Saturday 25 November 2023

Peer support - An antidote of sorts.

Sitting with parents of children with challenging, violent and aggressive behaviour this week was an absolute pleasure in the worst sense of the word. 

I wish we did not have to be there, but we were and we made the most of it.  

It’s an easy group to facilitate, in that people just talk to one another and that is often enough. We supply the coffee, biscuits and a roof over their heads. 

We don't need to begin because immediately people relax and start to talk to one another and genuine and warm connection happens. 

The moment of eye contact and the knowing nod of the hear, people agree and say ‘yes, that’s us, I feel that’ the isolation thaws in the warmth of company that does not just intellectually understand but ‘gets it’, I mean really ‘gets it’.

Today the conversation eases towards connection, everyone in the room describes the slow constriction of their social networks, the fracture in relationships and the separation that they live in as they care for their child. Children whose version of normal isn't, children who break your best friends vase or get their cousin in a full nelson on a back garden bouncy castle. 

As we talk the conversations coagulate around this disconnection from the world around, this othering that acts as a lens to focus the isolation even further. 

Worlds that have become small. 

Fractures in relationships that we relied upon in previous times, times before complicated children. 

We are a tribe now, all our stories are different, adoption, biological, kinship, fostering. We walk the same path but we are connected.  

Peer support is often characterised in professional circles as the cherry on the cake of adoption support, an added extra so to say. However, I increasingly believe it's the cake, interventions are good but they are a moment in time, peer support is often woven into every day and minute. 

To finish I mangled a quote from brighter minds 

For families peer support can offer a culture of hope, resilience and 'normality' as opposed to a culture of hopelessness, isolation and a sense being perpetually on the outside of society.*

* the original quote is in relation to adult mental health 'Peer support can offer a culture of health and ability as opposed to a cul­ ture of “illness” and disability' Curtis, L. C. (1999). Modeling Recovery: Consumers as Service Providers in Behavioral Healthcare. National CouncilNews, pp. 7-9. Rockville, MD: National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

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