The Family
Mum (Nat) is a single parent of 12-year-old Kenzo and 11-year-old Melissa. Nat works full-time managing a bar at an army base, working split shifts.
Kenzo has a diagnosis of ASD + LD, he is physically violent toward mum and sister, he smashes/breaks property and is controlling of the whole family.
Melissa is struggling at home with Kenzo’s behaviours, she feels it is unfair that he behaves the way he does, she feels people make excuses for him and blame his behaviour on his ASD but most of all she feels unhappy and angry at mum and Kenzo.

NVR with Nat
Mum initially was resistant to change but when I explained her son was trying to express his distress at having some unmet needs and if she was able to give herself and her son space, and time and to be present for him she may find out what those unmet needs are and be able to support him and build positive relationships with him. Mum felt like she was able to connect with her son in a new way which allowed her to be more present and allowed him to express himself in a less destructive way. (The work was much more involved than this)

Great I hear you say this worked quickly and sounds like it was a success!!!!

BUT Melissa now not only felt her brother was being destructive, mean, spiteful and controlled the house but now she had mum being unfair, her brother was getting told he was loved even though he had done some awful things earlier that day. He was not getting angry reactions mum was not shouting at him anymore when he was doing naughty things, he was being given space after he had “kicked off.” Melissa spoke to me as the NVR practitioner who had come into the house and changed the way mum did things and it wasn’t fair because her brother it seems could do what he wanted, yet when she had refused to pick her shoes up and put them away, she had been grounded and she had been shouted at and she didn’t get told to “come and have tea with me, I’ve made your favourite meal just because I love you” by her Mum.

It seems we have moved from a parental eraser to a sibling eraser. To tackle this, a whole family approach was needed, and I began working with Melissa.

This needed to be a sensitive, age-appropriate piece of work which would initially start with Melissa as one-to-one support, then move on to mum and daughter working together and then the family as a whole.

Work with Melissa
– One-to-one imaginary other interview
– Supporters meetings
– Announcement letter to mum and mum to daughter (we called these “how I feel and what I need” letters)
Melissa and I used the imaginary other role play to explore how she feels about Kenzo, how she feels about her mum and what she believes her mum is feeling about the situation they are all experiencing. (age-appropriate, non-blaming, non-judgmental but supportive and appreciatively witnessing how a young person views what is happening around her).

Work with mum
– One-to-one imaginary other interview
– Building up to a supporters meeting (work in progress)
– Announcement letter to Kenzo (how I feel and what I need letter)
– How I feel and what I need letter to Melissa

Melissa’s letter to mum

To mam,
I love you so much and I love Kenzo too but I think you love him more because when he threw the remote control, and it smashed the TV you didn’t shout or tell him off but when I said I wasn’t going to pick up my shoes yesterday you said I wasn’t allowed out. It’s unfair and I don’t like it.
I need to see Kenzo getting wronged when he does bad stuff or me not be told off when I do things. I need my favourite tea made so that we can eat together just because you like spending time with me.
I need to be your princess again, Love Melissa

Mum’s letter to Melissa

To my princess
I am working hard to let Kenzo see how much he is loved by us all and I think I have forgot to let you know what I’m doing and to include you in the changes. I have been feeling very sad, but I think we all are sad, and we need to work together to be happy again.
I have been acting differently when Kenzo has been doing bad things because he needs to know the love we all share is given no matter what.
I promise to include you in my tokens of love like when I make tea and we sit together to eat it.
I promise I will leave my phone upstairs and play a board game with you some nights. We can invite Kenzo to join us but let him know it’s ok if he doesn’t want to.
I promise I will make more effort to be the mam you want me to be, and the mam you and Kenzo deserve me to be.
I hope one day we will all be able to do things as a happy family but for now I will make sure I think of you and Kenzo when I am doing things like consequences, and tokens of my unconditional love.

Thank you for reading my letter and understanding things are different but it’s to make things better
Love mam xx

How are things now
– Kenzo has 100% school attendance in the last 5 weeks.
– Melissa has increased support at school and with friends.
– Melissa has a greater understanding of what is happening at home and this has improved her relationship with her mum.
– Mum feels she is seen and heard in her own home.
– Mum is beginning to build her group of supporters but continues to find this difficult.
– Kenzo continues to shout and swear at his mum.
– Kenzo continues to shout and swear at his sister but this is improving gradually.

Written by

Caroline Price, Family Help Worker
Accreditation Module Participant, 2023


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