We have been thinking about writing a blog for a while. Along with all the other painful lessons that covid and lockdowns have taught us, we now know with absolute certainty that we are relational creatures and if we don’t connect well with each other then our mental and emotional health suffers.
As a company, we have seen a significant increase in demand for training around what foster carers, teachers and other professionals can do to support children and young people and address their mental and emotional health issues. Data is now being published which highlights the impact on those children who were mired in the toxic stress generated by families that didn’t cope well during lockdowns, confined in environments ill-suited to provide the emotional cushioning that the vulnerable need in an isolating crisis. And weren’t there also times in the past two years when each of us experienced within ourselves a vulnerability of one sort or another? A lot of bells have tolled – and none of us have been left untouched. So, we do get it – both individually and as a company.
This blog is thus a small way of registering our concern and commitment to connect with you – and inform. We hope to use it as a palatable way of updating you with the latest research, information and opinions about the issues that are likely to be of relevance to you in your work. And as you engage with us and read our blog, you may think of issues or topics you’d like to learn about or explore further and we encourage you to get in touch with Rachel to discuss your thoughts – which will be just the prod that we need to send us off in your direction!
But right now, the festive season is here and we would like it to be a wondrous time for one and all. However, as with all celebratory times, there are often mixed feelings – and your merriment might well be the trigger for another’s anxiety. For the child, hearing the beer can opening may signal the downward spiral from loud laughter to shouting and smashing plates as parental self-control teeters and topples. For the adult, the first Christmas lights may illuminate the empty bank account and the backed-up bills – and the gnawing burden of children’s expectations from Santa Claus. As humans, we were not designed and have not evolved to manage big burdens of toxic stress and it is paradoxical that parties and festive meals – like holidays – can be a source of pleasure and, simultaneously, a source of stress and discomfort (Who shall I invite? Will they come? What will they expect? Do I need to buy more food and/or drink? Can I afford it? What am I going to wear?).
So our December message is about kindness. The word has its roots in kin and kinship and is surely about recognising oneself in others, and the other in oneself? When a child is killed by horrific abuse and neglect – however distant from our own experience – our humanity is diminished. And where kindness is missing then trust is eroded. So this December, we would wish to bestow on all our readers a dip into the honeypot of kindness that makes you and others feel good; if you’re a teacher, that focus on creating classrooms where good relational practice is embedded and exclusions don’t happen. If you’re a foster carer or adopter, that learning of your child/teenager and spending time with them that tell them better than words can that you are committed to accompanying them on their journey to secure attachment and emotional well-being. And if you are a care professional of a different sort, that emotional shift from chaos to calm by the kindness of your words and the focus of your benign attention – so much needed at this time of year. This is not the candyfloss of sentimental kindness – but the reflective compassion of thoughtful people.
We leave you with Chance’s words at the end of Tennessee Williams’ play, ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’: “I don’t ask for your pity but just for your understanding – not even that – no. Just for your recognition of me in you, and the enemy, time, in us all.”
Peace and Joy and Kindness to you all.
Martha and Rachel