The Hidden Pressures That Students Face And How These Can Impact Their Wellbeing with Helena Kulikowska and Sara Turner

The Hidden Pressures That Students Face And How These Can Impact Their Wellbeing with Helena Kulikowska and Sara Turner

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More pupils than ever before are facing unseen pressures, causing an increase in anxiety and stress in pupils of all ages. What are the hidden stresses and what can educators do to alleviate them?

In this special Behaviour Secrets compilation, we have weaved together the advice of two SEMH experts, Helena Kulikowska and Sara Turner. They reveal the importance of understanding and empathising with individual pupils and why putting an effective programme of support in place is vital for them to succeed.

Important links:

Ormiston Families website

The Our Time website

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Show notes / transcription

Sara Turner  0:00  

Children I've been to see, little ones and I've said "oh, you know why I'm here? and they don't, and I explain that "oh I know your daddy's in prison" and their face changes completely the recognition that Oh, how did you know? It just changes everything because I think they really feel that they cannot talk about it.

Helena Kulikowska  0:15  

There is fear within families if we do ask for help, or if we say anything or reveal anything, that could mean that social services get involved, and that could mean that the family is broken up or the children are removed from their parents. And sadly, that has been the experience or very many families who have struggled alone for a long time.

Simon Currigan  0:36  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to the latest episode of school behaviour secrets, the podcast where we approach SEMH and behaviour issues in school with the same kind of nuance that Mrs. Doubtfire showed for the topic of gender reassignment in the early 90s. I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton, who's shaking her head at that introduction. Hi, Emma.

Hi, Simon.

Emma, I'd like to start by asking you a question. According to a US survey, what were the three biggest pressures teenagers said affected them. And I should say this survey was taken slightly before COVID.

Okay, so the three biggest pressures teenagers were affected by in no particular order, I'm gonna go. One, pressure to fit in with their peers. Two, pressure of exams or performance or keeping up with their studies. And three, something to do with social media and the pressure to be perfect.

Not bad. You're pretty good at these. So the actual answers were in third place. 28% mentioned the need to fit in socially. So you nailed that one. 29% highlighted the need to look good. You got that one as well. And 61% said they felt a lot of pressure to get good grades. So that was a full house wasn't it? That's having a teenager for you. Interestingly, half said they felt drug addiction and alcohol consumption were also pressures for their age group as a whole. But only 6% said they felt personally under pressure to drink alcohol, though that's an American study where the drinking age is 21. I'd be interested to see what the figure is in the UK where the age is 18.

Interesting. So why are you asking this question today?

So the aim of today's episode is to highlight for hidden pressures that our students might be experiencing, that we as teachers might know nothing about which could affect their emotional and social well being whether you're teaching at primary or secondary, because it's not until we really understand all of the factors and the pressures affecting a child that we can empathise with them and start putting together effective programmes to support if they need it. And I wanted to weave together the key pieces of advice we got from two experts on the subject, Helena Kulikowska and Sara Turner, they gave us some really valuable insights into how a parent's mental health issues or issues around family crime can impact on their child's well being. So today, we're going to bring that insight and advice into one place.

Sounds good. And by the way, if you're listening to the show, and you find the information and insights useful, please don't hog them all to yourself. share the information with your friends and colleagues. So they spread and support kids in as many classrooms as possible. The easiest way of doing that is to open up your podcast app, click the share button and send it on to two or three of your colleagues who you feel would benefit. It's as easy as sharing a Facebook post. And don't forget, if you are new to the school behaviour secrets podcast and you like what you hear, you can always go back to the very beginning of the series and listen to the episodes you've missed right back from episode one.

So let's start this episode by listening to Helena Kulikowska, who spoke to us about how a parent's mental health needs can impact on their child both at home and in school. I'd like to start by welcoming our guest Helena Kulikowska to the show. Helena is development director for the charity Ourtime, who supports children who are affected not by their own mental illness, but by the mental illness of their parents. And this is a much overlooked area of need in our schools. But the emotional impact on those pupils is very real, and it has a significant impact on their lives, especially for those students who find themselves in the role of carer at a very early age. Ourtime provides schools with resources and training about the needs of children of parents with mental illness. And if you haven't seen their website already, I want to say that the free resources and activity packs they've got available are of a very high quality. Helena, thanks for joining us today to talk about this important issue.

