Hayley* and her two children were referred to Bounce Back 4 Kids (BB4K) domestic abuse recovery programme by her housing association support worker. She had experienced domestic abuse from her children’s father for several years before they separated and both Hayley and her children were struggling with the long-term effects of the abuse. Hayley worried about what her children had witnessed, such as arguments and police involvement, and felt they needed support.
In May 2021, Hayley took part in BB4K’s BOOST Self-esteem group, which is a 10-week online series run by the BB4K team. The workshop is for parents and covers topics such as confidence, self-worth, trusting your own judgement and not blaming yourself. With encouragement from BB4K service lead, Hayley attended during her breaks at work and said she greatly benefitted from the sessions: “The BOOST group helped me grow in confidence and realise I am not alone. With a calm, relaxing approach, I could listen to [the group leader] encouraging me and others who did not know where to start with new beginnings.”
Hayley was then invited to attend the BB4K Under 5s group with her four-year-old daughter Isobel*. The Under 5s group is a 12-week programme for parents and children, with each session beginning separately for children and parents and then coming back together for combined activities.
The aims of the parent group are to help parents understand the impact of domestic abuse on their children, to understand their children’s behaviours, to learn new strategies to manage these behaviours and to strengthen the parent–child relationship.
The aims of the children’s course are to raise children’s self-esteem and give them an opportunity to explore and express their feelings through fun, child-focused activities and child-directed play, in a safe therapeutic way, promoting resilience and emotional well-being.
During the parents’ group, Hayley engaged in topics such as seeing domestic abuse through the eyes of a child, learning about the impact it has on children and exploring strategies for dealing with challenging behaviour, with the aim of strengthening her relationship with her daughter and supporting her to meet Isobel’s needs.
During this time, Isobel participated in activities in the children’s group such as arts, crafts, stories and messy play to learn how to express her feelings and come to terms with her experiences in a safe, therapeutic way.
The BB4K group facilitator noted that Isobel increased in confidence every week, particularly enjoying the sensory activities and playing cooperatively with the other children. She learned how to verbally express her feelings and emotions, understand the feelings of others and show empathy, and she began to show an understanding of safe touch and how to express anger without hurting others.
Hayley said both her and Isobel enjoyed the group, particularly the understanding it gave her of the different types of abuse and how to manage her feelings. “I am able to be calmer and put myself at the same level as my children. I am able to help manage my feelings and my children’s.” She noticed the change in Isobel as well, saying that she was more loving, kind and caring after taking part in the group. When Isobel was asked which were her favourite parts of attending BB4K, she said “messy play and my friends”.
Now that the 12-week course has finished, the BB4K team have invited Isobel to take part in a drama-based self-esteem course, and have also referred Hayley and her son for further BB4K sessions to continue to support the whole family.
Hayley reflects that despite her ongoing difficulties with court proceedings and the everyday challenges of being a parent, the support from BB4K has been invaluable: “The BB4K team have met up with me to help with anxieties and concerns I have had along the way. Thanks to the BB4K support and other professionals and my own hard work and determination, we are all surviving, thriving and enjoying life.”
* Names changed for confidentiality
I found this group amazing, helpful, caring and it helps me set the blueprint for my children’s future… BB4K is the best thing I decided to do for me and my children.
Hayley, mum of two