What is CEDAR?
Cedar (Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery) is a group work programme that recognises that domestic abuse is damaging to children as well as to the mother/child relationship, and on the belief that mothers are best placed to support their children in their recovery.
Children and young people attend group with peers around the same age, while mums attend group with other women who have experienced domestic abuse and wish to support their children in their recovery.
The groups provide an opportunity to explore feelings with an emphasis on providing fun and creative activities that keep children engaged and interacting with each other. It is about creating a safe place for children and their mothers to help each other to find the best strategies to deal with their experiences and rebuild their lives. The main aim of the programme is to help mothers to support their children in their recovery.
Quote from Mum
“Cedar gave us the support and strength to talk about feelings, emotions, and experiences with others who understood.”
One mum's story
I was 9 years in an abusive relationship. Friends and family were shocked when I left him and he was arrested. They thought we were a solid, happy family unit. We would always be on holiday. He was always buying me nice clothes, he was always spoiling the kids. Everyone thought his generosity was out of love for us and not to cover up what would happen behind closed door.
After getting married we went on to have children. I was told daily by him that I was a useless, wife, cook, daughter, sister, friend so I believed it but I know I would be an amazing mum. It was only weeks after my son was born before he was telling me I was a rubbish mum. I was so upset. I was so angry at myself because I always said, the day he calls me a bad mum is the day I stand up for myself. I never even tried that day. I just said sorry and walked away. He was a master manipulator. Not that I saw this at the time. I genuinely believed in what he said. Nobody liked me or loved me. I was an inconvenience and only caused trouble. I use to try so hard to make sure everything was right but it was never good enough.
The children grew up around a dad who acted like this. They learnt his behaviour and thought it was acceptable. They assumed every mum and dad was like us. Their dad bullied and controlled them also. They had no opinion and he answered everything for them. When my son tried to say no to something , food, choice of clothes for nursery, like any normal child would do. His dad quickly snapped and would be screaming in his face.
About a year after we split up, the boys came home after having tea with their dad telling me about how dad was really angry at Nana – his mum. She bought the wrong chicken nuggets. The boys told me their dad was extremely angry and shouted in Nana’s face. I tried to explain that Nana was not at fault and if someone makes a mistake then you do not get angry and shout at them. My son replied, yes mum but if Nana just bought the right chicken nuggets then dad wouldn’t get angry. It was Nana’s fault…before my own eyes I was seeing a mini him forming.
After this the family were referred to the Cedar Project, with my consent, and they came out to visit me. They were great but I had absolutely no intentions of introducing my son to Cedar. My son was 6 at the time and although I had left my ex for nearly a year there was no way he was ready to be spoken to about Domestic Abuse. I wouldn’t dare say anything to him that would upset his dad. CEDAR left a small booklet on the dining room table before they left. Later that night my son came through to do his homework. He sat at the dining room table and started. After a while he shouted through, “mum what is Cedar”? My heart stopped and I felt sick! I never hid the booklet. All I could think about was, his dad is going to kill me. I went through to find him drawing on the front page of the booklet. There were 2 similar drawings on the front cover. There was a house with a lady and kids standing outside in the garden. One was dark and cloudy, the other was sunny and bright. He had added to the cover. He said to me, mum this is when dad lived here (pointing to the dark drawing) and this is now (pointing to the bright drawing). He had drawn tears on the lady in the 1st drawing and he had drawn a sun, birds in the sky, flowers in the garden, curtains in the window and wrote “mummy” on the bright drawing. I felt sick. I felt so sick that he had all this bottled up inside him and I was too scared to talk to him about it. Inside the booklet there were other words highlighted “scared”, “nervous” , “police”. My son read them and told me how he related them to his dad. We talked for ages about what he had heard and saw when his dad lived with us. I had no idea! I could not believe how much he understood when we talked about Cedar. He had so many questions, he was so confused! He knew his dad was angry and he knew he shouted but he never knew why his dad scared him because he loved him.
The next day I called CEDAR and signed my son up, he was a bit nervous about going but he had a fantastic taxi driver who helped get him there and the staff made him feel very relaxed about it. After his 1st session he came running over to me and said, mum I went to Cedar and I am not the only one who has an angry dad. I had never saw him so relieved….. he was genuinely happy to know it was not just him. There were other kids that day at Cedar who shared some sad stories and he took great comfort in them. I think he was relieved that it was not his fault or my fault that his dad was the way he was.
Cedar taught my son a lot. It taught him that it is good to talk and good to keep yourself safe. He learned that it’s ok to be angry in a healthy way and abuse is different from anger as it is controlled and planned. Whenever I raised my voice to tell my 2 off, they would stop dead and look worried. I then felt I could not give them into trouble. Cedar helped my son to separate abuse from anger because he was very confused by it.
It gave him hope and knowledge that everyone is different and we can all make our own choices. It also taught him about respect and about other people’s feelings. The question “how did that make you feel” or “how do you think that made them feel” was used a lot and it really helped him understand.
Cedar helped me massively. Cedar was the link between my son and I and it helped us both understand how each other were feeling. Because I went to the mums group, I knew roughly what would be discussed with him so it helped spark conversations, if needed.
For me Cedar was a relaxed group of women who have children and have experienced some form of Domestic Abuse. We met once a week, got to drink coffee and have a chat. There were group discussions lead by someone from Cedar and they were very valid and helped us understand Domestic Abuse.
Cedar gave me strength, courage and the ability to believe in myself again.
Where will the group be, and when?
Groups will take place at our offices in Perth , during the school day. You will get help to travel to the group, and back to school/home, if you need it.
Who else will be at the Cedar group?
There will be about 6 – 8 young people in the group, around the same age as you. Everybody who takes part in the group will have experienced domestic abuse in their family.
There will be two adult group workers to help with activities and discussions.
Who will know that I am going to the Cedar group?
Your mum will know, and she will have the opportunity to go to a mothers group so that she can get support to talk to you about what has happened.
We will arrange with the relevant staff for you to get time off school. It is up to you who else you tell.
What do you do at Cedar group?
Each week the facilitators will welcome you and the other children or young people to group. There will be an opportunity to say how things are going and the facilitator will explain what’s happening in that session. You mum will also be able to tell you what’s going to happen in group that week so it won’t be a complete surprise! There will then we some activities and discussion, these activities could include drawing, Pictionary, using play-doh, making models, volcanoes and painting. There’s many more too! The discussions are an opportunity for you to share some of your experiences about the hurting in your families. It is up to you if you want to share your stories, but they will remain private and won’t leave the group. Your facilitator will explain more about this. There is also some free time where you can play with the games available. There will then be an opportunity to say how you are feeling before going back to school or your home.
Will anyone else hear what I share?
Confidentiality: at Cedar you can share your experiences safely and without fear of what you say being repeated to others. But, if workers feel that you or another person may be at risk then they will have to share that information with people who can help.