‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood’

Knowing what’s holding you back is often the key to making positive changes. Rosanna Rothery finds out about the mums who, quite literally, have been smashing down barriers to a happy, healthy relationship with their kids. 

The mums are scribbling things that hold them back on a giant wall. Mental blocks include traumatic experiences, frustrating encounters and self-defeating emotions.

The act of sprawling spontaneous graffiti over a wall  is just one of many fun, creative activities on Grow Together, a course to help victims of domestic violence heal their relationship with their children.

‘All these things get shoved on the wall,’ says intervention worker Rachel Tossell, who runs the course. ‘We look at each individual item and we share ideas. We ask: “what can help break that wall down?” The women then write their solutions on post-it notes which they stick on themselves. Then they all smash down the wall together.’

This cathartic act of demolition is just one of the many tools used to empower and support mums who want a better understanding of how domestic violence has affected their relationship with their kids.

‘There is always time to heal’

‘It’s called Grow Together because we don’t want to dismiss what the mothers are already doing. They are already a parent and they just need to build on the positive stuff.’ says Rachel.

The six-week programme, developed in the NDADA refuge but now being adapted for mums in the community, helps women regain confidence in their parenting skills.

‘The perpetrator can put quite a lot of obstacles in the way of a women being a good mum: dismissing her parenting or encouraging the children not to listen or answer back,’ says Rachel. ‘When they come out of the relationship there could be a lot of things leftover that affect how things are with their children.’

Simple recreational activities encourage children to express their feelings and creativity. A nature walk, doing a jigsaw together or just collecting garden foliage for an art project can turn into therapeutic and fun bonding experiences.

‘Not all children need professional help but some do, so it’s about awareness,’ says Rachel. ‘We look at how play can be therapeutic so children can talk and express themselves, which is a really important part of healing.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood

An excerpt from the poem by Bruce Williamson to remind us we can play at any age

Wonder and wander around, feel

happy and precious and innocent,

feel scared, feel sad, feel mad, give up

worry and guilt and shame, say yes,

say no, say the magic words, ask lots

of questions, ride bicycles, draw and

paint, see things differently,

Fall down and get up again, look at

the sky, watch the sun rise and sun

set, watch clouds and name their

shapes, watch the moon and stars

come out, trust the universe, stay

up late,

Climb trees, daydream, do nothing

and do it very well, learn new stuff,

be excited about everything, be a 

clown, enjoy having a body, listen

to music, find out how things work,

make up new rules, tell stories, save

the world,