The Log Blog

After 6 months of covid restrictions Mel looks at how she can repair the damage caused by lack of face to face groups.

How do we reverse the impact lockdown has had on vulnerable teenagers?

How do you rebuild 6 months of lost confidence?

How do we get back to face-to-face group work, if face-to-face groups have become a risk assessment code red?

For those of you who are working or living with teenagers who are currently struggling with the social impact of covid, the signs and symptoms will be evident. But for everyone else, it can be hard to imagine what teenagers have to worry about. I mean, we got them back to school right?

Unfortunately for some families, therein lies the problem.  For children who found school, education and friendships hard, or for those who thrived being at home full-time, returning to the (new) normal is the real tough bit.

So, what’s the answer to safely practicing group work and at the same time, restoring our young people’s sense of confidence and connection with others? The answer for the Scottish Adoption Teen Group turned out to be right on our door step.

Thanks to Justus, Jamie and their team at the Leith Croft Carbon College, this autumn term our Young Teen Group will be led through their Mine Croft program. Here, we hope to use fresh air and space as our weapon against covid and use therapeutic outdoor group work to re-sow some of the resilience the pandemic took away.

Positivity aside, first sessions with any newly formed group of teens are daunting.  Nerves and anxiety can play out in all kinds of ways, but mostly this looks a bit like reluctance and non-engagement.  Luckily, the Croft team had the kind of relationship building skills that made it impossible for the teens not to get involved. For example, knowing each of our young people’s names from the moment they arrived, to  projecting a welcoming, calm, but importantly fun vibe. In terms of the activities, show me a teenager who isn’t into axes, hatchets and fire…

Fun”,  “good”, “great” and  “freezing” were some of the words used by our teens at the end checkout to describe their first session. Although it may have been cold, the temperature of the group dynamics was uncharacteristically warm, so a win as far as I’m concerned.

After the group, I (a naturally reluctant reflector) thought about how the Croft might have changed some things for me too. As I watched one of our teens balancing on a log, flailing around and shouting, I found myself encouraging them to keep on going and praising their skill. In that moment, I realised, had this taken place in the old world, with the group in the office, the balancing would have been on a chair, or on my desk. I would not have cheered them on, or boosted their confidence. I would not have laughed. My face would have twitched and I would have promptly told them to GET DOWN. The natural space makes you view behaviour differently. What inside is difficult to manage, outside can become positive risk based play.

So the Croft might just be the answers to a lot of our new world problems. Restoring connections, enhancing confidence, building resilience, beating Covid and… my twitchy face!

The answer: #getgroupsoutdoors 

Becoming Us

Does online group work really work?

During deep lockdown, I asked myself this question every single time I logged onto zoom to hold an adoption teen group.

Today, looking at our group, reunited for the first time in person since February, I’m thinking, yes it does!

This evening, we’re celebrating the end of last years group with a trip to Foxlake. Coming together one last time before we welcome our new recruits and saying goodbye to Sarah (appointed 2nd most embarrassing group facilitator) as she moves onto pastures new.

The last time these young people came together in person, in February, the group did not quite feel like a group. It still feels like 6 individual young people, only half aware of their common connection (an adoption experience) and group identity.

But this time it felt different, because today I saw…

  • Good Communication – relaxed chatting and genuine interest in one another.
  • Empathy – helping and supporting each other physically and emotionally get through the challenges of the rope course.
  • Connection – eye contact, nudging, pairing up and shared jokes.
  • Group identity – remembering “old times” together and acknowledging that “our group” will change soon and that there will be both benefits and challenges to that.

Online group work is not without its challenges. It can feel like an emotional vacuum. Screens freeze, people literally disappear in front of your eyes and there’s a very good chance that the kids will know their way around the technology better than you!

But, for this group, it did work. It helped promote all off the above and we continued to build relationships and friendships and then, we became an “us”.

To Sarah who we will miss a lot.