – responses varied from – “my son had a detention for forgetting equipment, he never forgot again, so yes they do work” – to “my child was in and out of detentions through their entire school career – it’s not working”. I also posed the questions – what about children with additional needs?, should they be subject to the same discipline system as the wider school population? – most said NOT, that there should be further thought about the impact, what is appropriate, what can be understood, some creativity around methods used. Many thought restorative practice could work better. Many felt they were ‘banging their head against a brick wall’ to gain understanding around issues such as autism, ADHD and attachment. Schools are perhaps not the enlightened places we thought they were. It is very possible that some children are not functioning at a level where they can understand and control their behaviour so punishing that seems entirely inappropriate and even cruel.

    Is there an alternative?

Some schools are using or trialing new techniques, some schools are adopting restorative practice, some are using mindfulness, meditation, yoga etc. Maybe we need to get away from punishment and move towards understanding, get underneath the behaviour – “I wonder why that happened”, “I noticed you are not yourself today”, so we get to the root of the problem and together with the child come up with some alternatives for next time. I suppose these techniques may be seen by some as unworkable, but maybe if we replaced the time, admin and people associated with dishing out punishments with a different, yet workable system, it may well work a lot better for everyone, it does though, require a sea change.

I am proud of my teaching background and I have a great deal of respect for teachers and indeed would place them, up there as my some of my favourite kind of people – intelligent, kind, life changers but we do need change.
Link to article

Juliet

Choice Survival Anxiety Package

Chewed Up & Spat Out

The word journey is often used, however, we can’t escape it, life is a journey where we reach crossroads and take different paths. I have often talked about my children, my path to bring them home, adopt them, help them and move them into their teenage years. Now I finally have some time to reflect on what has gone before and consider who I have become as a result of my experiences. There is no doubt I experienced depression, there is no doubt I had secondary trauma and now I consider what I am left with…………

Anxiety

I had the symptoms all along, not wanting to go out, not wanting to meet people, not wanting to visit anywhere new, finding it difficult to talk to people, not going far from home, experiencing a churning stomach, tight chest, nausea when the phone rang, cancelling social invitations and so on. I was experiencing social anxiety, I had been chewed up by my experiences and spat out, left with these anxious feelings.

Finding Support

I found great ways and people to support me, I knew I needed help and found it, through the difficulties I was determined to continue with my life and my business so I had to call on professionals to keep me going. I needed a Survival Package, a list of people I knew would help – counsellors, massage therapists, reiki practitioners, craft workshops, support groups, essential oils, self help books etc etc

How can I help?

I created my own blended approach of therapy; services and activities that supported me. I have always been an advocate of the holistic approach, treating mind and body as one, knowing that ill health in one area affected the other. After my experiences both personally and professionally I offer a blended approach to the therapy I offer.

Counselling – I have 5 years experience of counselling working with adults on loss, change, trauma and anxiety. I have an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling from Leeds Trinity University.

Hypnotherapy – I have 5 years experience of hypnotherapy used in conjunction with counselling to aid relaxation, work with phobias and anxiety. Certificate in Hypnotherapy & Counselling skills from Leeds Trinity University.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – There are lots of great techniques available from CBT which I employ from workshops and training courses I have attended.

Relaxation Techniques – I use relaxation as part of the sessions, some people don’t feel comfortable using hypnotherapy so I employ relaxation into the sessions by using relaxation scripts to help you relax at the end of the session and go out and face the world at the end of the sessions.

Essential Oils – I use a diffuser to help aid relaxation in the sessions and can advise on using essential oils at home. I have attended workshops to support this knowledge.

We also build in affirmations, mindfulness and meditation as and when it is needed.

The beauty of this whole approach is that we can tailor it to you, leave out what isn’t needed and add others where they are.

You commit to 6 sessions (we can add to it if needed) and I commit to helping you create your survival package so when the sessions are finished you have something to refer to when needed. Bespoke, tailored to you.

The 6 sessions are £330 which is £55 for each session, available to pay in installments. Great value when you think how much all these elements cost when taken separately.

Get in touch for your FREE 15 minute consultation or forward this blog/email to a friend you think may need some help.

There is help out there

EMAIL: juliet@choicetherapyyork.com

Juliet

5 Useful Strategies when welcoming adopted children to your family

As I sit here in a 4th floor apartment looking out at the North Sea, it dawns on me the strategies and advice I found useful when settling my children into their new home with us.

We did receive lots of advice.

Much of the time we didn’t understand the significance of the advice – how it would be helpful and why. We blindly followed some of it and thought more carefully about others.

