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RESTORE – Recognition. Empathy. Safety. Trauma. Opportunity. Relationships. Engagement.

There is widespread RECOGNITION that this pandemic has changed us all and how we view ourselves and our lives. However, everyone’s experience and attitude towards Covid-19 and the subsequent Lockdown has been different and continues to change as we become ever used to our ‘new normal’. The next phase is for us to support each other through the complex stages of recovery towards restoring our health and happiness. 

The end of March 2020 was an unsettling time; I was very unwell with a team at work to support (albeit virtually) and a family suddenly at home all day. Then, my son became ill and ended up in hospital with pneumonia. Almost immediately I had to let go of any semblance of control, at work, at home and with regards to my son’s health. I felt threatened and angry and scared. I also felt incredibly supported by everyone around me. Whether it was a distant relative, a neighbour or work colleague, they all reached out to us with genuine compassion and care; the EMPATHYwe were shown was quite overwhelming. I felt able to temporarily let go of my responsibilities and concentrate on what was important – getting my son well and back home. As I started to come out of the fog, I began to hear stories from others. For some this has been a truly horrendous experience and for others the best thing that’s ever happened to them. I have friends who are being extremely vigilant, insisting on everything being washed at regular intervals throughout the day despite no-one leaving the house, ever. Others are more lackadaisical, casually bumping into people they know in the street, the supermarket, anywhere else they feel like taking a wander. No handwashing for them. These are both normal responses to an abnormal situation and we must be mindful that our moral compass is our own and not everyone else’s. I can teach my children what I mean by ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ but I can’t be responsible for your interpretation. Compassion remains crucial in helping me understand why people are behaving the way they are. 

Above all, for me it comes down to SAFETY and the importance of my children’s health, my health and that of my community, including my elderly neighbours and my parents. Not only has our physical health been damaged, but equally important has been the emotional harm caused. How do we support those for whom lockdown has been a sustained period of TRAUMA, sometimes unconsciously experienced, and how do we support our children to recognise this behaviour as trauma and not simply as bad behaviour? How can we continue to nurture ourselves and each other to ensure we are able to re-engage in our learning and our work? Self-care has been difficult and less consistent for me and I have had to remind myself often, to check my own emotional state and to reflect on how I am feeling. 

I’ve also thought a lot about what’s important to me and how I live my life.  It’s been a real OPPORTUNITY to rethink my working day, to realise when I’m most productive or creative, when it’s best to concentrate on strategic visioning and when I should just check-in with my children and take time out to be mummy. I’ve had to realise I can’t do it all, all of the time and that actually it’s just as useful to spend time being reflective as it is to be active. It’s been a relief to be able to say I’m not always okay and not to be judged for it. 

It’s wonderful to see my creativity and passion for life re-emerge, but most of all it has been amazing to experience the true power of RELATIONSHIPS; to feel connected to my family, my friends and my community in a way I never have before. Some relationships are new but many were already established and have just had the chance to blossom over the last few months. I am also mindful that relationships take time, we need to consciously reconnect every day, relationships are fragile and need nurturing. 

However much some of us may be embracing this new situation, it’s still at odds with our usual routine of school and work and is something we have little control over. It’s this need to feel back in control that I’m now left with. When Lockdown is over, I need my voice and my experience to be heard; to ensure I have some level of ENGAGEMENT in what the brave new world might look, sound and feel like for me. Ultimately, I want to take forward with me what I have learnt about myself and my life and feel a sense of being able to own my ‘new normal’. 

Published by Molly Macleod

After completing her teaching qualification in 1996, Molly decided to pursue a career working alongside disadvantaged and vulnerable young people. Knowing school to be a protective factor for most pupils, she was keen to better understand why some were so disengaged from Education. Following a number of years as a youth worker in Edinburgh, specialising in sexual health and work with young parents, Molly moved to Gloucestershire and joined the County Council in 2008, becoming manager of the Youth Crime Prevention Team. Her subsequent work as a Locality manager for Early Help led her to recognise the importance of whole family working in order to affect sustained changes for young people. She went on to set up Gloucestershire’s Families First programme, working with the most complex and deprived families in the county. Molly is passionate about equitability, inclusion and enabling young people to have a voice. She was introduced to the emerging field of Restorative Practice in 2016 and quickly gained an affinity with its ethos and principles. Since then she has been gathering examples of best practice from across the country and has been working alongside a number of Primary, Secondary and Special schools within Gloucestershire to implement Restorative Approaches. Over the last few years it has become apparent to Molly that the success of a Restorative Approach relies on understanding the impact Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) have on mental wellbeing and the ability to fully engage in the process. As a result, Molly is currently liaising with schools and health professionals to develop a Trauma Informed Relational Practice offer. She is also working with Early Help and Inclusion services to implement a Team around the School model for those schools embedding Restorative Practice, to further support their inclusion offer and re-engage young people in Education. Molly continues to be committed in guiding schools across Gloucestershire to effectively implement Restorative Practice, as well as supporting professionals working with Schools, to understand and model a Restorative Approach. In addition to this she is collaborating with the University of Gloucestershire to embed Restorative Approaches within Initial Teacher Training across the county.

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