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Children’s Homes – Places Of Happiness And Joy.

Children’s Homes – Places of Happiness and Joy.

The sound of happiness of laughing children and grown-ups playing together drifts over the neatly trimmed hedge. As I turn the corner of the road, I can see there are grown-ups and children playing in the flowered garden. There are flowers in the beds, blossom on the trees.  I see shared the ties that bind them, the sharing of laughter and joy.

As I walk on, I reflect ‘How is it that some people think children’s homes are joyless places?’ Darker, some think they should be joyless believing what has brought the children to a children’s home is their ‘fault’. Some people want them to be thought of as joyless, a sort of deterrent effect; some of this group know this is untrue, some of them are thinking of wider issues, like their need for family as a concept to be unassailable.

To all who think laughter and joy have no place in children’s homes we’d ask them to consider a life, especially a childhood, without Joy and Laughter.

How can these preconceived ideas be changed? Explanation, exploration, description, positivity over negativity.

A single laugh with those who love and understand you lasts a lifetime. Though it lasts a minute it lingers. It does not go away.

For some children the only setting that can provide a home is a children’s home. There have been enough families; some children will be recovering from families, some looking to return, some preparing for a family for the first time, some enjoying being part of this group care (aren’t families groups?) as their secure base, now, for their future, and always.

As I carry on my walk, I appreciate the quickness of the comments between the group of attuned grown-ups and children. The speed and inventiveness tell me these people know each other very, very well. They trust each other to have a good time safely.

An odd word that last one, safely. It needs explanation, exploring, description, to dispel any negativity and leave positivity.

For all of us it has to be safe to enjoy a laugh. It is a risk. It may be a relief, but it also requires risk, and trust. We live our lives in a zone of comfort, beyond are the zones of discomfort and being uncomfortable. When we laugh, we leave our zone of comfort, being discomforted we find a way to cope, we find a way to deal with the challenge acquire a new skill of laughter, to bring it back and to extend our comfort zone.

For some children leaving the zone of comfort is a challenge to be avoided. Panic ensues, ‘If I step outside, do I know how it will be? How will I get back again? I cannot lose what I have. I cannot.’

They are frozen by  previous traumatic experience. It takes time to unfreeze, the pace is that of the child establishing trust. Laughter at this stage might be too risky. It places the child outside what is comfortable for them. But there is no giving up.

There is a view that ‘therapy’ is once a day, once a week, for 50 minutes. Winnicott thought the everyday living could be therapeutic if it was provided by good-enough relationships, reliability, dependence, gratitude, emotional holding are necessary for growth. These elements are necessary as responses to conditions that have been survived but left a child with a not-enough experience of a good-enough ‘internal environment’. Previously experienced ways that have often been repeated, though they have not brought the warmth and love craved, need interrupting, new ways applied substituting, and always grown-ups here are creating, inventing new ways to ‘Be’. The book ‘The Other 23 Hours’ (Trieschman, Whittaker, Brendtro (1969) explores the relationships that go to make a therapeutic milieu. Behaviour changes through day-to-day relationships.  Trust is gained through being there at times of crisis.

Finding a new way to be ‘Be’ is to find a new identity, a ‘new Self’, a foundation for findings ways to ‘Do’. It needs grown-ups who can see before, beneath, beyond.

Think of how a parent with a young baby seeks to make the infant laugh. But sometimes a laugh turns to a cry. Sometimes a child in a children’s home laughs then is unsettled in an instant. They have found themselves beyond their zone of comfort too quickly.

I appreciate that witnessed repartee in that garden as very special, a patient achievement by everyone involved, being enjoyed all the more.

A children’s home can be the right time and the right place among the right people to have a laugh and experience joy.

NCERCC