“Mum was screaming cos he beat her to the floor”…a story of resilience

This is what a seven year old child told me several weeks ago during our first play therapy session. He witnessed domestic violence for the first few years of his life but his life is now more settled and stable, enabling him and his mum to engage with me and the play therapy process. In class, his behaviour was often unpredictable and his responses sometimes extreme and erratic. He was regularly hitting other children, running out of class and shouting out constantly.

In the play room, his play often involves themes of power and control as he attempts to fight off or overpower the baddies. He has time outside his class being read to by his class teaching assistant after the sessions to help him regulate his emotions and adjust to the transition back to his class.

His class teacher and teaching assistant have an excellent understanding of his needs and are always open to and willing to implement any suggestions I make to help him. I have shared with them that he is working through some very traumatic early experiences and is working hard to explore, express and make sense of this with me. I am lucky to be based in school all day and to be able to regularly remind them of this, especially after a challenging day with him in class. As his sessions with me progress and he is working through the trauma in the playroom, his behaviour outside of the sessions is changing. His mum told me he is sleeping better and having less tantrums at home, and in class he is calmer and happier and is beginning to develop friendships with the other children.

There are many children with experiences similar to this child’s in our schools. So many children have experienced domestic violence and it is far more common for children to have actually seen it than we like to think. I am constantly amazed by children’s resilience and ability to manage the most traumatic experiences and still be able to participate in school life, all be it with support.

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