Helena Kulikowska  5:12  

Thanks very much, Simon. It's lovely to be here and a pleasure to meet you.

Simon Currigan  5:16  

So let's start by getting an idea of the scale of this issue. How many children are affected by the mental health needs of their parents? 

Helena Kulikowska  5:24  

Well Simon, we know that 2.9 million children and young people in the UK are currently living with a parent who has a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. So that's 2.9 million children and young people. However, that figure only includes parents that have anxiety or depression. We know from our community projects or our family work and our work in schools that actually there is a plethora of mental health difficulties and mental illnesses that affect families. In our workshops alone, we have parents who have multiple diagnoses, complex mental health issues, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia are very common, and often they sit alongside a diagnosis of anxiety and depression too. So the number is considerable, we can confidently assume that the number is far above and beyond 2.9 million. The challenge we have in the UK is that because these children and young people are not recognised in national policy, there is no legislation or policy guidelines specifically for this group or practice guidelines for professionals working with children and families where a parent has a mental illness. That means it is very hard to count the number of children and young people affected, it's very difficult to give a complete and accurate picture. However, the figures that I have quoted are from the recent children's Commissioner's report undertaken in the last couple of years.

Simon Currigan  7:08  

So if those estimates are about right, just to give our listeners an idea of how big this issue is, autism rates, top out affecting about one in 50 Children, we're talking about one in five children, that's up to six children in every single class. And really, it's surprising that there isn't a government lead, big picture counting analysis and support for these children who have really significant practical and emotional needs. Let's have a look at how the issue affects the children themselves to start with. And I suppose there are two separate elements to this. There's that sort of practical side about getting to school and managing your life and coping with your parents needs in the home. But also, there's the emotional impact. Can you talk to us about the impact of those needs on the child how they perceive it?

Helena Kulikowska  7:50  

Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of children and young people in this situation. And I must say by no means or just because you have a parent with a mental illness doesn't necessarily mean you will experience a negative impact. I think that the challenge for many of our young people is that very many of them are in in single parent families. If you have a strong support network around you or another parent that can make a really huge difference to your own mental health and well being and your outcomes because there is someone there to support you and help you to make sense of the situation and access support. However, sadly, mental illness can often break up families sometimes is associated with or can sit alongside other complex issues such as domestic violence, and substance misuse. Obviously, those two things are factors that can lead to family breakup as well. So very often, these children and young people might find themselves alone. And we've often heard from these children and young people, they've told us that before finding out where they can access support or accessing support through our charity, they felt very much alone in the world. So in terms of what the impacts are, as you said, there might be some practical elements to it. So there could be a adult child role reversal in the household where the child or young person often the older sibling will be caring for the parent or possibly other siblings in the household. And that could involve practical things as other young carers or carers of parents with physical illnesses and disabilities might experience as well. It could involve helping around the house and giving the parent their medication. For example, getting other siblings ready for school. Emotionally, that is a big factor as well, because some of these young people might be providing emotional support to their parent, especially if their parent doesn't feel like they have anyone else to talk to and that emotional support might not be age appropriate. A lot of the young people also experience a lot of fear and worry, especially when nobody explains their parents mental illness to them. So a very common fear for these children is, will I catch a mental illness because my mom or dad has a mental illness? Does that mean that I am doomed to have a mental illness myself as well? In addition to that, a lot of young people feel responsible, have I caused my parents illness? And can I fix it? And they will make attempts to make their parent feel better or feel happy. And when that's not possible, often the young people will blame themselves. And inevitably, that will impact on their self esteem and mental health. Another thing that's very significant is isolation and stigma. In a lot of the families that we work with stigma around the mental illness is a common factor. So mental illness sometimes isn't even spoken about within the family, let alone outside of it. And that is something that we see across all cultures. So the mental illness is like an elephant in the room that is seen, but unspoken, and that can be really difficult when it's something that is affecting the whole family, but they don't feel that they are able to speak about it. And as a result, a lot of these families are isolated from your traditional support networks. If you have a problem in the family, you might reach out to extended family or friends that we hear very often that that's something they feel that they hadn't been able to do. And inevitably, this might affect the young person's school life, they might be coming to school, tired, withdrawn, not having had the space or time or energy to complete their homework. And very often these young people aren't the troublemakers. And they are very fearful of outside interventions, because there is also fear within families of if we do ask for help. Or if we say anything called reveal anything, that could mean that social services get involved. And that could mean that the family is broken up or the children are removed from their parents. And sadly, that has been the experience or very many families who have struggled alone for a long time, and have only been able to get support once things got really, really bad. And that's required critical statutory interventions, which obviously are very disruptive for the family. So on the one hand, we really encourage professionals to notice this group of young people, because a lot of them at least initially want to remain hidden. They don't want to draw attention to themselves or their family situation. So all of these things, they're not having an explanation, not understanding it, not having any support and making sense of it, feeling possibly responsible, worrying about developing a mental illness yourself, feeling stigmatised, isolated, and not having anyone to talk to, in addition to the possible burden of care, that could be for the parent or other siblings in the household. Inevitably, that will cause a high level of stress for these young people, or could cause high levels of stress and enormous pressure for these young people, which could certainly impact on their mental health. However, that is not inevitable. There are things that can be done and with support, we can put really good protective factors in place for these young people.

