Cassie felt anxious all of the time. Her parents, Sarah and Paul, were fighting constantly.They were always stressed and unhappy and shouting at each other. And the reality is, when things get tough for parents, it’s the kids who feel it the most.
Cassie’s mum was diagnosed with severe depression. The medication made her feel sleepy and she couldn’t focus very well. Cassie’s dad didn’t know how to cope with Sarah’s intense feelings and every conversation turned into a fight. So he just stayed at work for longer to keep away, sometimes working 16-18 hours a day.
Cassie didn’t know what to do either. She was worried about her mother and she was too scared to leave her alone, so she started missing school and staying at home. Her dad became distant. Cassie would try to reach out to him, but he felt so overwhelmed and frustrated by everything, he pushed her away. Cassie felt rejected, unloved and powerless. She wondered if maybe it was her fault everything was going wrong.
Cassie loved her parents so much and she just wanted the three of them to be happy together. She wanted her mother not to be sad all the time. She wanted her father to spend time with them. She saw that many of her classmates had really close relationships with their parents and she longed for that same connection. Her parents mostly fought, so she wished for at least one day without yelling or fighting. Cassie often daydreamed about the three of them playing games together and laughing. In her daydreams, she was a princess and her parents were a king and queen and life was full of sunshine and big love. But the reality was, they were all close to breaking point.
Cassie lay awake in bed all night worrying about her mum’s illness and missing her dad. When she did get sleep, she usually had terrible nightmares about her parents breaking up. By day, Cassie was always on the alert, stressed and anxious about would happen next at her house. When she did go to school, Cassie couldn’t concentrate. She was emotionally exhausted and it had a big impact on her capacity to learn. She just got further behind in class and she felt like her world was falling apart at home.
Her teachers were worried and notified the Department of Family and Community Services that Cassie was missing a lot of school. They referred the family to The Benevolent Society, where Michelle became their case worker offering intensive support to the family.
We believe in acting early, and giving parents the right support before things get out of hand.
Michelle started visiting the family twice a week. She could see that Sarah and Paul really loved their daughter, but they needed help to get things back on track.
Michelle worked together with Sarah and Paul to create a family safety plan to ensure Cassie was always safe. If Sarah and Paul were having an argument or Sarah’s depression worsened, there were plans in place to make sure Cassie was okay. Neighbours and grandparents were also prepared to be part of the family plan to keep Cassie safe at all times.
Michelle set up counselling for Sarah and arranged doctor appointments to review her anti-depression medication. Michelle drove Sarah to all of her medical appointments and to mothers groups where she felt a strong connection with other mums. Michelle also taught Sarah helpful coping techniques that made a big difference straight away, but Sarah still needed Paul’s support.
Michelle helped Paul to understand how important he was to Cassie’s development and the impact his absence was having on the family. She told him that he and Sarah were at serious risk of losing Cassie.
Real change starts at home.
When he realised he could actually lose Cassie, Paul felt like he couldn’t breathe. It was the wake-up call he needed. He recognised that he had left Sarah to cope with her depression alone and he knew he needed to be at home, for both her and Cassie. Paul told Michelle he wanted to know how to be a better dad, so she helped him learn how to parent in a different way and make Cassie feel loved. He also learned how to make her feel like she was a lovable and beautiful person to be around. He could finally truly listen to his daughter and to help her feel heard. Paul also joined one of our fathers groups and felt relieved to know there were other dads out there who sometimes felt as overwhelmed as he did.
Michelle helped Sarah and Paul learn how to communicate with each other in a loving way again. Michelle also worked with Paul on his anxiety, so he wouldn’t feel compelled to work all the time to avoid the things that worried him. She taught him how to control his breathing and other techniques to calm himself down when he was getting stressed.
The Benevolent Society’s support helped to turn things around for the family at home and for Cassie at school. Michelle helped Sarah and Paul establish routines to make sure Cassie was ready for school every day. Michelle got Cassie into our specialist programs to help her catch up with her studies. Cassie especially liked our computer-based programs that help kids to improve their memory and focus better in class. She then took part in one of our social and emotional learning programs, where she learned to understand the signs that she was getting anxious as well as techniques to help herself feel calmer. We also helped Cassie learn how to make friends at school because we knew how important it was for her wellbeing to build strong relationships with kids her own age early on. Cassie had started to relax and feel safe at home, and that meant she could enjoy school again too.
Today, the future is very bright for Cassie, Sarah, and Paul. Their home is a much happier place, and instead of screaming and shouting, there’s a lot of love and laughter. Cassie’s favourite subject at school is art and she loves painting rainbows.
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