"Parentline and the Non Violent Response (NVR) programme have been an invaluable support to us during a very difficult and challenging time with our 14 year old son.
In what seemed like a short period of time our son changed from a sensitive, engaged teen to someone who we felt was unrecognisable. He was involved in risky behaviour, bunking off school, smoking weed, disinterested and disconnected from his family. Whenever attempts were made by us as his parents to address his unacceptable behaviour and put boundaries in place his behaviour would escalate into extreme rages, his anger directed at us and his sisters. Shouting, screaming and damaging anything that was close to hand became commonplace in our home.
He was affecting everyone in the family, we were shocked by his behaviour but also worried, sad and upset for him, knowing he was not happy reacting in this way. We felt powerless as parents, a sinking feeling of desperation was compounded by the lack of services available due to the COVID 19 crisis.
We felt alone and embarrassed that we were not coping with the situation. In shock, as he was the youngest of four children who had not behaved in this way during their teenage years.
Contacting Parentline and accessing their services gave us a lifeline and hope. Through our initial conversations with volunteers who listened to us in a non-judgemental supportive way, we realised we were not alone and we could get through this. From our initial contact with Parentline we were then connected with a volunteer trained in delivering the NVR and he became our guide over the next few months as he introduced us to the NVR programme.
At the beginning it was frustrating, we felt we were doing all the work with very little to no progress from our son. Our son refused to communicate with us at the beginning, so we wrote a couple of letters to him saying we loved him, but were not willing to accept certain behaviours that were harmful to him and our family. The rages and aggressive behaviour were not subsiding, there was very little communication. We wondered how we would keep our calm, listening to abusive language, the constant blame of what we were doing wrong to make his life miserable. We questioned what we were doing as we seemed to be making no progress.
Each week we connected with our NVR trained volunteer through an hourly phone session. He listened carefully to our concerns and answered our questions about the NVR programme and guided us through the reality of putting it into practice. He spoke about separating our son's behaviour from the person, repairing our relationship with our son to break down unacceptable behaviour patterns and rebuild our relationship with him.
Through Parentline’s expertise and patient guidance, little by little, our relationship improved with our son. We learned how to parent our son through a different approach, by de-escalating situations through keeping calm, listening and not reacting by mirroring his aggressive behaviour. By doing this we were able to clearly communicate what behaviours would not be acceptable in the family, we increased our parental presence, and slowly began to talk and listen and gain mutual respect for each other. We worked with our son to set the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. As part of the NVR process we asked people to come on board as a support system for our son to help us to repair our relationship with him. This happened in a more holistic way then we had expected, friends of our daughters, we had never thought of as potential supporters, became mentors to our son.
It has not been plain sailing, there have been times when our son reverts back to some incidents of unacceptable behaviour, but we are now able to put things into perspective and deal with the behaviour. By applying the guiding principle of NVR, sustained parental presence in his life, a commitment to rebuilding our relationship with our son through listening, responding calmly and positively as opposed to reacting to the confrontational behaviour.
We are aware that we have a long road ahead. Through his calm, kind, approach and extensive experience, the NVR trained volunteer provided to us by Parentline gave us the confidence and a skill set to apply the NVR process.
As we were continually reminded by Parentline, 'He is going to be ok, things will get better, you will effect change and parental love is an unstoppable force'.