Simon Currigan  13:40  

You said support relies on having an attuned adult, I'd like to unpick what that means, what kind of practical skills do we as school leaders and teachers and people who work in schools, what do we need to develop practically to help support those children in our classrooms? 

Helena Kulikowska  13:55  

Yeah, I said it takes a trained eye. And I do think it does. But that doesn't mean you need to be a mental health expert or need lots and lots of training and specialism in this area. That's actually something that schools and professionals worry about. So teachers will say to us, but I'm not a social worker. I'm not a counsellor. I'm not a mental health expert. How can I support this issue? So that's the number one thing we say to teachers. You don't need to be a mental health expert in order to support these young people. And you also don't need to have all the answers and you don't need to fix it. So what I would say it's about taking notice and being open and inquisitive, asking questions. If you notice that a young person is withdrawn or seems preoccupied with their thoughts, is under a lot of stress, is not being their usual selves. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Don't force the young person to talk but be consistent with your interest, and it can be quite a general question, you could say I've noticed you haven't quite been yourself recently, I've noticed you've been quite tired or preoccupied, is everything okay at home? Is there something that's on your mind? Don't put too much pressure or force on the young person to talk if they don't want to, because they might be very afraid of that. And they won't necessarily initially trust you. But it's important to be consistent with your interests. So maybe make an effort to check in every couple of days or once a week, or however frequently feels appropriate in the context of the situation. And then if the young person opens up to you ask them what they would like to happen next, and you might provide some suggestions, they might only be talking about it with you for the first time, so they might not know what they want to do or what they want to happen. So that could be a suggestion of finding out more information about the particular thing they've asked about, or it might be helping them to access some young carers support or support for themselves or their family confidentiality is a question that often comes up. And it's really important to be upfront about this. So inviting outside intervention or intervention from social services is something that the young people really fear, they worry about getting their family into trouble, or they worry about being separated from their parents. So it's important to be clear about the confidentiality you can keep. So as a general rule, we say that the conversation you have with the young person is strictly confidential. And you respect that confidentiality. However, be upfront that if there is anything that they disclose to you, which means you would be worried for their well being or that would make you think that they are at risk, then you have a duty to report that, obviously. Other things that you can do. It's about creating space, being compassionate and not punitive. When we work with schools and teachers, we say it's about creating a safe space or a safe environment, within the school where the young person feels supported. So that could be they don't have their homework on one morning, because of something that's been going on at home, it might be that they're allowed to go to the library to quietly get on with that and catch up. They might have an agreement with you that if it's not a good day, they can go to a space or have time within the classroom to quietly get on with their work or do some reading, or whatever might be appropriate. If the young person is late, you're aware of a difficult situation at home, be compassionate and understanding and not punitive, or punishing, as that might isolate the young person further. A really important thing, if you haven't yet mentioned is don't target the young person. What I mean by that is because they already experienced a lot of stigma, or might experience a lot of stigma, and don't necessarily want to be noticed when you're having these conversations, make sure it is in a confidential space where they're not singled out amongst their peers, when a young person is singled out. And I'm sure this is obvious to listeners, you risk isolating them further. And also it sends a signal that there is something wrong with them that they are the issue or that it's them that have the problem, and it singled them out from their peers from whom they might already feel quite isolated. 

