Stories from the Frontline - Mike
CDI Child Worker Paul helps families adjust to their ‘new normal’.
It's easy to feel helpless during the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s exactly how I felt at first. My team and I knew that we would need to adapt – and fast – to provide valuable support to families like Liam’s across the country.
Liam*, 9, had been struggling with his intrapersonal skills, coping mechanisms and management of emotions for many years. His behavioural outbursts, caused by frustration and an inability to regulate his emotions, caused problems wherever he went. His parents, looking for ways to support their son, turned to CDI’s SNAP Boys and Parents Group.
Each week, Liam and I would work through SNAP skills like identifying hot and cool thoughts and learning how to think through his actions and reactions. I could see that each time we met, he was putting what he had learned the week before into practice. By Session 6 of the 13-week program, Liam’s family was noticing a positive change in Liam’s ability to co-regulate his emotions, and his outbursts had significantly decreased. When we last got together, he was looking forward to spending March Break on a once-in-a-lifetime family trip.
COVID-19 put a pause on everything and hit Liam’s family negatively. His father was laid off from his job. His mother, an elementary school principal, was stressed and unsure about how best to support and direct her staff. Their family trip was cancelled without financial reimbursement. Liam and his siblings were devastated.
During the weeks following March Break, Liam’s behaviour began to deteriorate. There was no set schedule in the household, he was sleeping in all the time and spent most of the day playing video games. Unmotivated and restless, his behavioural outbursts began to resurface. Despite their best efforts, Liam’s parents were unable to manage his behaviour.
Our team quickly modified programming and pivoted into our ‘new normal’ by providing tele-counselling support to families. During my first check-in with Liam’s family, I helped his parents implement strategies and compile a daily structure the family could use. I encouraged his parents to enforce a similar structure as if it were a school day: for example, wakeups and bedtimes were created to remain consistent in the event school started up in the next few weeks.
Liam’s parents made a request to have weekly phone contact with myself to continue to learn different SNAP strategies on an individual family basis. His parents quickly implemented a reward chart and found success with it as Liam became more motivated to earn a reward for tasks completed. During our weekly Parent Sessions, both his parents have given me examples when they used their own SNAP calming techniques, and how easier it is for them to de-escalate a situation when they STOP to breathe themselves.
It has been almost 7 weeks since the disruption of groups, and this week I am planning my next session with Liam’s parents. They are grateful to our team and our ability to provide phone support during this time of social distancing. Liam, who at first felt uncomfortable speaking over the phone, has now agreed to speak with me to continue his sessions over the phone. He shared that he misses his SNAP friends and cannot wait for groups to start again.
As the days go by, seemingly blending into one another, I can now say that hopefulness has replaced my feelings of helplessness. Despite the circumstance of our current situation, Liam and his family are now successfully finding ways to cope through our ‘new normal’ through continued and valuable support.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
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