Henry is 10. He has experienced ongoing parental tension and major arguments at home for the last 3 years. In between the arguments, his mum and dad sometimes got on but most of the time they lived quite separately, with few family outings. Henry’s parents tended to argue at night time when Henry was supposed to be in bed (but was lying awake, listening). The last argument involved his Mum (Sangita) screaming and crying and swearing at Dad (Keith). Dad ended up pushing Mum through the kitchen door with glass panels. Mum was cut and had to attend hospital. Dad had to take Henry and his sister with him to the hospital as no one else was around to look after them. Henry had no idea why his parents keep arguing. He kept thinking back to the time when he was little where everything seemed to be ok. He decided that he needed to stay quiet at home, not ask for too much, in the hope that all of the problems would just pass and everyone could return to how they were before.
He decided that he needed to stay quiet at home, not ask for too much, in the hope that all of the problems would just pass and everyone could return to how they were before.
The problems didn’t just pass, and now Henry’s Mum and Dad have separated and are living apart and going for a divorce. Dad moved out with one suitcase, saying it wouldn’t be for too long, and that he would be back soon. Henry hasn’t seen or heard from his dad since, and that was three months ago. Mum starts to cry whenever Henry asks about dad, then she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Henry looks out for his Dad whenever he is walking to school or going to football. There are lots of men who have the same kind of coat as his Dad, and his heart starts beating faster every time he thinks it’s him. But it never is him. Henry doesn’t want to watch the football on TV any more as he used to do it with Dad, and he feels sick inside and all heavy when he sists on the sofa and Dad isn’t there. A few weeks ago, Henry thought he heard mum talking to Dad on the phone (she was talking in a tight voice). By the time Henry ran into the kitchen, mum had put the phone down just after saying that Henry couldn’t talk with Dad as he was at a friend’s house. Henry felt furious with mum, because she had lied and she was stopping him talking to Dad. He shouted “I hate you” and ran upstairs. Mum was crying downstairs and Henry was sat upstairs feeling so bad.
He is in Year 5 at the local primary school. His teacher Miss Penny is becoming increasingly concerned about him. Henry can be very withdrawn, quiet and sulky then flies into rages at the slightest thing. He used to get on with his work quite happily, but now he can be disruptive in class, trying to distract others. Henry’s best friend was George, but he has started fighting with George as George just doesn’t understand what it’s like for Henry. Henry’s mum was called into school to discuss Henry’s behaviour, and now she is cross and annoyed with Henry. She tells him it’s his Dad’s fault and that he is better off now he’s gone. Henry feels very differently. Henry is reluctant to go to his usual rugby training sessions and is refusing to go to swimming lessons. His Mum hasn’t got the energy to argue, so Henry now spends most of his after-school time playing computer games. It’s hard to come back in to the real world after hours on Fortnite or Call of Duty, so there are often big arguments with Mum about coming off his computer for dinner or bed time.
Henry’s younger sister Aruna (6) seems to be unaware of what is happening. She annoys Henry by saying that Dad will return from his “holiday” soon. Aruna stays up late most nights to watch TV with mum, and insists on sleeping with the family dog every night. Aruna is in Year 1 at school and loves her teacher. She gets on with her school work and takes a lot of pleasure from being helpful in the classroom. Aruna misses Dad a bit but is really happy that she gets to spend so much time with Mum. It’s like they’re best friends. Aruna makes excuses when her friends ask her over for a play date now. She knows Mum will feel lonely without her and she prefers being with Mum over her friends anyway. Since Dad went on holiday, Mum has been worried about not having enough money. Aruna thought it would be useful to say she doesn’t really want to continue with ballet and football, so that they can save money. It was a good idea as Mum looked relieved when Aruna suggested it. Aruna sometimes gets really bad tummy aches, which means that she can’t go out to play at lunchtime. But she doesn’t mind as it means she can help with clearing up the classroom. Sometimes at night her tummy still hurts but she cuddles her teddies and talks to herself to make it better. When she grows up Aruna definitely doesn’t want to get married because it looks like really hard work, and everyone just gets sad. She will live with her Mum and dog forever instead.