Simon Currigan  18:46  

And when you speak to kids about their difficulties and getting support in school, what makes the biggest difference to them in the way the adult responds?

Helena Kulikowska  18:53  

There are three key things that international research has shown help children and young people whose parents have a mental illness build resilience. And those are, having a good explanation. Having a good explanation helps the young people to make sense of their situation. It also helps to combat the negative misconceptions that exist around mental illness. So for example, can I catch a mental illness? or I'm responsible. Having a good explanation helps to combat those. It also makes the situation and illness less scary and frightening when you can understand it and make sense of it. And it also helps the young people to differentiate between their parents ill and well behaviours. Now ,you don't have to research and come up with your own explanation. There's lots of resources and videos on our website. There's a fantastic animation called Making Sense of mental illness, which is designed for children aged under 11, but actually could be used with with children of all ages. So that's the first having a good explanation. The second is knowing you're not alone. As I said, a lot of the young people feel very much alone in the world, they think it's only me, it's only my family. So again, reassuring them that actually mental illness is very common. It affects lots of people. It's not just their family. It's something that affects very many of us throughout our lifetime, and helping the young people to access resources and support where they can understand that better and perhaps connect with other young people in a similar situation. And finally, it's having a neutral trusted adult to talk to. So that is somebody who is outside of the family or outside of their immediate family who is neutral to the family situation and can help the child or young person develop an objective view of their situation and support them to ask for help or access help if they need it. So that person can be a teacher or a member of staff.

Simon Currigan  21:12  

Helena, how can our listeners find out more about your resources?

Helena Kulikowska  21:16  

They can go on our website, we have some fantastic free resources on our website. So our web address is www.our And on there on our resources pages, you can find lots of information about this topic, you can find training for teachers and school staff and you can find resources that you can use with your children and young people. At the moment on our website. During the pandemic we developed for free PSHE modules to support schools with their COVID recovery curriculum. And we've done that for primary and secondary. We've also got lots of videos and supporting activity sheets on our website, and YouTube channel which you can use with your class. That young person comes to you and says, I want to know more about mental illness or my parent has a mental illness. Some of our videos are a really good resource to watch together in terms of helping the young person find out more and access information and support.

Simon Currigan  22:21  

Okay, I think one of the key things Helena highlighted there was how a strong family support network is a protective factor for children. But often these are missing for lots of reasons. And the child finds themselves alone struggling to cope with adult problems. And we need to think about how we address that issue for them to be able to succeed in school.

Next, we're going to dig into another factor that affects people's emotional well being and that is parental imprisonment. And it's a much bigger issue than we as teachers often give credit to actually. Here's what Sarah Turner from Ormiston families had to say about the issue and she shared the truth about how widespread this issue actually is and gave us some practical ideas for supporting kids in school. Okay, today I'd like to welcome Sara Turner to the show, Sara works with Ormiston families who, amongst other things support families affected by offending and prison. They provide tailored programmes to support to help kids with their anxieties and emotional well being creating a safe space for kids to talk, play and express their thoughts and emotions. Sara is a senior practitioner with Ormiston Families. So she's got practical experience of supporting young people affected by imprisonment. And the focus of her work is using games and activities that help children build the tools to cope with the stresses they find themselves under. Sara, welcome to the show.

Sara Turner  23:47  

Thank you very much.

Simon Currigan  23:48  

It's lovely to have you here. I'd like to start by asking why do you think the issue of imprisonment goes under the radar? Because in terms of prevalence, how many families are affected? Imprisonment affects as many kids as autism, but it seems to get very little publicity or awareness, especially within the education sector. So why do you think that might be?

Sara Turner  24:09  

I think the stigma is huge. And I think a lot of families think that they're going to cope on their own and really don't want the stigma of that brandished around them for the children, especially children really feel they've got no one to speak to about it. I think that's the big issue. So I think it does become like a big kind of secret if you like because the stigma is so huge, big it's a massive issue for them

Simon Currigan  24:33  

Because they don't want their own personal situations being promoted.

