Wangui Wanjiru, psychosocial counselor, CVT Nairobi
When I think of Rosa, the first thing that comes to mind is her positive outlook on life. Not only this, Rosa is keen on bettering herself as well as protecting and preserving her own wellbeing and that of her children. She is also a highly self-aware individual in addition to being a very attuned mother to her two children.
Rosa is able to see how her own wellbeing plays into her parenting relationship. She is not only committed to understanding herself but also to understanding her children as individuals and adjusting how she parents them accordingly. She is committed to “seeing” them and making sure that she is their primary source of nurturance.
My interaction with Rosa started during the second cycle of the Trauma-adapted Psychological First Aid (TA-PFA) tele-counseling sessions that CVT was offering via phone calls after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. When we first started our tele-counseling sessions, Rosa would at times share the struggles she was experiencing as a single parent. Typically, our sessions would be about her and how she was fairing. However, by the time we had our third session, I observed that she wanted more. She wanted to focus on not only improving her relationship with herself but also her relationship with her children. She was already doing a lot for them, financially and socially, but felt that she needed more information on how she could better meet their psychological needs.
Rosa had already moved houses to protect her 15-year-old daughter from the stigma faced by many girls and women who have been sexually violated in the community. She understood the effects that whispers and gazes would have on her daughter’s self-esteem and was determined not to let her daughter face this. She relocated to a different area and enrolled her daughter in a different school.
She also understood the possible psychological effects and the social rejection attached to the incident and sought counseling for her daughter at a youth counseling center at a local hospital. She was keen on being her daughter’s friend. She would try her best to set aside time for them to talk and engage in enjoyable activities, affirm her and her future dreams and highlight her strengths. She was also careful about how she instilled discipline in her daughter as well as her 10-year-old son.
When I noted that Rosa wanted more out of our sessions, and after consulting with my supervisor, I raised to her the possibility of integrating information from the CVT Parenting Manual into the current Trauma-Adapted Psychological First Aid (TA-PFA) tele-counseling sessions that we were having. This would mean adding a few more sessions to the six sessions that are set for TA-PFA.
She eagerly agreed to this arrangement stating that she had already been teaching her daughter the coping skills she was learning from our TA-PFA sessions. She had taught her how to use deep breathing to cope with anxiety and how to recognize her strengths and use them to challenge negative thoughts.
In the next session we focused on recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety symptoms in herself and in her children, especially the daughter who had recently faced a traumatic event. During our psychoeducation session on PTSD, Rosa shared her own experience with trauma and that she had observed similar symptoms in her daughter. She was relieved to finally be able to make sense of her own experience and the behavioral changes she had been seeing in her daughter stating, “I knew something had changed since the event but I did not understand it.”
When she asked for ways she could begin to process these symptoms, we agreed on her setting aside time for her and her daughter to massage each other, talk about their experiences and also not bottling up emotions, as well as practicing deep breathing and engaging in relaxing activities. We also practiced sensation tracking and self-soothing to help minimize the physical effects of anxiety. She shared these techniques with her daughter.
Following what she had learned, Rosa now had a greater awareness and understanding of the magnitude of her daughter’s experience. She decided to have her resume counseling sessions at the youth counseling center, as she had previously dropped out of therapy. She also started recognizing the efforts she was already putting into being a better parent, which increased her sense of confidence.
In the next session we focused on attachment styles, understanding attachment rupture and repair as well as what could be termed as frightening caregiver behaviors. We also discussed how Rosa could manage herself to prevent projecting or displacing her unmet needs and feelings on her children as well as providing nurturance to them even when it did not come naturally to her. We emphasized the importance of her own self-care as a parent, and she committed to engaging in aerobic exercises, ensuring that she got quality sleep, and practicing gratitude to help her increase her energy and positive outlook in order to better deal with her children.
As we carried on, Rosa reported an increased awareness of her children’s needs and was able to see the importance of spending more time with them. In the last session, among the things she mentioned that she would like to stop doing was overworking as it took away time she could be spending with her children. She also shared a few things that she would like to not only start but also continue doing, including building a social support network by being more friendly with her neighbors and reaching out to friends she had lost touch with.
At the end of our sessions, Rosa reported improvement in her overall health and relationship with her children. She now knew that the quality of her parenting was a direct reflection of the quality of her relationship with herself and was committed to improving both.
In the future, Rosa hopes to rejoin the hospitality industry. In her country, she previously worked as a chef at a five-star hotel. She also hopes to support her children in their dreams and aspirations and most importantly to not only be their mother but also their friend.
Details have been changed to protect the identity of the client.