Breaking Barriers is an early intervention service providing support for children and young people affected by the imprisonment of a close family member. It offers tailored one-to one support to reduce anxiety around prison, emotional wellbeing and assist with engagement at school.
I referred Charlie, my 7-year-old son to the Breaking Barriers service as I was concerned about the traumatic impact his father’s imprisonment may have on him.
I had been struggling for a while to tell Charlie the truth about his father serving a three-year sentence for a historic sex offence. At the time Charlie had been led to believe that his father was working away. I felt that the time had come to be honest with my son about his dad being in prison to allow Charlie to open up and discuss his feelings. Ormiston Families’ Breaking Barriers service initially offered me information on how to best communicate imprisonment to my son along with some individual sessions to enable this process. After further discussion with Charlie’s school a tailored six-week intervention service started.
Charlie began to explore and express his thoughts and feelings. He was able to use a wide range of resources including art and craft, informative visual aids, games and worksheets along with a sensitive yet encouraging approach. Time was spent making memory boxes, a feelings wheel and engaging in relaxed art activities which helped open up conversation. Focused time was spent writing letters to Charlie’s father and learning about prison life, which enabled him to gain an understanding of what life was like for his father during his sentence and to help reduce his anxieties.
My son’s sessions covered difficult themes including loss, confusion, separation, anger and worry which helped Charlie build his resilience and self-esteem.
Keeping communication open between home and school proved vital in maintaining specific support in areas that were causing concern. As a result of Breaking Barriers, Charlie has progressed and experienced a difference at home and at school. The service was a great support network for me, and my son looked forward to all his sessions. Charlie told me that finding out about prison was helpful and that he enjoyed making the feelings wheel. His teacher said that improvements had certainly been made socially and emotionally for Charlie.