Families are not built to break, but sadly they do. Often children suffer the brunt of the consequences, and are left feeling unsafe, insecure and alone.
Kate’s* parents separated when she was 7 years old. She felt alone in the world.
At her greatest moment of heartbreak and anguish, Kate found someone to lean on in her time of need – her school chaplain, Jen. You made this possible.
“I first met Kate in Grade 3 after her mum asked me to check in on her,” Chappy Jen says.
“She was extremely anxious – she wasn’t sleeping, which made her tired, which gave her headaches so she couldn’t concentrate on her work. It was a horrid cycle.
“She would grind her teeth nervously at school and her anxiety led to some really serious tummy pains.”
She was struggling with her feeling like her family wasn’t normal. Kate’s parents had separated.
“She was sad because she felt she didn’t have a normal family, so we talked about what a ‘normal family’ looked like,” Chappy Jen recalls.
“I helped her see that each family is beautifully unique, and got her to think about the positives she could see in her situation.”
Kate said that through the support of Chappy Jen she was also able to access additional support to help her through.
“I felt like I was the only person in the world going through a family separation because I didn’t see any of my friends with the same problems,” Kate recalls.
“I was young enough to start, but not fully process the situation, so it just made me feel anxious and sad. This had a big impact on my school work – I struggled concentrating and my grades went down.”
Chappy Jen was there each week for Kate, which eventually helped her see the situation in a different light.
“She’d just speak to me like a friend would, but we didn’t always talk about the situation – sometimes we’d do drawings or play Skip-Bo,” Kate says.
“I remember her showing me a statistic that 1-in-4 families go through something similar to what I was going through, which made me feel way better. Just knowing I wasn’t the only one in the world who this was happening to made it more manageable.
“I remember one day she helped me write a letter to my dad to tell him how I was feeling. I never ended up showing dad the letter, but just writing it down took a huge weight off me.”
The impact this support had was incredible. In Grade 6 Kate was named school captain. Her mother Elise* learnt the value of chaplaincy firsthand through the process – and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“I don’t really know why I first went to Chappy Jen – but I’m glad I did,” Elise recalls.
“I guess I knew she was there in the school – it seemed like a good place to go and check on how Kate was doing.
“Jen recognised that she needed support, talked to me then referred her onto a GP to help her with her physical health issues.
“It’s really important for parents and families to have access to a chappy – it’s an invaluable service for those in need.”
Thanks to your support, school chaplains are there to support children like Kate through tough times. You can continue to support school chaplains at suqld.org.au/donate
*At the family’s request we have changed the names of certain individuals mentioned in this story.