“Don’t Big Up Your Part!”

What one thing would you NOT say to a parent of a child with additional needs or adopted child?

When discussing my contribution to my children’s education that very phrase was uttered by a member of school staff.

To a parent who has tirelessly advocated and campaigned for their child, the endless meetings in school and at the council offices, the parent in the playground (the one you back off from) when the TA, teacher or headteacher approaches, “Can I have a word, Mrs Powell?”.

The parent who volunteered to go into school one afternoon a week to support their child in the face of nothing else available.

The parent who was telephoned that often the she developed a fairly debilitating phobia of the telephone.

The parent who had to read negative comments ad-infinitum in the school planner about behaviour from teachers who had little or no knowledge of attachment in the classroom and when I answered the comments was told to STOP (trying to silence me?!).

The parent who has faced discrimination and misunderstanding at every turn.

The parent who went part-time and then gave up work altogether to support her children.

The parent who re-trained as a counsellor so she could better understand her children and help them, who ran support groups for parents (and school always came up as an area of difficulty) who did workshops and worked one to one with parents and now runs health & wellbeing events, many of which are attended by parents.

The parent who keeps going when she feels like knocking her head against a brick wall with school.

The parent who is watching their child’s mental health deteriorate as a result of lack of understanding in school (and on suicide watch).

The parent who will never give up.

DON’T BIG UP MY PART!?

I should be shouting it from the rooftops – I should be in ‘The Press’ (I have about my parent support groups), I should be in the national press and magazines – (I was about school transition), I should be on the local radio (I have on many occasions about parent support groups and my wellness evenings), I should be on national radio (net yet), I should be on national TV (I was once invited).

I should be paid handsomely for advocacy, campaigning and negotiation skills (chance would be a fine thing).

DON’T BIG UP MY PART!?
I’m the reason my children get up for school every single day and do their best.

Here I am “bigging” up my part.
My tireless, relentless, tenacious part as a parent and advocate for my child in school.

I have a BIG part, a HUGE part to play as has every parent in how their children do in school.

Is that clear? (I am shouting now!)

Juliet

Are you a parent or foster carer of a child from care? I am running a self-care evening aimed at you and after this I think I need it too!

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Use Every Tool You Have

I had a small ‘win’ this week, I am wary of blowing my own trumpet, but I see it as a useful situation to learn from and hopefully it helps others.

Some of you that already know me or have followed my blog, Facebook pages etc will know as well as being a counsellor and events organiser that I campaign from a personal stand on attachment and trauma. I firmly believe that if large institutions and organisations had an understanding of attachment and trauma, many, many people’s lives would be a lot easier.

My particular campaign has been a personal one, insisting that schools have understanding and training in these areas and in particular my own children’s schools.

I set off at the beginning of year 7, noticing that things weren’t going as well as they might. It was instinctive for me to start talking to the school, the SENCo, the form tutor, subject teachers and the head of year, try and create understanding, get them to think differently about behaviour and punishment, get them to realise what they were doing was counter-productive, punitive and possibly unkind. Those I spoke to did, on the whole, listen, accommodated my requests for meetings, took the books I offered to lend them. I did ruffle feathers and cause upset, I was asked to stop doing things. The staff were wary of me, but I figured I wasn’t going to change anyone’s thinking by charm alone!

So I used every tool I had at my disposal (I didn’t know that at the time) I used every aspect of my personality, got advice and help, laughed, cried, shouted, blogged, stayed calm, got mad, but most of all I kept on going, every time I was put off or knocked back I took stock, sat back and re-fueled my engine. It felt like a fight, a fight for understanding, a fight for my children and others like them. I wasn’t going to let them down, or let us down.

I got to the end of the year and I still felt misunderstood, not entirely listened to, felt like nothing had changed and had to use the final tool I had available and it felt risky and possibly ill-advised, was this really time to play my ace? (I did take advice from a number of professionals). I threatened to remove my child from the school (and meant it), this could have back-fired, we could have fallen flat on our faces.

The opposite happened, a few chinks of light appeared, some understanding appeared, some care and love appeared, some from unexpected quarters.

I was asked if I wanted to go in to the school on the training day and speak to a room full of teaching assistants about attachment and trauma. I was extremely pleased to do so and extremely thankful to the member of staff who invited me in (I gather it is pretty unusual for this to happen).

However, the fight is not over, but hopefully progress is being made.

My tip to you, if you are going through something similar is to be tenacious, have a goal in mind, get help and advice from wherever you can and most all do what you do with love and understanding.

I am an experienced counsellor. I work with parents on issues related to attachment, loss and anxiety. I also work generally with anxiety using a combined therapeutic approach with all adults. Please contact me for chat.

Have a great week.

Juliet x