When Katy and her family – mum and three siblings - moved from Queensland to NSW, they looked forward to a life of new beginnings.
In leaving their home, they were also leaving behind a life marred by years of physical and emotional abuse.
Now, with grandparents close by for support, Katy dreamed of happier times. But those dreams weren’t without fears.
Katy was apprehensive not only about attending a new school but if she would be accepted or make new friends. She also worried how her brother Joshua, 13, would cope with a new school. With a diagnosis of autism, ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), Joshua often struggled at school and his regular suspensions due to behavioural issues impacted the whole family.
Thankfully, the pair’s new school has been incredibly supportive.
It was Katy’s grandmother who first noticed a difference in her granddaughter. While she knew the 11-year-old initially struggled with making friends and was trying to manage a range of difficult emotions, she also began to note a gradual shift in behaviours.
For Katy, that shift came after being part of a Seasons for Growth group. Seasons for Growth is an evidence-based program available through schools to help strengthen the social and emotional wellbeing of students who are dealing with significant changes in their life. Through the imagery of the seasons, participants explore how change and loss has impacted them, and teaches positive ways in which to respond.
The program is part of a suite offered by MacKillop Seasons to support those who have experienced change, loss and trauma in their life.
Through participating in Seasons for Growth with her classmates, Katy learned there were other children, like her, also experiencing challenging issues in their life: some were sad, while others sometimes felt scared. She liked knowing she wasn’t alone and there always someone to talk to if needed. Katy also managed to put into practice some of her learnings from the program: asking a classmate who was being bullied to join her group of friends ensured he didn’t feel alone in his sadness.
Slowly, Katy’s confidence grew. She made new friends and began to enjoy going to school each day. As her confidence grew, so did her independence and the need to always have her mother or older sister close by her gradually abated.
Her grandmother cannot believe the change in Katy and she cannot believe what a difference the Seasons for Growth program has made. If she had her way, the program would be a compulsory subject taught to every school student, equipping them with critical emotional skills to navigate life’s good, and often challenging times.