“It’s a lot worse than it was”
Patsy and Mike, the parents of 13 year old Marie (not their real names), rang their social worker in Galway. Their daughter‘s behaviour had got worse since the COVID 19 pandemic closed schools and the places where they worked. Marie was fighting with them much more, that her parents were “crazy” and “it was all their fault”. As they spoke over the phone to the social worker, Marie’s parents described feelings of hopelessness and helplessness as their 13 year old daughter had, over the last few months, begun to use alcohol (and they suspected, drugs), had gone missing from school and had broken a door and windows at home. Marie had beaten up her young brother, had pushed her parents around and had threatened them with physical violence. They could not understand how Marie, who had been pleasant, happy, out-going and close to her parents, could change so much and treat them so badly. They felt there was nothing they could do. They felt at a loss…and initially, the social worker felt the same way.
Experiences within the family of this kind of behaviour (also known as child to parent violence and abuse, CPVA) are surrounded with a veil of silence, with embarrassment, shame and fear (Coogan & Holt 2015, Coogan 2018, Bonnick 2019). This makes it very difficult for a parent/ carer to start a conversation about child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA).