My first client here at Bonnie’s was an experience I will never forget, a young mum with three children who had escaped an abusive marriage.
When I first met this particular family, mum was clearly overwhelmed. She was stressed, she was tired. She had lived in different refuges for almost two years and her seven-year-old child had attended six primary schools in this time. Her visa status was in limbo, and she just wanted a safe place to call home.
Three kids are a lot for anyone to juggle, even when there’s two parents and other support networks in place. You’re always outnumbered!
Throughout our first appointment the kids were bored, they were hungry, they were LOUD. They wrestled with each other pretty aggressively and were swearing and spitting at each other.
“They sure have a lot of energy!” I said to mum with a smile, trying to be supportive. She turned to me, with tears in her eyes and said “Mel, they are monsters. I don’t know what happened to my beautiful children. Please help me.”
I didn’t know what to say. The kids were acting like little monsters. How was I going to help mum turn things around?
Being new to the role, I wanted to handle this situation as best I could, so I spoke with one of our Child and Youth Workers. She told me not to worry, they would settle once their environment was stable. She told me she was sure it would only take two weeks for things to change.
To be completely honest, I didn’t 100% buy it. I couldn’t see how things could turn around so dramatically so quickly. However, I took the advice on board and confidently told mum the same. “Oh, it’s the two-week rule” I said to her, “everything will be different in 2 weeks!”
Moving day was tricky. The kids were acting up, mum was stressed, the oven was broken and there was so much to do. But at last, this family had their own home. Their own space, their own bedrooms. Even their own backyard to play in.
The next few visits to the home were unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
Right before my eyes the “monsters” were transforming. And sure enough, almost like clockwork when I popped in to visit about two weeks after they had moved everything was different. The youngest waited patiently at the door (he had a bad habit of running out into the street) and when I got to the door, he explained that mum had rules now and he wasn’t allowed outside on his own. Impressed, I came inside and praised the little one for being so good. Inside I was even more surprised when two very polite little girls asked could they help me carry the bags inside? Would I like to see their new bedrooms? Pleases and thank yous all over the place!
More tears in mum’s eyes, but this time tears of happiness. “The two-week rule!” She said to me with a smile. And we haven’t looked back. Almost a year later the kids are doing well in school, mum is in control of her household and while there is still visa uncertainty and financial struggles the future is certainly looking brighter.
It really goes to show that stable housing is critical for all of us, especially after going through trauma. And now I’m a believer, the 2-week rule is real!
Blog by Mel.
Image via Canva.