Little Giants Group for Kids Experiencing Family Violence and Abuse
In 2020, we published the children’s book Stanley on the Shoulder of Giants, developed by family violence and abuse specialists with an in-depth understanding of how children respond to and resist violence and abuse.
We’d like to create a Little Giants group for children experiencing family violence and abuse, ages 8 to 10. The pilot will consist of 2 groups of 8 to 10 children, running once a week for 8 weeks. We’ll start with reading Stanley on the Shoulder of Giants. Then, throughout the program, children will safely share their own experience with violence and abuse.
Traditional counselling used with adults is not productive for children. Instead, the therapists will help the children to effectively express their trauma using methods of communication they use every day: spoken words, body language, writing, and drawing. Using art therapy techniques, the children will write and illustrate their own storybook. The book will be spiral bound for them to keep and share with their parents. Through the book, the children will explain how they keep themselves and their family safe, how they are brave, and their own hopes and dreams for the future. In their own words and drawings, the children share critical information which they could not articulate in a traditional counselling environment.
Running simultaneously will be a connection group for the victimized parents. The group’s therapist will support mothers as they come to understand how violence and abuse affects children’s ability to form attachments with both parents. The mothers will gain a deeper understanding of how their child’s behavior and body language can indicate how the child is experiencing, yet hiding, trauma. The sessions will also provide invaluable peer support for women living in the community who may find it difficult to connect with other women who share a similar experience of violence and abuse.
The children’s own storybooks will be presented to the moms. The storybooks demonstrate how the children are active and imaginative as they use their behavior to manage their circumstances.
The Little Giants program will be run through our Child, Youth, and Family program which provides counselling for children and youth, family counselling with the parent(s) and child, and parenting support for mom and/or dad. Specific topics include developmental screening of children and youth, financial literacy for parents, and play-based therapy for children and their families.
Who Will it Benefit?
Family violence and abuse does not discriminate and is found at all socio-economic levels of our population. Calgary Polices Services report that calls to their domestic conflict phone line come from across Calgary, representing every quadrant evenly. The clients of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, both victims and perpetrators, cover diverse demographics. While there is a greater risk of violence and abuse in marginalized populations due to barriers which can restrict their access to resources, there is no single demographic which is singularly targeted by perpetrators. Family violence and abuse affects everyone.
In children, research indicates children who witness domestic violence can demonstrate psychological responses similar to those of children who are direct victims of violence and abuse. Whether experiencing violence and abuse directly or indirectly, it can lead to a slowing of physical and mental development including negative behavioral shifts, bed wetting, regression in language use, poor academic achievements, and a breakdown in the relationship between the child and the victimized parent. Childhood trauma related to family violence and abuse in children can lead to chronic physical suffering and poor mental health as adults. There is a danger of children experiencing diminished social capacity which can impact their future success as adults.
The Little Giants program will be run through our Child, Youth, and Family program which provides counselling for children and youth, family counselling with the parent(s) and child, and parenting support for mom and/or dad. The program is available to families living in the community and to those staying in the Emergency Shelter. Specific topics can include developmental screening of children and youth, financial literacy for parents, and play-based therapy for children and their families.
The Children’s Activity Centre within the Emergency Shelter provides a blend of structured and child-led play, where the focus with the children is on keeping oneself safe, identifying emotions, and providing opportunities for socialization.
Unfortunately, since the beginning of the pandemic, children have been at an increased risk by 21.5% of being victimized or experiencing family violence and abuse.
Each year, the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter supports 15,000 individuals across all our intervention and innovative prevention programs.