The last few months have been an interesting time for us all. We have all had to deal with change in some shape or form. For the young people on the Breakthrough programme, this has also been their experience but amplified due to their circumstances.
As we reflect on the uncertainties we have faced as adults during the coronavirus hysteria of 2020, we can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for a child of the state to grow up during this historical time.
What did lockdown mean for our children?
One of the most commonly referenced sources of stability for our children, namely school, still has no true certainty about it. Some of the children, due to their generalised label as ‘vulnerable’ were forced by their foster parents to travel to, attend and return from school every day throughout the lockdown. Many of us are still working from home and avoiding public transport to find our own certainty around feeling safe. What was it like for those children forced to travel each day? How safe did they feel? These are children who have had chaotic lives and value feeling safe above most things by definition.
Most of us have the ability to meet with our family members now. As we reflect on what it was like to be locked down and unable to meaningfully connect with them in person, we are reminded that even before the lockdown most of our children on Breakthrough were already restricted to time they could spend with their biological families within do-called ‘contact’ agreements (drawn up by their social services).
So it begs the question, what must it have been like to go from seeing Mum, Dad and siblings once bi-monthly, often supervised, to a short call on Zoom or Teams?
When we gain perspective on what the lockdown was like for our children, it helps us to reframe our own experiences to bring about new feelings and insights towards our own circumstances. It wasn’t so bad after all was it?
Taking control of our experiences and emotions
We believe that one of the most useful skills we teach is the ability to reframe an experience. That’s why we invited all of our participants to the first Saturday Link Up of this academic year at the end of August. Our Wellbeing and Career Development Manager Claudia worked extremely hard to ensure our provision was Covid secure and safe by implementing 15 protective measures and triple planning for all eventualities on the day.
The theme was ‘post lockdown party’ and one of the most valuable workshops Claudia delivered was focusing on the young people’s reflections on the lockdown. Within this, she reminded all of our children what their top 5 character strengths were. Character strengths have derived from research around virtues and are a key aspect of contemporary positive psychology, the study of happiness and flourishing*. The children reflected on the lockdown in a positive light, some reframing their experiences enabling them to focus on what they had learnt and how they had applied their character strengths to overcome the challenges that this time presented for them.
Looking at our circumstances and experiences through a lens of strengths can be a useful training tool in achieving the flexibility of thinking that is directly linked to the promotion of resilience. Empirically evidenced research has also highlighted a direct correlation between knowing what our strengths are, using them in meaningful ways and increased levels of emotional wellbeing and physical health.
We have been bold throughout this uncertain time, often bringing certainty and belonging to our children’s lives where external circumstances have taken that away from them. Breakthrough has been a consistent support network offering daily positivity videos, weekly welfare calls, online get-togethers and we are now proud to be leading the way in working in person within what has now become our new normal. We may be living with a bit of additional risk but the invitation is there to ask ourselves, did we survive, or thrive, during the great coronavirus pandemic of 2020?
*Our Wellbeing and Career Development Manager Claudia also recommends Tim Lomas’ et al. ‘Second Wave Positive Psychology. Embracing the Dark Side of Life’
What young people say
Fourough and Lucy joined Breakthrough a few weeks ago. Both of them were proactive and expressed their wish to join the programme after Claudia, our Wellbeing and Career Development Manager, presented it to a group of teenagers. What instantly connects Forough and Lucy is that they didn’t only have to learn a new language, English, but also learn about and get used to British customs and ways of life. Breakthrough has given them an opportunity to meet people with similar challenges and experiences, make new friends, and become more confident.
Hi my name is Forough and I want to talk about my first experience.
On Saturday it was my first day to go there but I went with my friend. We were together. I was very excited to see how everything is going on and who I would meet?
I was nervous because English is not my first language and I was worried how to communicate with people there.
When I got there everything was amazing. Claudia and her colleagues were so lovely and kind with us. There were a lot of teenagers I met and it was very nice to see them.
It was so cool and funny when we started our day with facts about the staff and we had to guess who these facts were about. It was my first time playing this game and it was emotional for me.
During the session we did a lot of group work, and we talked about a lot of things. That was perfect because group work helps my social relationships and my English language as well.
They taught me I have to have confidence in my life and do not stop myself because I don’t have much self-confidence yet.
At lunch time we played music and we ate very lovely and nice food with each other.
Then my favourite part arrived, which is dance! We went into two different groups and we were competing with the other group and finally our group–dance won.
It was a really nice day for me and I was so happy.
Thank you for everything and making me feel happy.
My experience of the Saturday Link Up.
I am very glad to be given the opportunity to share my experience about the Breakthrough programme. By the way, I am Lucy.
I must admit that at first, I wasn’t quite sure of what this programme was about, but I decided to give it a try. So, when I got there and saw all the other people, I was like: “Ok yeah, it might be a great day!”
My experience there was that it was the first time I had to stand in front of everyone and talk in a quiet atmosphere. I was so nervous, but through all the encouraging words from the staff I was able to step out of my comfort zone. This really tells me that it is a place where everyone who feels low about themselves can actually be to gain some confidence.
I got to know that no matter how good or bad your life is, you still got to stand up and keep moving, because once you believe in yourself you can make things right. Breakthrough allows you to meet people to enhance your communication skills and also have friendly manners all together.
Breakthrough gives you the opportunity to be whoever you want to be. If you let them know who you want to be, they are there to guide you for you to be able to achieve your goals.