Sara Turner  24:34  

I don't know that promoted I think it's the issue is finding a safe place that they can express and talk about it. So I think it's sticking your toe in the water of where that is and I think that's where almost as good and other organisations because they are just about imprisonment. I mean, there's children I've been to see little ones and I've said "Oh you know why I'm here? And they don't and to I explain that. Oh I know your daddy's in prison and their face changes completely. The recognition that Oh, how did you know? and it just changes everything, because I think they really feel that they cannot talk about it. So I think we underestimate how much of a stigma it really is for the families, for the people left behind to be able to say, you know, my husband's away, he's on holiday or something like that. And the children wanting to go and see Dad wondering where he is. All of that stuff. When you start unravelling it, there's quite a lot of strands in there.

Simon Currigan  25:26  

So in your experience, when a family member enters the prison system, what's the biggest emotional impact on the child?

Sara Turner  25:31  

It would be separation anxiety, it's huge. And I think the absolute uncertainty of what's going on in there. The scenario building of what prison is like. We show them a video, we've got a DVD to let them know what prison is like, which is really helpful because a lot of them think it's like, you know, like Orange is the New Black or some Hollywood movie and they've got a scenario in their head that dad's emaciated, being beaten up, and you know, all this type of stuff. So when we show the DVD and see, you know, his cell looks like, what it's like when he arrives, the different things that he can do that for some children is very reassuring. For some it's quite mind blowing, because they've got this other scenario, the separation anxiety, and the scenario builders have the two main big things at the beginning for the children.

How relieved, are they when they see that video? How does it change the way they perceive what's happening to their parents?

It does. I've had one child who said she kept pausing it when we were playing it, and she's the one that said, "Well, Sarah, it certainly isn't Orange is the New Black is it?!" And I said, no it isnt. This is a six minute DVD and it took us an hour to get through it. Because she kept pausing it she couldn't believe there was a pool table on the wing, she's going you know "Well, I'm not having that. That's not true". And I said "it is I said, I've seen it. I've been on the wing. And I've seen it". We've talked about that, we marked out how big the cell would be, I think being able to make it a visual, experiential kind of thing. In the room that we were working, we were like, Okay, let's get this up. Let's see where dad would have his things on the wall. There's all this stuff. So actually, it makes it come a bit more alive for them to empathise with the situation and make it a little bit more realistic for them. Rather than being this terrible thing in their head. When they're left alone with their thoughts, it becomes a demon, if you like and bigger and more horrible for them.

Simon Currigan  27:20  

So obviously, all kids are individuals, but they're going through a lot of stress, a lot of emotional pressure. 

Sara Turner  27:25  


Simon Currigan  27:26  

What kinds of behaviours do children start to engage in at school following an imprisonment?

Sara Turner  27:31  

They can become very withdrawn, I would say and disengaged, but I think also that can be quite negative, there can be quite angry outbursts, because of course, there's a whole this set of emotions they've not experienced before. And they've not really known how to make sense of them. So I would say they would be the main three things negative, angry outburst, maybe being withdrawn and not engaging in school. I think they're the main ones.

Simon Currigan  27:54  

Do you see any differences between boys and girls? 

Sara Turner  27:56  

Actually I'm thinking about a girl I was working with. And I was gonna say no, but actually one of the girls I work with, so angry, really angry and wanting to go off and fight everybody. And one of her goals was I want to have boxing lessons and everything. So really very angry. And I'm very grateful. She was able to express it and talk about it, I would say the emotions are the same that help people want to express them is down to the individual.

Simon Currigan  28:22  

Sometimes kids can be quite subtle. So if you're a class teacher, and you're listening to this, are there any behaviours that we might miss to look out for a child struggling to cope with something quietly?

Sara Turner  28:32  

I think you have to look out for the disengagement really and withdrawal, going off into their own world. I mean, I know that can be a whole heap of things. But I know as teachers, you'd all look out for that anyway. I know that what I'm saying is, I think it's so incredibly difficult to talk about that. For me, I've got a boy I'm working with and he was very distressed the other day, because the children come in from school on the weekend, and hey, hey, what you've been doing with your dad, what you've been doing down there talking about things they're doing with his dad, and he finally said, Sarah, I have to make up a big fib thing. And he was so upset about it. I thought it was a great coping mechanism, because of course, it unravels a whole load of other things for him. And I think that's the thing you could have withdrawn, as teachers, you may see withdrawn stuff, but you may see this kind of child who wants to please and theyre making up stories, has been a bit larger than life to cover up the pain as well.

