Many women who come to Women’s Center & Shelter are here with their children. Whether they are staying in the emergency shelter or attending support groups while their children are in the Children’s Program–the mother-child relationship is an important one. With the holiday season here, WC&S hosts our Adopt-A-Family program. This program strives to make the holidays as normal and joyful as possible for our clients and their families. Because one of WC&S’ core values is to empower women to make their own choices, we want our mothers to have the freedom to shop for their own children. By donating gift cards, you give a mother the opportunity to delight in the experience of purchasing and giving gifts to her children. Every family deserves a happy holiday.
Please visit our website at www.WCSCanHelp.org to learn about how you can get involved in Adopt-A-Family this year. Your support means so much.
In order to understand the importance of the mother-child bond while staying in shelter, learn about a WC&S Mental Health Intern’s experience…
Each family that enters Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S) is in a time of transition–a time of change and movement. There are numerous challenges and stressors for mothers as they enter shelter–safety, finding housing or financial stability to name a few. During this time of transition, family time is difficult to come by and family interactions can be stressful and overwhelming for mothers and children. Yet research studies have shown that a healthy and stable connection to a caregiver (typically a mother) is one of the most important factors in mitigating the effects of domestic violence in a child’s life. More than anything, a child needs to remain bonded and engaged with his or her mother in the weeks and months after leaving a dangerous situation.
In light of what the research shows and the needs I observed as an intern working with women and children in the shelter setting, I wanted to offer families as space to maintain or recreate the bond between mother and child. This desire came to fruition in the form of Changing Families–a nine week group for women and children in shelter. The goal of the group was to give the families a space to communicate about the simple thoughts and feelings they were having, to offer a time to play together or create together. The group itself was not meant to teach parenting skills or tell mothers how to be mothers–we felt that each family knows itself and its needs the best. The group was voluntary and women and their children (over the age of 5) were invited to attend. Throughout the group, the families engaged in a variety of activities to encourage interaction and give them new ways to communicate. The evenings began with a family community meeting, allowing each member to share his or her day via a simple drawing and through feeling identification via a feelings picture chart. Each evening families did something different together. One night, they created puppets to help facilitate playfulness and interaction. Another night, families used sand trays to create a “snap shot” of who they were as a family in that moment. Other nights included creating masks, having a family game night, and a family art night to name a few.
Every evening was different –each small family interaction unique and beautiful. In the moments following the activities, families were given the opportunity to share their experiences verbally as a group and via a simple feedback form. Over and over again the children’s feedback showed how much they desired to spend time with their mothers. For example–one evening a young boy, known throughout the community for his passion for playing quarterback on his football team, attended group with his family. When asked how group was his response was “It was more fun than football.” This one comment reflects how deeply children want and need the attention of their mothers –minus cell phones, televisions and other distractions. Parents are a child’s first and most enduring playmates, the playmates most influential in modeling and teaching lessons, the playmates a child needs and desires most. Just as we advocate for a family’s right to a safe place to live, we also must advocate for the relationships and life built within those safe walls.
**WC&S wants to thank Sara for sharing her experience through this blog post**