“A child who lives with violence is forever changed, but not forever ‘damaged’. There’s a lot we can do
to make tomorrow better.”
~ Linda Baker & Allison Cunningham;
Little Eyes, Little Ears
At only 5 years old, Annie has seen more in her short lifetime than most other children her age. Jason is a 7 year old boy who has also seen more in his short life than most other children his age. While both children have grown up in families affected by domestic violence, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Annie is as quiet as Jason is loud. They would meet up with each other in the playroom at Rowan House.
Sadly, their first few meetings were anything but pleasant. They were made even more stressful every time Jason shouted at Annie and told her that he hated her. And every time he shouted at her, Annie shrank a little, got quieter and more subdued.
Learned behavior in young children is often played out as it is witnessed in the home. In this instance, young Jason was doing what he had seen so many times before by taking out his anger and frustration on Annie, while she did what she had seen so many times before, and that was to retreat.
The Children’s Program team had their work cut out for them as they worked with these two young clients. First and foremost, the children were reminded of the house rules. At Rowan House, all spaces are meant to be safe for everyone. Then they were reminded that everyone had the option of setting boundaries and that those boundaries should be honoured. However, as much as the workers hoped that a simple conversation was all it would take to restore order to the play room, they got to see firsthand, that this was not to be. Jason seemed intent on making Annie feel bad.
On this one particular day, Gaby, one of the workers, could see that Annie needed one-on-one support so she took her into the Sensory Room*. Annie walked into the dimly lit room and noticed the projected night sky with stars moving peacefully on the wall, she watched the ever changing coloured bubbles move up the cylindrical lamp in the corner and then she gently touched the marble panel with its cool glass, sparkling lights and gentle noise. It didn’t take too long before Annie was calm and Gaby spoke to her about safety and emotions and gave her the permission she needed to set boundaries for herself.
That is why I want to thank you. Your support allows us to help mothers and their children as they work to heal from their trauma. Did you know the Children’s Program facilitates the repair of the attachment, or deep connection, between mother and child? This is fundamental to achieve milestones, and to develop the skills to build healthy relationships.
Later, back in the playroom, Annie decided to colour. It wasn’t long before Jason made his way over and grabbed the crayons away from her.
At first Annie looked sad but then she remembered what Gaby had said. In a quiet yet confident voice, she said, “you can’t take the crayons from me, you didn’t ask me.” Jason looked at Annie, returned the crayons and then asked if he could colour with her.
And so it is, small steps for our young residents, just innocent bystanders to domestic violence, as they navigate their way back to a life where happiness and joy are what they look forward to.
With your donation, you can change the course for our young clients as they learn new behaviours. Myrna, another worker in the Children’s Program, remembers feeling such an enormous sense of pride when she noticed that Annie could communicate to Jason that he hurt her feelings when he told her that he hated her. All the workers reminded him that saying mean words can hurt other’s feelings. This seemed to give Annie the courage to also verbally communicate her feelings to him.
Children just need one person, like Myrna or Gaby to speak for them and believe in them, and then they find the courage to speak for themselves. “I felt this was a huge thing for her to communicate her feelings in the face of his abusive language and may give her courage to speak out again to someone else that hurts her,” said Myrna.
With your gift, you can secure the future by helping children to become strong, resilient and caring individuals. Our children are our hope for the future and deserve to play in a safe environment as they explore, heal and learn.
*A sensory room is a special room designed to develop a person’s sense, usually through special lighting, music, and objects. It can be used as a therapy for children with limited communication skills to play. At Rowan House, it is used for emotional regulation, for example, for women and children to calm or uplift themselves.
To protect the identity of those we help, the names of the children have been changed but their story is true and representative of their short time living in Rowan House.
Each fiscal year, Rowan House needs to raise $800,000 to deliver crisis and preventative services for women and children affected by family violence and abuse. We anticipate an expenditure of approximately 10 cents on the dollar in direct costs to raise those funds. Donations given as a result of this appeal will be used for general operating costs by Rowan House Society. For more information, call 403-652-3316. Thank you for your support!