Frank* and Chelsea* had been on a rollercoaster of trauma and grief after they saw their dad killed in an act of family violence. Two years on, the siblings were still deeply distressed.
Before the horrific loss of their father to violence, Frank, 7, and Chelsea, 5, had always been excited to play with other children and explore their world. But ever since the tragedy, they weren’t interested.
“My kids were having conflicts with their friends and had become withdrawn, defiant and angry. They were having trouble sleeping and had lost all motivation.” – Ava*, worried mother of Frank and Chelsea.
Tragically it isn’t rare for children to witness or experience family violence.
Each year, around 13,000 Australian children are taken into the care of child protection authorities because they are at serious risk of harm or have no other safe place to live.
The trauma can have a devastating, lifelong impact. But the good news is that with the right support, children and young people can heal and get every chance to live happy, safe and strong.
Frank and Chelsea needed urgent help to feel safe again, build healthy relationships and enjoy childhood. Their mother Ava was so relieved they could join our Children Ahead program.
Soon, they met their Children Ahead case worker Rochelle. Rochelle is an expert in helping children heal from family violence. For a year, she met with the siblings each week for play-based therapy activities proven to aid in trauma recovery.
“Creating a safe space where children can be vulnerable, talk about their feelings and learn how to manage their emotions is so important for those who have experienced trauma.” – Rochelle explains how she helps children heal.
Rochelle noticed how often Frank and Chelsea’s games included themes of violence and death. This told her how out of control things felt for them. Rochelle helped Frank and Chelsea find healthier ways to cope with their anger, grief and fear. And wonderfully, over time, their enjoyment in play increased.
“Frank and Chelsea’s sense of safety and connection is growing, shown in the increased eye contact they make with me, their positive body language and their co-operative play.” – Rochelle shares her excitement at watching Frank and Chelsea begin to heal.
For Frank, who was carrying much worry and sadness inside, school had become a chore. But he is now asking his mum if he can join the school band and feels excited to take on leadership roles, including house captain and library monitor.
Little sister Chelsea is more confident to speak up and tell her brother when she would like to choose the game they play. She is calmer, more trusting of adults in her life and feels safe to ask her teachers when she needs help.
“The program has really helped my children, and I’m glad they feel more positive and stronger within themselves.” – Ava feels overjoyed her children can now have the strongest future possible.
Rochelle has also worked with Frank and Chelsea’s school to help their teachers understand why trauma makes them act the way they do. Their teachers have new skills to help Chelsea and Frank stay calm and get the most out of school.
For the first time in a long time, this family knows help is out there and that there are people who care about them and can be trusted. “I feel stronger and much more hopeful,” says Ava.
*names have been changed to protect privacy