Joel glanced nervously at his mum, as he met the other families in the group for the first time.
Ensconced in the huge sofa in Bramley Barn, gently stroking our hairiest guineapig he had aptly named, ‘Wiggie’, he watched the other children come tumbling into the room, soon to be quietened and calmed by their own chattering, furry bundles, munching on carrot sticks.
Lucy, the Family Caseworker, commenced the session by asking the children which superpower they would love to have… Joel wanted to be invisible… so no one could find him.
Joel’s early life had been filled with fear… raised hands, shouting, slammed doors and secrets. The social worker had told him he didn’t have to see his stepdad anymore and he didn’t have to sleep under his bed. He and his mum had to spend 6 months in a refuge, a big house with many other families, far away from his best friend, Jake, and his lovely Nana.
Joel and his mum eventually found a new house, a new school, a new teacher and a new life. Nothing would ever be same, apart from his mum still pretending that she wasn’t crying and Joel pretending that he was happy, so mum wouldn’t have to cry any more. His real feelings, he hid from his mum.
Many families coming through the doors of Dandelion Time have experienced the trauma of Domestic Abuse, leaving them with a feeling of underlying anxiety, hypervigilance and a pervading sense of doom that something will go ‘wrong’. These fears can escalate into a generalised existential anxiety, whereby children simply don’t feel safe in their world, anymore.
Joel’s ‘what ifs?’, usually came at night and stopped him from sleeping. ‘What if we are found?… What if a robber comes into our house? What if there’ s a war? What if mummy dies?’ Once again, he would sleep under his bed.
“Invisible…” reflected Lucy, “that would be one way that nobody could find us. Have you ever played Eagle Eye?” Half an hour later, everyone was running down to the big woods and so began the game of Eagle Eye, a firm favourite for many children who come to Dandelion Time.
The ‘Eagle’ is the ‘finder’ and not allowed to leave the nest (the firepit circle) and all the other ‘chicks’ hide, but not so far away that they couldn’t be glimpsed by the eagle. Children love to hide behind and sometimes up the nearby trees, behind tree stumps, or lying down in the bluebells, if they feel brave… and then the fun begins … all the chicks begin to screech, howl, meow and moo and one by one the Eagle manages to locate them by sound and glimpses through the branches.
Joel and his mum chose to hide together, and Lucy was the Eagle.
The woodland was filled with whoops, whistles, and laughter and one by one, the children and parents were located by the sharp-eyed Eagle… even Joel’s mum…but not Joel, he was the winner; the invisible one, for he couldn’t make a noise to give himself away.
Each week, the families played Eagle Eye and each week Joel was the last to be found, the best hider, always silent, amidst the cacophony of animal noises around him… until one sunny morning, he was stooped behind the tree with beautiful Turkey Tail fungi, his mum, this time, was the sharp-eyed Eagle, having found all the other chicks. Joel’s breath quickened, and he raised his hands to his mouth and made a wonderful owl noise. “There you are!” laughed mum “I’ve found you”.
There was something beautiful about that day; the day that Joel allowed himself to be found. For once his mum had found him, he was found many more times by the children and the parents in the dappled woodland of Dandelion Time. Joel for the first time, in a long time, felt safe.
When Joel’s time with us came to an end, he had taken some huge steps forward, he was more engaged at home and school, and was beginning to trust the people around him. His relationship with his mum has gone from strength to strength. He no longer sleeps under his bed.
Please help us transform the lives of more children like Joel and donate today
This is a composite case that is indicative of our work, names and images have been changed.
Our time at Dandelion came at a point where Seb’s anxiety was so extreme he felt unable to leave the house. I had felt like we were running out of options. Seb was so riddled with anxiety that every avenue I explored, every treatment had not worked. We were desperate.Read story
We wanted to share with you this special letter sent to us by one of our attending families.Read story