Accepting what you can and cannot affect.

May 21, 2021

If someone is working in education or support services it is likely that they are a caring person. It seems a key personal attribute. Consequently it is difficult to see a young person who is distressed and not be able to affect change for this young person. It forces us to face our own lack of omnipotence.

I have met a number of young people within school who present this dilemma. Sometimes the ability to affect a catalyst for change around a young person seems beyond the ability and remit of a school. These are the same young people who also do not reach the threshold for external services. They are young people whose parents have limited emotional resources, yet these limitations do not reach the threshold for social care intervention. There are young people who are unsettled in their world by their mental health but do not reach the threshold to access CAMHS.

Schools work hard to care for and safeguard children in their care. Pastoral services support young people through their emotional development and help effect change in that young person which will enable them to engage in their education. It is, however, important for a school to recognise when they are presented with a young person whose ability to engage is affected by factors which are outside the remit of the school.

It can be distressing for staff to constantly work with a child who continues to struggle day after day to engage within the schools ‘expectations’. The caring staff members do not feel they are having any affect. This can be draining for the adult and stimulate the adults sense of failure.

Not meeting the school education expectations, however, does not mean the school is not providing something important for that child. An institute that can recognise a child is in distress and continues to provide mature adult thinking for the child is offering something of huge value. A childs experience of a safe place where adults are willing to engage with the child’s emotional state is going to pay dividends in that child’s future. It may, however, not affect any external difficulties that are unsettling for a child in the present.

A considered shift in the schools expectations around a young person will help to ensure the school feels they are meeting the needs of this child. The adults ability to be with a child without the feeling that the adult is not succeeding will provide a more contained and less threatening space for the child.

I often use this cartoon when thinking about children who are struggling in their education. That goldfish is not going to climb that tree. The fish may well benefit from a pool and to understand it is a fish.

Talk to Kate.