Over the years I have actively worked with children and young people faced with numerous difficulties, one child has remained quite prominent in my mind.
I first met Kian who was aged 8 at school one morning. I had read the referral and I knew that this little boy would need a lot of opportunities for fun. Kian had been exposed to domestic violence, his father being the perpetrator. Mum and her five boys had fled the home after many years of abuse and had been supported by Women’s Aid in a refuge. The family had cut all ties with the father as he was deemed to be too much of a risk to the children. This left Kian feeling angry, which resulted in anger outbursts. He would tell his mum that he wanted to die and suffered with panic attacks. When I first met mum, she explained how he would hide under blankets in the house and would not come out to engage with any of his family. He was a very anxious little boy who would question his mum when his big brothers would leave the house, e.g. Where they were going? What time they would be coming home? Kian was afraid that bad things would happen to them. Mum also told me that he was finding school difficult and he was not mixing at all. It would be a huge challenge to get Kian washed and dressed to go to school, it was even harder leaving him there as mum had to walk him to his classroom with much dissent. Mum was in tears telling me how he is not interested in anything and has no motivation to do things that other children would enjoy. She sobbed as she said that she just wants to see him happy.
When I arrived at the school the morning that I was meeting Kian, I was put into a positive play room where I waited for Kian to meet me with a teacher. When he entered the room, he looked frightened and I noticed that he was shaking. In all the years I had worked with children, I had never seen someone look so sad and fearful. He did not make any conversation; he seldom made eye contact and looked blank and disorientated. I attempted humour but he did not see the funny side. He could not make a decision and would shrug his shoulders at any question or invitation that I made. I had originally been asked to do my mentoring sessions after school, but after meeting him, I felt that it would be more beneficial to spend a few weeks in the school so that he would be more relaxed spending time with me away from school.
A few weeks went by where I went to the school and brought creative activities to the school such as messy play. Kian slowly started becoming less anxious and made better eye contact, there were times when he would smile as I made banter, I could see him becoming less tense. During half term, I had planned to see him out of school, which was a big step for him. Mum wasn’t sure how he would cope.
I offered to take him to a few places; he hasn’t always found it easy to decide on where to go but eventually agreed on a play area. He sat with me for most of the session where he just observed his surroundings. He didn’t want to play initially, he was happy to sit and familiarise himself with the new environment. At the end of the session, we had agreed to go back to the same place next week only this time, he had the confidence to explore the play area. With encouragement and lots of praise made throughout our sessions, Kian’s confidence was growing by the week. Mum was keen to tell me how he had made new friends in school and how he was going to school on time without any conflict. He also had sports day one week and joined in with a big smile on his face...he wanted to win, something that he would have never had done before. Now Kian is walking to his classroom with his friends. He has also started playing with his brothers and going to the fields where he lived with his older brothers to make dens. His relationship with his grandmother and other family members blossomed as he made conversation with them for the first time. He is now even visiting gran himself as she only lives around the corner. Kian loves to ride his bike and enjoys playing football. By the end of the six months, Kian would laugh at my banter and even give it back at times!
I strongly believe that an attitude based on acceptance, playfulness, curiosity and empathy are the main principles of my role as a mentor. Providing Kian with the opportunity to make his own decisions and helping him identify his own strengths and abilities to develop a positive self image has certainly enhanced his self confidence socially and emotionally.
Emma, Mentor, Securing Futures Project