In the evening after bath and stories, my daughter and I have “Samaritans Time”. This is a dedicated, private moment where I pretend to be a Samaritans listener, and my daughter calls up to talk about whatever is troubling her. She begins by saying “ring ring, ring ring, ring ring…” in the same way every new Samaritan volunteer does when training.
We pretend that we don’t know each other when talking, so she can feel more able to speak openly and honestly about what is going on. A bit like what really happens when calling the Samaritans. She knows I won’t offer any personal advice or judgment in the call, but rather I will listen and talk through options with her. Which is decidedly unlike what happens in the typical parent / child relationship.
There was a BBC Radio 4 programme I listened to about how best to help a child who experiences anxiety (Bringing Up Britain: Generation Anxious). Apparently, anxiety is like ‘weeds in a garden, if you ignore them they only get bigger. Pull them up early’. I feel this is best done by spending time with the child, one-on-one, listening and talking to them. Phones, mobile devices, computers etc turned off and put away — so they feel important and special enough to have someone take a direct, personal interest in them.
Now when my daughter comes out of school, wearing that familiar scowl on her face which only appears when something has gone wrong in the playground, she will often say “can I have Samaritans tonight?” And the answer is always “Yes, of course. We are always here for you.” Just like the real Samaritans service.
Frank Ray & Associates is a software engineering consultancy that builds high quality software for businesses.