Essex mum encourages families to seek support

Education: Secondary / Sun 30th Aug 2020 at 07:27am

AN Essex mum is encouraging other parents and carers to find out about the support available for any children or young people who may be struggling, particularly as they prepare to go back to school in September.

Going back to school is an exciting time, but for many children and young people, this will be the first time they have been inside a classroom for six months and understandably some may be feeling nervous or anxious about what their school now looks like and what might be expected of them.

However, Essex County Council (ECC) has invested in a range of different services, covering areas such as coping with change and building resilience, that can make the transition back to school easier for children, young people and their parents.

Through the Essex-wide Every Family Matters campaign, ECC is continuing to sign-post to the local organisations and support across the county available through its Family Innovation Fund and Family Innovation Fund Xtra services.

Nikki’s son, Ernie, 10, received support through Safe in Essex (The Children’s Society East) to help improve his confidence and self-esteem. The help he received was the first step on a journey to feeling more confident.

Nikki, 36, who lives in the mid-Essex area said: “We found out about the support via Ernie’s headteacher. He suggested joining the small groups run by Coral, a project worker from the Safe in Essex service.

“He was due to join the next cycle of groups when lockdown happened so we were contacted over the phone by the headteacher who offered the same sessions on a one-to-one basis via video call.

“The process was simple and straight forward and I felt well supported by both the school and Coral.”

Through one-to-one sessions, Coral supported Ernie, quickly identifying his needs and adapting her approach so that he was able to get the most out of each session.

Nikki, said: “Coral built a relationship very quickly with Ernie. She was able to discuss his interests and find common ground, like the fact they are both vegetarian, and both animal lovers. This rapport meant that Ernie saw the conversations as friendly and enjoyable.

“Coral also made sure that Ernie understood her questions or activities. She quite often rephrased things to ensure his understanding. This was all done very skilfully and in a conversational way.

“I felt able to be completely honest about Ernie’s mental health and confidence issues. At no point did I feel judged or ashamed of needing support. The experience was a learning curve for me and I’m grateful for the support shown to us.”

Ernie, added: “Coral had her own little special ways of getting the point over so I knew what she meant. The fact that we were both vegetarian is cool and she talked about other stuff that helped me get to know her better.

“I was nervous at the start but Coral was really nice and supportive. She was smiley and kind on the video and talked me about starting a journal for my feelings, that really helped.”

Local organisations have adapted their provision during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure support remains in place for those who need it.

Support remains available to help pupils to transition back to the classroom and can be delivered remotely.

Nikki, said: “Sessions were delivered via video call at a set time agreed by us each week. The initial contact from Coral was a casual chat over the phone with me to find out a little bit more about the service and what kind of things we were having issues with.

“Coral explained how the sessions would work and how long they would go on for. The conversations, tone of voice and attitude towards Ernie was always kind, compassionate and gentle – exactly what Ernie needed in order to come out of his shell.”

Following the support provided by Safe in Essex, Nikki has noticed a real change in Ernie’s outlook and behaviour.

Nikki, said: “Although his resilience still needs some work, we feel that this has been a good stepping stone in the right direction. The practical strategies that he was taught have helped him immensely.

“The support has made a huge difference to us as a family as we feel that Ernie is less self-critical and is accepting praise and compliments more easily.”

Ernie, added: “It’s made me think of better strategies when I’m feeling a bit rubbish about myself.”

To find out about the range of support available to families in Essex and how to access it, visit essex.gov.uk/staying-well

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