Life had been different for Annie since her parents got a divorce 2 years ago. Annie, 9, was having a rough time at home and in school. At home, she felt torn between her parents who lived in separate houses and had separate lives. She often wondered if she was loving one parent ‘too much’ and felt that she couldn’t be honest to either parent about how she felt. There were instances when she lied about her feelings towards her mother just to please her father. She felt alone and abandoned. Often, Annie was confused. She did not understand why her parents broke up and thought that the divorce was her fault. She could not understand her emotions and would get hysterical when she got too upset.
In school, Annie found it difficult to concentrate in class. She felt tired all the time and started interacting lesser with her friends. She grew self-conscious about having divorced parents; and often wondered if her friends would treat her different if they knew of her parents. She fell sick often and her results slipped significantly over the past 2 years as she kept missing school. Despite being in Primary 3, Annie was not able to understand basics like multiplication and times table. She was at-risk of repeating the year because of her poor academic performance. Teachers were puzzled at her lack of academic motivation and pre-occupied mind despite having a team of teachers coaching her.
The school counsellor referred Annie to LCCS. The caseworker assigned to the case carried out several individual and group sessions with Annie. She used various methods of helping Annie understand and verbalize her emotions; and set up a support system between herself and her classmates. In one such session, Annie had verbalized her desire to speak to both her parents. She wanted a safe platform where she could be honest about her feelings, and wanted to share about how the divorce had affected her. The caseworker thus arranged for a restorative circle. This would include Annie, her parents, and other family members who were also affected by the divorce.
At the restorative circle, both Annie and her parents learnt about how the divorce was affecting them. Annie’s parents learnt of the internal struggles that had overwhelmed Annie for the past 2 years. Annie shared her guilty feelings and her desire to spend time equally with both parents. The safe environment allowed Annie to be honest about her challenges in school – something she had never shared for fear of disappointing her parents. Annie was surprised to learn that was not the cause of the divorce – much to her relief. Annie’s parents were open in sharing how life was different for them and affirmed Annie for her perseverance and positive changes in school thus far.
The restorative circle gave Annie and her parents the opportunity to share their feelings and thoughts in a safe environment. Annie felt more relaxed after the circle process and her parents made changes to their lifestyle to spend more time with Annie. Subsequent restorative circles were held within the family whenever conflict arose and has become part of the family’s process of building relationship together.