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Our house was burgled at the beginning of this year. Thankfully we were all out at the time and no-one was hurt. The kids and I got a big shock when we got home and noticed that one of the back windows had been smashed. I still remember the feeling when the realisation of what had happened sunk in. The Police came and investigated but there was very little evidence and not much could be done. After an initial period of adjusting, some security upgrades and the chance to process what had been happened, I found that I was able to move on pretty quickly. Our insurance covered most of the stolen goods and paid for the repairs. A month or so down the track though, I started to notice some changes in my youngest son’s behavior (Jack). He was wanting to sleep in bed with us, became scared of the dark, didn’t like playing outside in the yard anymore, was playing out burglaries in his games with toys and his siblings, and reports were coming home from school that he was talking a lot about “bad people”. It was at his parent teacher interview that I had a chance to talk to the teacher about what had happened at home and he suggested that Jack may benefit from some counselling. I hadn’t ever really thought much about counselling for kids, but after talking about the idea with my husband, we decided to give it a go.
The counselling seemed to be really beneficial. The counsellor spent a lot of time making Jack feel comfortable and getting to know him first. She took the time to find out what his interests were and I could tell that this helped Jack to feel safe. The room was child friendly, with lots of art supplies, colourful pillows, toys and books. I really liked the way that the counsellor involved me and my husband in the sessions. We would generally have a brief catch up at the beginning of the session to check in with how Jack had been since the last session, before she would spend time with him. We would then touch base again at the end of the session. Jack ended up really enjoying the sessions. He was nervous at first, but quickly started to become excited to show me the art work, drawings and worksheets that had been completed in the session.
Through the counselling, I was able to learn some great strategies to help my son feel safe again. I would speak to him regularly about the house being safe now and about the role of the Police to keep people safe. I don’t think I initially realised the impact that hearing adult conversations about what had happened were having on Jack. For example, he was there when the Police initially came and during subsequent discussions with them. Engaging with the counsellor helped me to realise it was important to limit exposure to these conversations and my husband and I became more mindful of what we were discussing around the kids.
The counsellor also spent time exploring feelings with Jack and letting him know that everyone has different feelings at different times and that they are all ok. Together they came up with some strategies that Jack could use when he was feeling certain emotions, such as breathing, talking to someone, kicking a ball and playing with the dog. By the end of the process, Jack was clearly able to recognise that he had lots of “safe people” he could talk to and that there were plenty of adults to keep him safe. We also went through some really great relaxation exercises which I was able to do with him before bed. I found that this helped his sleeping and was beneficial in transitioning him back into his own bed. Talking about ways to get Jack back into his routine and maintaining this seemed to be really helpful.