Calming Cards

Holly* was a ten-year-old girl who had been through a traumatic early childhood. Now living in foster care, Holly was finding it difficult to settle in her new home. On one occasion, during a meeting with her foster carer, social worker and one-to-one local-authority worker, Charlie, Holly tried to punch, kick, scratch and throw objects at Charlie – while demanding that he leave. Charlie had witnessed outbursts like this from Holly before, so was aware of the aftermath: overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. With this in mind, and wanting to defuse the situation, Charlie agreed to go as he felt it would help Holly to calm down. As Charlie made his way to the door, Holly grabbed him round the neck – not to hurt him, but to hug him and stop him from leaving. She started to cry, saying that she was sorry and that her life would be easier if she went to live with her mum. She cried for a while, then asked if Charlie would stay.

The previous week, Charlie had used Chateez cards during a session with Holly. Holly asked Charlie if they could use them again today as they had helped her work out her feelings. Charlie asked Holly how she was feeling, and she chose the following cards:

– ‘CONFUSED’ and ‘FRUSTRATED’ because she didn’t know what the meeting was about before it started.
– This made her feel ‘NERVOUS’ and a little ‘SICK’.
– ‘SAD’ and ‘SCARED’ as she felt she may have to go back to her previous carers.
– ‘SILENCED’ as there were a lot of adults present.
– All of the above made her ‘MAD’, which is why she responded as she did.
– ‘RELIEVED’ that the incident was over.
– ‘CHEEKY’ for how she behaved during the incident – taking chocolate and biscuits from the cupboard.

Charlie then asked Holly how they could eliminate some of these feelings in the future. She stated various ways to make forthcoming meetings less stressful for her, and Charlie took her requests on-board. He then asked Holly how she thought her foster carer felt during the incident. She chose ‘EMBARRASSED’, ‘SHOCKED’, ‘SAD’, and ‘CUDDLY’ (the latter because the foster carer gave Holly a hug after the incident). This was a positive exercise as it allowed Holly to look at the situation from someone else’s perspective, and acknowledge the impact it had on them – without making Holly feel blamed or shamed. By the time Charlie was ready to leave, Holly was calm. She asked if she could keep the Chateez cards as she felt they would be useful for her and her foster carer to use together.

*Name has been changed

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