Michael was almost three years old when he arrived at The Redwood with his Mom. Like most kids at our shelter, he had witnessed a lot of abuse at the hands of his father.
Despite being afraid of him, Michael still appeared to miss his Dad very much. He often expressed feelings of unhappiness and loneliness. The Redwood's Child and Youth Advocate, Niamh Connolly, says it's very common for children fleeing an abusive home to miss their Dad: "It's important to realize that when children come to the shelter, it is a loss for them as well. Even when they witness or experience abuse at the hands of a parent, they often remain very loyal."
Michael was finding it very difficult to adjust to life at the shelter. He cried most days, was often sick, and would not socialize with anyone but his Mom. When he first arrived, Child and Youth Counselling staff identified his difficulty with language acquisition and, therefore, connecting with other children, which can often be the result of early exposure to abuse.
A few weeks after arriving at The Redwood, Michael started attending the Children's Program. The Children's Program offers art and play therapy, like interactive games and storytelling, and one-to-one counselling. Since children exposed to abuse frequently experience serious emotional and behavioural problems, a committed group of staff and volunteers work very hard to help children achieve the skills and security needed to break the cycle of violence.
Michael was placed with a volunteer who could help him develop his language skills. One evening, the volunteer showed him a very colourful box filled with flashcards. To everyone's surprise and delight, a huge grin spread across his face as he exclaimed boldly "car" and then "cat" and then "dog." From that night on, Michael would always find the flashcard box, take it to a volunteer and proudly name the pictures.
By the time Michael turned three, he had made many friends and was thriving in daycare. He even started teaching other children words using his coveted box of colourful flashcards!