Thursday 28 March 2019

Children's Challenging and Violent Behaviour: Solutions?

Have you ever been kicked in the face by a teenager, had an Xbox controller bounced off the back of your head by a child, been scratched or punched by a toddler, your TV ripped off the wall, your doors slammed so hard they come off the hinges or locked yourself in the bathroom for your safety because of a nine year old girl. Maybe not, maybe.

At the intersection of biology, trauma and circumstance we find parents and carers struggling to care and keep safe children with challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour (CCVAB aka CPV).

Complex neurodevelopment disorders, insecure attachment strategies, impulse control, trauma, dysregulation, domestic violence, all fall into this challenging soup that spills into the houses of many families. Up to a third of families with children with special educational needs (SEN) or children adopted or living in kinship or special guardianship arrangements live at times with challenging and aggressive behaviour.

Undoubtable the issue of CCVAB is creeping onto the radar of many organisations, services and professionals, just the see the number of training days that are being advertised here and there online. Though I feel a little cautious, or even cynical, when I see what is being offered to vulnerable and desperate families as it's a complex problem with often complex solutions*, did I say solutions?  The painful truth that the behaviour of our children lies at this messy intersection, as noted, and is often hugely influenced by the parents and carers' parenting styles, experiences and own challenges precipitated by the behaviour they're trying to manage.

For professionals stepping into what are often crisis situations, often with limited context and almost universally no specific training in CCVAB it is overwhelming. Again, this week I listen to a parent tell of social worker shrugging their shoulders and admitting not knowing what to do. So, what happens, sometimes professionals revert to the societal norm and look at the parents and carers and say, 'it's you'.

This is where it gets complicated, I'm not writing to apportion blame on anyone. That said, does how I parent my child influence their behaviour? of course. That is different to saying that violence and aggression are my fault, because they're not. 'Fault' is a troublesome word in this context but often one that is thrown around. We need to support families, we need to offer them alternative tools for effective to parenting. We also need to support the trauma that many adults and sibling experience as they live with this hidden form of domestic abuse. But what are the tools?

The solutions are nuanced and often only part solutions are available. A reduction is sometimes the best that some families will see, keeping all children and adults in households safe is good, not falling foul of services is helpful.

The ripples of CCVAB flow out of homes, into streets, communities, schools, families, work, mental health and bank accounts. The solutions, or perhaps the support, training and help we give needs to follow the ripples and meet the broader needs of families.

There are some glimmers of hope, three years ago this was a hidden issue. It's now creeping into the light. Serious case reviews have highlighted the failings of services following an parents death. Organisations have run campaigns and we are hearing the issue spoken about openly in new places.

We're now in a better and more open place, that said until families can be offered effective and compassionate solutions by compassionate and effective professionals many families will continue to struggle.

*Well, that's another issue if there was a 'solution' and I knew it I'd be a rich man.

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