The desire to be heard seems fundamental to who we are. In the book 'Sapiens' Yuval Harari explains that the telling of stories defines us and sets us apart from all other animals. It allows connection and helps us organise and co operate.
It's clear to me for that to be true then our stories need to be heard, we need to be heard, we need to be able to tell our stories.
Scrolling and occasionally doomscrolling through the various social media feeds I’m connected into and the need to be heard and to be listened to bounces off the screen. So many of those that post articulate that they have not been heard, by family, friends and services. They talk of being judged, misrepresented or misunderstood. Living with children with complex needs and the associated risks for challenging and complex behaviour is the norm amongst adoption, foster care, kinship, SEN and guardianship communities. The consequences for the adults so frequently is isolation, blame, shame consequently compounding challenges being faced.
A common thread amongs these communities is the experience of 'not being listened to'.
Being heard or listened to isn't a substitute for tangible actual help but without it then there's limited chance that we'll even get to the start line of help. Being sent on courses that don't fit, being disbelieved or judgements being made on limited information are all too common in these communities and the underpinning issue is a lack of listening. Admittedly, some people caught in the maelstrom of child to parent violence or childhood challenging violent and aggressive behaviour struggle to articulate what is happening and what it's doing to them. But still they need to be listened to. Often as professionals we are waiting for our turn to talk rather than listen.
I've been social worked and I can tell when they aren't that interested in my story.
Now I sit on the other side of the curtain, I'm invited to speak to parents and carers to offer help and insight. It's not an easy spot to be in, the issues are complex, multilayered. The solutions are often bespoke as we try to turn downward spiralling systems around while propping up struggling adults and expect them to work towards change.
I often enter into these situations with fear and trepidation but often it's simple.
Shut up and listen.
The effect is often remarkable.
'You get it' and 'You understand' are often the phrases used.
Perhaps then I tell a little of my own story and there's a palpable sigh of relief.
The message is clear, 'You're not alone'.
We look for stories like ours to make sense of our stories, validate our feelings and legitimise our thoughts.
Telling our stories and hearing others' stories connects us.
This is a complex world and if you're living with a child with high levels of need and behaviour that can be challenging then it can be hard to navigate amongs families living in the 'normal'.
I've been blessed having had some amazing professionals and that I felt heard was often the magic ingredient. We need professionals that can listen and listen without limits, be curious and acknowledge peoples' stories and connect.