Posted in Adoption

Place2Be helped my kids to enjoy school

Place2Be helped my kids to enjoy school Posted on March 6, 20163 Comments

As we near the end of Children’s Mental Health Week I just want to reflect on how Place2Be has helped our family.

Place2Be works with children in schools. It offers them support to cope with emotional and behavioural difficulties which has a positive impact on the whole class, and helps teachers focus on teaching. They also offer support for school staff and parents.

  • One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 years (three in every classroom) has a mental health problem, and many continue to have these problems into adulthood. Half of those with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14.
  • Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70 percent in the past 25 years.
  • One in five children have symptoms of depression and almost a third of the 16-25-year-olds surveyed had thought about or attempted suicide.
  • Ten years ago, detailed estimates put the costs of mental health problems in England at £77 billion, including costs of lost productivity and the wider impacts on wellbeing. More
    recent estimates suggest the costs may be closer to £105 billion.
  • Children are less likely to suffer from serious mental health difficulties in later life if they receive support at an early age, providing a cost saving to adult mental health services.

Our school back in the UK has Place2Be integrated into the school environment and both my children and myself have benefited from this amazing service.

About two years ago I was invited to give a talk, at the school, to potential donors for the charity. I was only too pleased to oblige.

Place2Be is fantastic resource for schools, I wish every school could have access to this. Here’s my a copy of my talk.

How Place2Be helped us

Just over eighteen months ago my husband and I took on the greatest challenge of our lives when we adopted our two children.

Over night our lives changed: two independent professionals to a full-time Mum and a part-time working Dad.

It’s been a roller coaster time but those first few months, and first year have been the hardest and most emotional I have experienced.

Nothing prepares for being a parent whether they are your children or not. I read many books on adoption, studied attachment theory, talked to other parents and attended lectures given by experts such as Dan Hughes. Regardless, when our two children moved in it was a shock.

Children like mine have suffered an enormous amount of neglect. And that leaves its mark, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Over the course of the year and a half we’ve had to learn what it is like to live as a family.

My children have had to learn how to love perfect strangers, and we had to learn to forge a parental bond.

That wasn’t easy. How do you love someone who doesn’t want to be loved, because they can’t love themselves?

Just prior to our children arriving I had to find a school. With no ready mummy network with an ear to the ground all I had were Ofsted reports. What is EYF, KS1, KS2 – it was all meaningless.

All I knew was I had to find a school which had an ethos that would support my children .

I took a few days off work and started attending open days. Walking back into school after thirty-five years was an eye opener. I had no idea what I was looking for, I just knew when I found it, it would be right.

This school was the last on my list. I remember there were phrases in its Ofsted report that struck a chord with me. That’s what made me seek this school out.

I pitched up on their open day, did the school tour than sat through the head teachers presentation.

The was the usual performance indicators but what struck me was the emphasis on pastoral care.

This school had a nurture room and Place2Be and a full-time dedicated Special Educational Needs teacher.

I cornered the head-teacher: What experience do you have of looked after children (kids in the care system)? Although there were none presently at the school there were children with similar backgrounds. It was important for me to find a school that could understand the impact of neglect on a child’s life and how this could be addressed with the school’s support.

When my son started school he’d only been living with us for about four days.

As predicted his behaviour was an issue. He was angry, feeling out of control, grieving the loss of his foster family. At the same time he was getting used to living in a new house, with a new Mum and Dad, going to a new school, learning to make new friends and at the same time having to learn, and try and behave.

Naturally he’d lash out. I think I would too if I had to face that. He was only five and a half. I always seemed to be the Mum the teacher wanted to see after school. But his behaviour was his way of saying, I’m hurting, please help me.

Place2Be was here for me, and my son. I tapped into their place for parents which gave me space to offload my thoughts and feelings, and to find ways to address my son’s behaviour and work with the school to support him.

My son benefitted from a year of Place2Be therapy. And that’s really what it is: therapy.

It allows a child to express and process complex feelings, thoughts and issues through creative play. This type of help is almost impossible to get through normal health care services. I’d ask my son what had he been up to. He’d always reply oh I just go and play Mum. Even though it was just play this type of play was hugely important.

Slowly I started to find out he’d made – a phone, a motorbike, a bouncy ball. All of this was linked to his state of mind and emotions.

I want to share with you a piece of my sons work. After he had his full complement of sessions I went to collect his art. I carried home two big boxes full to the brim of his creative output. In amongst his pieces was this little blue lump of clay with a little smiley face etched on it.

It’s my happy stone, Mum. When I want to feel happy I press it and I remember all the happy things that have happened. It really blew me away how he had used his creativity to create a tool to help his emotions.

We now have an art box the kitchen and Wheatabix boxes, egg cartons, yoghurt pots have been transformed into a motorbike, crocodile and a robot.

Has it worked? I believe it’s made a huge difference. Of course there’s a bit of rough and tumble and he’s still a huge fidget. But he seems much happier. That scowl that was permanently etched on his face is almost gone and he genuinely looks happy.

He’s not perfect, no child is, but he’s enjoying school and family life. Last week we asked the teacher for a buddy to be a positive role model for him. He had to choose from the numerous hands that shot up when the teacher asked for volunteers that’s a huge boost to his self-esteem.

Place2Be has made a huge impact on my life and that of my son. Its ethos is part of the fabric of the school and easily accessible to both parent and child.

I know that Place2Be will continue to be here for both of my children, and for me. For that I will be truly grateful.

Thank you.

First published 13/02/2015

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