I want to tell you about my girl, she grew up in an environment where the adults couldn’t be trusted, but you know this because I told you. She learnt that the best way to keep herself safe was to always be ‘OK’, remember, just like when I told you how she likes to always appear ‘ok’ even though she isnt?? She learnt that from a very early age ‘smiling’ all the time kept her safe, when she smiled no one bothered her, but when she cried, or needed a nappy change or even just some food, the adults weren’t always too happy about this. So she smiled, it was the safest way to be, you know, just like I told you.
The thing is, her smile switch gets stuck when she feels scared, the same as it did when she was small. She cant turn it off, she doesn’t even know how to. She really wants to, she finds it so frustrating to not be able to frown, cry, ask for help. She really wishes people would help her, but she just cant let herself be anything less than ‘ok’. Her ‘smile switch’ gets stuck when she’s at school. Remember when I said I needed you to help her even when she looked ok?
You’ll have noticed the lack of anything other than ‘happy’ from her I’m sure. You probably think its strange that a child that received so much support in Primary school is seemingly happy and settled after only a few weeks in high school with very little support. You may have even noticed how little she needs, how helpful she is, and of course the smile she wears, every day, without fail. I’m sure you will have, because these are all the things I told you about before she came to your school.
When she’s at home her ‘smile switch’ gets un-stuck, she no longer feels terrified, she feels safe. She tells me about her day sometimes, how scared she has felt and how hard it was. She tells me its her fault that no one helps her, she tells me that she thinks she is stupid for not telling you that she needs help. She tells me about the times that she really tries her hardest to show you, but all she can manage to do is to tell you, smile intact, that she has a headache. She tells me how disappointed she feels when you still don’t realise that she needs your help. Then, she shows me the only other emotion she’s learnt. Anger. She learnt this one early on too. She saw the adults around her get angry a lot. She learnt all about fear and anger, in fact they’re probably the only 2 emotions she is really familiar with. She’s just as good at showing ‘anger’ as she is at showing ‘happy’.
So I’m wondering why, when I gave you all of this information about her, when I told you all about the signs to watch out for, the smile, the helping, the facade. Why is it that you are still unable to believe me when I tell you that she is feeling un-safe in school? Why is it that you are still not supporting her? Why is it that you are even sometimes careless about the things you say to her or the work you set for her? Why is this so difficult for you to understand?
Perhaps its because you don’t live with a child that has lived a life similar to the that which my girl has lived, perhaps its that you have never even met as child as scared as mine, or perhaps its just that it is too hard for you to think about, too hard to consider that you don’t know how to help her and support her, maybe its just too hard to believe that I know her best. Well you don’t need to worry. Because I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about my girl so that you can help her feel safe in your school. I know my girl better than anyone so your rather lucky to have my insight, but I seem to remember telling you all that before as well, do you remember? It was just before you promised that we could work together to support her. I’m so glad we had all those meetings. I’m so glad that I trusted you to support my girl just liked you promised you would.
Pissed off Parent!