Little changes, big impact

Cerise* didn’t have an easy upbringing. One of six children raised by an angry, abusive father, she grew up feeling angry and unable to express herself in any other way than that of her role model – loudly and aggressively.

A year ago, when Cerise saw her two-year-old son displaying the same behaviour she was showing him she knew it had to stop for his sake and that of herself, her partner and their new baby. To Cerise’s credit, she turned to Jigsaw Whanganui for help. Sleep deprived and exhausted she picked up the phone, called Jigsaw and asked if they had someone who could help her manage her feelings and help her to teach her son how to manage his.

It didn’t take long for Jigsaw to respond. They assigned social worker Vanya to work with Cerise who knew her toddler son was playing-up at day care as well as at home.

Cerise says she warmed to Vanya almost instantly. “She would call in and chat to me while I pegged washing on the line or completed chores in and around my baby’s needs before the two of us ‘got down to business’,” Cerise says. “I really looked forward to the time I had with Vanya and I’m very grateful to my partner who was understanding and supportive of me asking for help.

“I knew I didn’t have the knowledge and experience to fall back on that other parents have,” Cerise says. “My son would react and all I wanted to do was shut him down without knowing how to understand why he was reacting in such a way and how to help him manage his behaviour.

“Vanya taught me to get down on the floor, look my son in the eye and talk to him in a soft voice using appropriate language he could understand. It wasn’t long before I could see how little changes were having a huge impact on both of us.”

Cerise says she met weekly with Vanya for three or four months – generally for an hour, and only once with her son.

She knows now that because he didn’t have the language to express himself at two years old he was relying on her tone of her voice and her behaviour to try and understand her messages to him. Vanya also explained how important it is for children to have routine and security and especially so, when their family moves house before a new baby’s arrival as had happened for Cerise’s son.

A year on, Cerise is practising all she was taught and she’s thrilled with the change that’s brought. She feels a lot happier, her son is happier and the day care her son attends tell her they’ve seen big changes in his behaviour. “I hope getting my behaviour right when my son was little will have a positive impact when the teen years come along,” Cerise says. “I’m so grateful to Jigsaw.”

“My mother turned to them for help when I was child. Mum says they were wonderful and now they have helped me and my family.”

*Name has been changed

“They reminded me to use skills I’d forgotten I had.”

“You made it work for me.

You didn’t tell me what to do, but wanted to hear what I thought.”

Jigsaw programme truly saved my life

The thought of joining a group with other parents and sharing the problems in my life did not seem like something I would ever do. I was worried about facing judgemental minds especially in a small town and that I would never trust those around me enough to open up completely. Well I can tell you from the moment I walked in that door and felt that warmth and honesty of others my fears soon disappeared and the support and courage from those other parents came flowing my way.

So when I joined up I had no idea that not only my parenting skills would change but also how I saw myself and the way I would change as a partner.

Throughout the programme I felt nothing but support from the other parents that were in our group but most of all the love and belief Sue and Robina had for each and every one of us. It was recently when we caught up for coffee, instantly there they were refilling my kēte with love and support. Nothing but positive words and ideas.

This programme has taught me to have a positive outlook on life and to find the greatness in each situation. There are days when I do not feel this way, yet months on Sue and Robina pop into my head and reassure me that what I am doing is great. It takes a very special kind of person to come into your life and change it for the better and continue to do so without being around every day.

My son who was turning 3 when I first started was my main worry, we did not have a connection like I did with my daughter and it worried me that I was doing something wrong. He was so much harder and I began to resent him because of his behaviour rather than trying to fix what was wrong, ¾ of the way through the programme we shared such a special moment, for a child who never hugged or was affectionate I had seen a massive change. The first time he actually hugged me, it lasted more than 30 minutes and I cried. I cried because I had never experienced this and for the first time I felt WARM! I could not believe how good it felt and from that moment on it continued.

I seriously can’t explain the way these ladies have changed my life. We need to believe in ourselves and the wisdoms that we learn on the course come from within us.

Without a doubt I would recommend this to every parent. Whether you are struggling or not, it is such an amazing programme to learn to understand your children and accept who they are, learning to support them rather than change who they are and to just realise that we are never alone.

Thank you so much Sue, Robina and the whole of Jigsaw for creating a programme that has truly saved my life. I feel free and happy, and wake up happy to be here rather than dreading the life I used to live. You will never understand how much you have done for my whanau and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you.

“They understand our Maori culture and are flexible and supportive.”

“You gave me confidence as a parent to know I can actually do this.”

Teen Parent Turns Life Around

Jane* left school with minimal credits and soon after moved out of home, hanging with the wrong crowd, drinking alcohol and going to parties. Jane’s relationship with her boyfriend Tom* was emotionally and physically abusive. She fell pregnant with her first child.  The birth was a traumatic experience requiring surgery and ongoingpostnatal care, and attachment with her baby was a challenge. So Tom cared for the baby most of the time as Jane felt she didn’t know what to do. After the birth of their second child, Jane was more “hands on” with the children while Tom became distant from the family. He started taking drugs and encouraged her to partake also.