Simon Currigan  29:25  

In your experience working one to one with pupils, what are the biggest struggles? I mean, we've started talking about having to tell lies to their friends, and that's going to be hard over time, especially as a child what other struggles do they share? What do they find hardest to cope with?

Sara Turner  29:38  

It's the anxiety that's the biggest one for me that I see. The younger ones, I give them worry monster. So they can can talk to me, or mum or a teacher, whoever we decide is different points of contact, and I try and give them some strategies for coping. A girl I was working with it was nighttime in bed with her thoughts. That was a real struggle for her and I wouldn't she'd be unique in that. So I think it's the anxiety being alone in the bed worrying, and us giving them some strategies to be able to manage that I think that's probably the best gift we can give them really, they're not going to go out of the bed, wake up mum all the time. Some of them do go and sleep with mum, because the separation there's they get quite insecure and lose mum as well. There's often a clingyness to the remaining parent. I've had that as an issue with quite a few families where they've said, you know, she won't let me out of the room. Just worrying that I'm going to leave too. I don't think y'can underestimate how huge that anxiety is and how it branches off into these different areas in their life, how big that is, I'd say that's the biggest thing I observe.

Simon Currigan  30:39  

It sounds like you provide an outlet, an opportunity to talk that's kind of the only pressure valve that they've got available to them because of their family situation. And they don't want other people to know. How valuable is that to them?

Sara Turner  30:53  

It's massive. I think the thing is, I didn't realise quite how much it was important to them until I'd been working for the organisation for about eight months or so. I realised and it takes a while because even though we're doing a short term intervention, the reality is building up a relationship with somebody, stick your toe in the water. At the beginning, you don't always let everything out at the beginning. You know, you want to build up some trust that you can trust this person. Who am I? Sarah coming in. Okay, It's the lady that knowa about prison, you may have experienced dad going in and out quite a few times. So what has she got to say that I'm going to be interested in, you know, there might be other children, it's the first time it's happened, theyre deeply in shock and deeply traumatised by it. And it all spills out because they can't keep a lid on it. Some young people, I don't have to do any activities, anything with as soon as I get in the door, it's been Talk Talk Talk. And the younger ones it's often an activity, you know, having something that we're doing, and then the talking comes while you're making something or doing an activity with them. So yeah.

Simon Currigan  31:51  

What kind of activities do you use?

Sara Turner  31:52  

We use loads, there's all the workers that have got their own way of working. But I think a common theme is we've got work pack things like that. Sheets around emotions. So for the younger ones that will be like, you know, sheets with emotions, and getting them to identify which ones they are, I do crafts and stuff like that. They introduced the worry monster to them. So they've got somewhere where they can place their worries when they're on their own. I think one of my colleagues... this I love this one, she uses in the early stages, coloured pipe cleaners to identify different feelings and how the child would show how they feel. So they can screw them up and do different things with the colours. And I think that's lovely. I've got puppets, I get them to do some, some drama, sometimes roleplay, storytelling, I'm pretty much needs led and by the child. And we sort of had children say, "Oh, can we do this Sarah?" So it is led by the child but guided by me,

Simon Currigan  32:42  

What's the impact of that work overtime on the child, kind of emotionally and how they're able to engage in school.

Sara Turner  32:48  

I'd like to say that it offers them some strength and stability, because they've got this extra layer in their life, their dad or mum, whoever is in prison, and I think us coming in helps with that layer. So I think it's that bit of like, they already feel like they may be a bit different, you know, so I think us reinforcing actually, that we're there, that there's somebody there, is huge impact for them. So I think it's positive impact for them.

Simon Currigan  33:14  

Do visits to prison effect children in terms of their emotions and the behaviour because when can you imagine they kind of get used to the parent not being there using these coping strategies, but surely then going into prison for a visit. It must just crack those wide open.

Sara Turner  33:28  

I think they can be beneficial. I think the visits are beneficial for the children. My experience is it's really helped them to be able to, like I say, demystify the scenarios they've built in their head that dad isn't eating. I've had children wanting to take food in because they've had this idea that he's wizened away and stuff. And I think they need to be able to see where he is for it to be a tangible real thing. Not be a fantasy. My colleague, she says that she thinks it helps maintain better emotional well being because they're able to see them. I mean, at the moment with COVID, the goal of one of my young people I'm working with is he just wants to see his dad but prison visits are stopped. And he's like, I just want to see him. Having the visits, I think is hugely beneficial, but like you say, could open a can of worms, but then that's the whole bit about us supporting them and helping them work through that stuff. Okay, dad, or whoever has been sent away. So you can reinforce that by saying that they can't maintain a relationship with the child.