I think that much of the time when you meet new children you are about to adopt or look after in the longer term you are in turmoil, this huge occasion is happening to you, you are dealing with (in our case) two traumatised, nervous, anxious, excited little people. You are keen to ‘get it right’, want to make them feel ok, settled, at home and welcome. So taking in well meaning advice can be tricky.

I have tried to make this concise and easy to understand…

What we found useful?

Bed times – bed times are as much for the adults as the children, although bed times are tricky for children from a tricky background, consistently putting them to bed at a set time in a comforting, routine way is very helpful. You need a break, the child needs sleep. You may need to do it many, many times and be up and downstairs, but certainly for us it paid dividends eventually. Each time there is an incident, go upstairs calmly put them back to bed and return downstairs. Sometimes I needed to sit with them, sometimes sitting on the landing with my laptop but still routinely letting them know they were safe and that I wasn’t far away and just doggedly kept going with it. Eventually the message went in.

Playing Games – at times it was very hard to create a satisfactory relationship with my children, they were not born to me, they were not a blood relation and reaching a point where I thought we had a ‘bond’ and that we were a ‘proper’ family took years. One thing that really helped was doing Theraplay games, fair weather or foul, every evening pulling some games/activities from two books I have, was very helpful. I would go as far as saying those Theraplay games kept us together when it was very hard. (Theraplay – Helping Parents & Children build a better relationship – Jernberg & Booth, it is an expensive volume but £49 to save a family is cheap enough, and Self-esteem Games – Barbara Sher, we played tons of games from this book and I have many happy memories of these games, and hopefully the children do too.) It’s useful to have a couple of go-to books to grab.

Hand & Foot Massage – I didn’t know why we were told to do this, but I did it again, consistently, massage each others hands and feet with lovely cream (nice fruity Body Shop ones are good). It promotes physical closeness, it feels comforting, it smells lovely, got us sat together, making eye contact, giggling etc. Most importantly it promotes the production of oxytocin (produced when a baby is born, apparently, to help parent and child ‘bond’).

Nutrition – I’m afraid I don’t know too much about this, however, we were told, as the children were traumatised that their ‘gut flora’ would be unbalanced. I am starting to learn more about this but need to read more. So we gave them pro-biotics and pro-biotic drinks and I think it helped. There are lots of other reasons to give your child a nutritionally balanced diet to help their gut but you will have to read up more yourself!

Me-Time – I have consistently had full body massages and found them immensely comforting and useful, the power of touch and being ‘held’ is very valuable. Thanks to Joanne Bull, Chloe Hart and Catherine Hagan. I have also found other therapies very helpful, they got me away from the house for a break and gave that powerful one to one time to get a break and be myself.

I have plenty more ideas up my sleeve, however, this will do for now! The reason I do my Health & Wellness events and counselling is to offer this back to other people, create me-time and a break from life.

Best Wishes

Juliet xx

Secondary Trauma – how does it feel?

I know first hand, what it feels like, the feelings, the body sensations, the way it creeps up on you like a slowly emerging virus, the knockout.

What is secondary trauma?
Sometimes it’s called vicarious trauma, I think they are pretty similar. Simply put, if you spend a lot of time with a person or people who have experienced significant trauma you may have experienced it either knowingly or unknowingly. If you look it up on the web, there are surprisingly few references and when it is referenced, it cites social workers, therapists etc, very little reference is made to parents or foster carers experiencing it. Also many of the definitions are ‘you experience it if you hear of someone else’s trauma’. There is more to it than that, I experience it as I live with 2 children who have experienced significant trauma (they are adopted from a very tricky start in life) and when things are bad or certain times of the year approach, I begin to feel unwell, they have not spoken of trauma.

It is said that sometimes the symptoms ‘mimic’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but I’m not sure about that.

It’s the same every time, I always think I am getting a cold or virus. I feel drained, tired and have an awful headache. I start to suspect it is something else when a big dose of paracetamol is ineffective. I am very sensitive to noise (sometimes I have to stop to cover my ears), I think I hear footsteps or noises, I feel pulses in my head which are painful and make me wince.

How do I help myself?
The only ways I have found to help myself are to sleep (a lot), take long hot baths, go out on a bike ride, try and take some time out from the people with the trauma, which isn’t always easy when it is your children. When things were a lot worse (while my children were in therapy) I had regular massages, went to yoga, had counselling etc etc.

It used to totally wipe me out like flu, days spent in bed. However, now I know the signs and can check in with my children, I spot and try and deal with it, although I have to ride it out like a virus.

Why am I telling you this?
These sorts of things are not often openly spoken about, not identified, people are fearful to reveal this or have no idea what the symptoms they are experiencing are. I suspect many people who experience secondary trauma feel differently.

I hope it helps to know this.

Juliet