Jane and Tom’s relationship ended following interventions from police and CYF (now Oranga Tamariki).  Jane sought support to regain her dignity and full care of the children. Jane’s father invited her and the children back to her family home. Jane accepted this offer as a fresh start and made a self-referral to Jigsaw Whanganui seeking intensive home-based social work support. After an initial home visit, goals and tasks were set – Jane wanted to increase her parenting skills and knowledge as a single parent, widen her community support networks in the area, and explore options for training and study.

Jane’s resistance to violence was her motivating factor to keep going despite mistakes of the past. Parenting resources from SKIP, Whakawhetu series (ages and stages of development) and Triple P Parenting  have added to Jane’s growing self-confidence. She now enjoys playing alongside her children, and with her dad’s support has transformed parts of the backyard into play areas similar to day care. Jane has implemented with success simple morning and bedtime routines with the children to ensure they feel safe and secure.

Jane now feels better connected to the community. She is enrolled at a medical health centre, and with Plunket, and knows of play groups and craft groups that run during the week. She has met with an adult training co-ordinator and participated in some personal development and taster courses. Jane’s dad believes the children are settled and is proud of how his daughter has turned her life around.

*Names have been changed

It’s now my time to give back

My journey with Jigsaw Whanganui started because I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship with my then husband. We’d been together 18 years. We had four children, three of whom had significant impairments including ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety. I hit rock bottom.

As a couple we were experiencing problems with one of our girls, Lisa. Her learning problems were leading to blow outs and huge arguments, and she and my husband didn’t get on, so it was left to me to deal with the issues by myself. I felt very alone and was beside myself as I had no idea how to handle the tempers, and just the general situation we found ourselves in. Out of sheer desperation, I contacted Jigsaw Whanganui for a chat, and they provided me with the much-needed support and lifeline I needed. We discussed ways I could look at defusing the situations we found ourselves in with Lisa, mainly involving the 123 Magic Programme. Then a couple of years later my husband just walked out, leaving me as a solo parent, with four children, three of whom have their own extra challenges to deal with. Life couldn’t have got much worse.

Again, Jigsaw Whanganui were at my side. I had no support financially, I couldn’t afford the mortgage repayments, I struggled to feed to children, I was being told my children weren’t normal and I had no local family that I could confide in. It was at this point that it became apparent that my ex-husband had been very controlling. It had been happening over time, just chipping away. He would make out I was bad with money so would only give me a small allowance each week to cover fuel costs and feeding a family of six. I wasn’t allowed any access to bank accounts. I had lost all confidence in my ability as a parent and an individual.

Before having my children I had worked as a successful lawyer. I was a strong person. Now I was a stay at home mum with four children to look after with no money and was being emotionally abused. I was suffering from depression and anxiety and some days I didn’t leave the house. I couldn’t afford to drive anywhere so I was trapped. This had a profound effect on my children, one of whom stopped talking when he turned four. This lasted for about six months, but it seemed like a lifetime.

Things did start to look up though, and my Jigsaw social worker, Sandy Dunlop has been my rock. She’s helped me access much needed funding which has allowed me to keep the house, put strategies in place to help me make it through the darkest of days. More importantly, knowing that I had someone fighting in my corner throughout this journey gave me the strength to carry on. Daily chores, getting the children sorted and off to school was all an effort but I had to do it with a smile on my face. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I was becoming a perfectionist at front stage management and putting on an act. I couldn’t possibly let my children know the situation we were in. Without the caring support of the Jigsaw Whanganui team I would be in a very different and dark place right now. Just having someone there to walk the path with you, without passing judgement, has been a tremendous help. They have helped me to piece my life back together.

Now I can tackle whatever life throws at me head on. I run every day and this is my little bit of escapism. Over time, it’s helped me to stop being resentful. For anyone finding themselves in a similar situation, I hope my story will give you some hope that in the face of adversity, you can do it. Keep the faith. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if there’s anything good to come out of this, I’m now halfway through a degree in Social Work at Massey University. It’s now my time to give something back!

“I went to jigsaw to learn how to take control back and learn strategies to help make family life happier Sc more cohesive. This was achieved + a whole lot more!”

“My son is no longer on the point of getting kicked out of school now, his behaviour is so much better. Just want to say a big thank you for everything you have done and all your support. It has meant a lot.”

Donate and partner with us to enable change

Our goal at Jigsaw Whanganui is to enable couples, families and whānau to take better care of each other and their children, and where trust, safety and respect are restored. By making a donation to Jigsaw Whanganui, whether large or small, you’ll be enabling us to make sure people who face significant changes have the support they need to make positive changes in their life.