Simon Currigan  34:27  

So you help them get the reassurance they need by going into the prison, but also your role is going to help them with the kind of emotional side of that. 

Sara Turner  34:34  


Simon Currigan  34:34  

They see their dad for a bit and then they come away again, and they have to let go of him again. 

Sara Turner  34:38  

Yeah, But then knowing that they're going to see him again, they know that's going to happen. And the thing is with the visits, they have family days, you know they are very child focused for the family days. So I think it's not as draconian as lots of people might think in their minds eye. Like it is for the benefit for that child because we know the impact on the separation is huge.

Simon Currigan  34:58  

So if you're a teacher listen to this podcast, and you've got a child affected by imprisonment in your classroom, what's the first step you can take to start supporting them?

Sara Turner  35:08  

I think you need to let them know, I think you need to let them know that they've got a safe place in the school that they can go and talk to as they need to. I think that's a really good thing to do, be it there, be it in the family room, the, you know, the pastoral services, whatever. But I also think it's really helpful to say to the child as well, what's going to help you, you know, having that dialogue going on. And they might not know, because they have sets of emotions they might not have experienced before. But I think to start that dialogue is really helpful to start chipping away at the stigma. And I think that's the thing is, it's horrible to have that feeling that something so awful is in your life that you can't talk about it to anybody.

Simon Currigan  35:46  

From what you've said, it sounds like for those teachers who are nervous about saying the wrong thing, or having those conversations, actually, the reaction you're most likely to get from the child is relief.

Sara Turner  35:55  

I would say so. And I think I think for any teachers that would feel nervous about any of that, you know, just go back to your training about everything being child focused. But also you've got to be led by the child, you can't make a lot of assumptions because you might have a child who's absolutely bottling it up and is very withdrawn. You might have one it's very angry that time though. I think youve got to check in with the child, what's going on for them really and how they're managing it and how best do you support them?

Simon Currigan  36:18  

And how can our listeners find out more about Ormiston Families, the areas where you support children, the resources that you've got,

Right, well,  you could go onto our website, which is And we do cover all of East Anglia, we cover all of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk, have a left anywhere out? I don't think so. So have a look on there. If you wanted to make a referal for anybody that are affected by it, just go onto the website and you'll be able to find out how to make a referral from there. That's what we're there for. We'd love to hear from anybody struggling. Love to help if we can.

And we'll drop a direct link to your website as well in the show description.

What I find really fascinating about that interview was that how behaviours we often associate with other underlying conditions, like being socially withdrawn, emotionally volatile, sudden outbursts, or not engaging in activities, could have a range of causes. And until we get the full picture of the child's life, it's hard to draw conclusions about what might really be causing those behaviours.

If you want to know more, we'll put links to Sara's and Helena's resources in the show description.

And if you're working with pupils who struggle with their emotions, we've got a range of resources that can help inside our Inner Circle. We've got video training on subjects like how to establish a successful nurture group, which is all about helping kids form positive relationships with adults in school in a safe structured way. We've also got how to support children who have experienced domestic violence, and how to de escalate. And that's our deep dive into successfully supporting kids when they've lost control of their emotions and actions.

And right now you can get access to all of that training and 38 others. With our Inner Circle membership, you get your first seven days for just one pound, and you can cancel your subscription at any time

To take advantage of this brilliant offer. Visit and click on the big Inner Circle picture near the top of the page. We'll also drop a direct link into the shownotes.

Finally, if you like what you've heard today, make sure you don't miss future episodes by opening up your podcast app now and clicking on the subscribe button or follow as it's now called in Apple podcasts. Subscribing feels great, so I recommend celebrating with a freeing wolf howl at the moon. 

Emma Shackleton  38:53  

A wolf howl ?

Simon Currigan  38:54  

Hell yes. Our lupine friends know how to live life.

Emma Shackleton  38:58  

I think I'll pass. Thanks for listening. That's everything we've got for you today. Have a brilliant week, and we look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets. Bye 

Simon Currigan  39:09  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)