Written by Lauren Mewett, Family Case Work at Dandelion Time
We know, for some children and families, home might not be a safe place right now. Around two million children in England1 face a range of vulnerabilities likely to worsen during the Covid-19 crisis. There has been a“surge” in violence since lockdown2 with the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline up by 49%. At Dandelion Time, 88%3 of our referrals have experienced abuse or domestic violence in some form.
Domestic violence and abuse can take many forms and its presence affects people in various ways. Each person with experiences of violence and abuse will require their own unique reauthoring when they begin their journey of recovery. At Dandelion Time we predominantly work with carers (mostly mums) and their children who want and feel they need to move forward from their experiences of abuse. Despite a parent or carer being freed from the source of their past negative experiences, they will often speak of how the imprints of these events and memories can remain. They exist within them, in their relationships, patterns of behaviour and how they relate to their world around them.
The impact of early relationships
We know that relationships shape us. Our early experiences guide our future relationships, designing our patterns and expectations for interactions. They determine what we believe we are deserving of, what is acceptable or what is good for us. For those who have had experiences of violence or abuse, the recurring patterns of its existence can sometimes be traced throughout their life stories. This continual cycle of behaviour emerges through long histories and over generations. Only when this cycle is interrupted by different experiences, can a new narrative begin to emerge.
Taking time to heal
Dandelion Time is a Kent based charity that works with children and families that have been the victims of domestic violence and abuse. We see the effects that come from experiences of domestic abuse and women may be left with an inaccurate and adverse perception of their own self-worth and value.
Their children develop embedded responses resulting from experience of fear and helplessness, that they are often too young to understand. This is evident in their behaviour at home or school, or how they interact with peers. Children are sometimes left with unanswered questions and feelings that they cannot make sense of. Sometimes children might find themselves needing to control everyone around them to feel safe. They might ensure they are the most noticed person in the room, or the least. Their interactions with peers might echo examples they have witnessed, either assuming passivity or practicing control and power over others.
At Dandelion Time, in our peaceful farm environment, families have opportunities to try new things, develop new skills and build upon their confidence and self-esteem. Therapists guide families to harness the healing powers of the natural world. Families work with materials such as wood, wool and clay, care for animals and grow and eat healthy food thus laying down new positive memories. Through crafts and baking they can meet gentle resistance and build on their resilience gradually. During their time with us, their experiences are underpinned by metaphors that can be transferred to other areas of their lives and ensure they build new positive experiences. Families find their own new ways of being that can contribute toward the restructuring of their lives. There is time to begin their healing, and to trust once again. By adding new chapters to their stories, families discover fresh paths in their lives that are no longer determined by their past. These paths emerge through encountering new possibilities, established from a place of strength, courage and hope.
When the lockdown ends there will be unprecedented demand for our service as the fragilities of vulnerable children and families are under enormous strain. Continuing our work is paramount and we will continue to do everything in our power to transform the lives of vulnerable children and families.
Dandelion Time has received funding from the Police Commissioner’s fund to support children and families who have been victims of domestic abuse. We are welcoming referrals for families, with past experience of domestic abuse, who are beginning to rebuild their lives. Our aim is to help families recover from their trauma, have the time and space to trust again and to build relationships through our unique, therapeutic programme in the natural environment. To make a referral please visit our referrals page
For immediate help and support in crisis contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/. If you are in immediate danger call 999. If you’re unable to talk press 55 after dialling.