Jack* is 7 years old and his Dad serves in the special forces. Jack’s Dad is regularly deployed overseas, usually at short notice and sometimes on consecutive assignments. The nature of his job means he regularly misses Christmases and Jack’s birthdays and Jack rarely gets to speak to his Dad while he was away, which put strain on their relationship.
Despite the pressures of deployment, Jack and his family were settled in one location with a good support network until summer 2022 when the family were posted to the other end of the country and Jack had to move home and school for the first time.
Jack found the move incredibly upsetting and stressful. He began to get angry and have tantrums about the smallest things and cried for weeks, asking to move back to his old house. His mood meant that it was tricky for him to make new friends at his new school, especially as none of his peers were military children, so didn’t understand or share his experiences. The school also didn’t have any targeted provision or support for service families. This quickly led to Jack not wanting to go to school, which turned into a battle for the family each morning.
Jack’s Mum explains: “The move triggered a change in Jack’s behaviour but I think a lot of what he was feeling was built-up, high levels of stress from constant change and uncertainty over the years.”
Jack’s Mum approached the school for help and was referred to the SENCO team for an assessment but she felt that Jack really needed support that was specific to military life and she didn’t know where to turn.
During this time, a nursery worker from Jack’s brother’s nursery, mentioned the Little Troopers Therapy Programme to Jack’s Mum and she self-referred him to the programme.
Within a few weeks, Jack was assigned to a local therapist from the Owl Therapy Centre. She met Jack in person every week for six weeks to deliver a bespoke programme of one-to-one therapy that specifically explored the challenges he has experienced growing up in the Armed Forces, including deployment, separation and moving home and school.
The one-hour sessions were delivered in the comfort of Jack’s own home so that he felt comfortable enough to open-up and share his feelings. The therapist also personalised the programme to ensure that Jack got as much benefit out of the sessions as possible.
Mum says: “The Little Troopers Therapy Programme has been amazing and I am so thankful that the nursery mentioned it to me. It was really easy to self-refer and within a few weeks Jack was getting the help he needed.
“Every week he would look forward to his session and it made him feel special that his feelings and experiences were being acknowledged and heard. The therapist went out of her way to get to know Jack and make the sessions more personal. I think it made a real difference that the sessions were face-to-face as Jack got to know the therapist and could be more vulnerable and share his feelings. The sessions have made him feel proud about being a military child and I do think they will help him cope with change in the future. I think that every single military child could benefit from something like this.”
The family is now planning to use the parent videos series that is part of the Therapy Programme to continue exploring Jack’s feelings and emotions together at home.
*Names have been changed