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Help at hand while Dad's in Afghanistan
11:00am Sunday 27th October 2013 in News
WHILE their fathers in the fusiliers have been serving for months in the summer heat of Afghanistan an NSPCC family centre in Tidworth has been providing vital support to anxious families left behind.
The Ashdown Family Centre runs a pioneering service in the local junior school for children whose parents are deployed abroad and soon to be returning home.
The service aims to relieve some of the anxiety children can face when parents are on tour, including dispelling myths about what they’ve seen on the news.
Children can join the NSPCC lunch club which runs every week during term time on a drop in basis.
NSPCC practitioners, Army staff and volunteers are on hand to talk to the children about anything that might be worrying them.
Adela Lake, the NSPCC social worker spearheading the initiative, said: “We encourage the children to tell us when they arrive how they’re feeling and let us know when they spoke to Dad the last time.
“We also find out when parents are due to return so we can prepare the children. But, it’s not all serious. children can paint pictures to welcome Dad home, send an ‘ebluey’ ( an email letter) or write out an old fashioned one.
“Children can often feel overwhelmed with what is going on around them, especially when they hear such horrifying stories on the news about what is happening to our troops abroad.
“Parents left at home may be feeling the strain and children might be inadvertently put under more pressure than they can cope with.”
Clarenden Junior School has nearly 300 pupils on roll and 85 per cent have military parents. This service was offered to the school as a pilot and it was welcomed with open arms.
Clarendon’s head, Karen Ward, said: “The club deals with our pupils’ emotional needs. With many pupils in every class being from a military family, something like this is as important to us as the curriculum.
“We offer the service when a family member is about to be deployed or is returning home as this can be a time of heightened anxiety for the child so we offer support and ways to cope whilst they are away.
“The children know the club is a lot of fun but that there are specially trained people there they can talk to, as well as a male role model from the Army to talk to them.
“It always amazes me how resilient our pupils are. Often they are away from extended family and have moved about quite a lot and their ability to fit in and make friends is to be praised.”
Colin Wheaton a community development worker for the Army Welfare Service, said: “What I like is that the club is voluntary but we’re always packed.
“The kids know they can come and express their feelings in the right way and that there are adults there that will listen.”
The NSPCC is hoping to roll out this service to other local schools.
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