Monday, 8 October 2012

Police panic!

Today, in the middle of the weekly shop, I received a phone call from Mini's school. After the heart attack and panic from seeing 'Mini's school' flashing on my mobile, I was reassured by his teacher that everything was OK and she was ringing for some advice. Yes, I know - a school that is being supportive! I'm lucky and I'm grateful, really grateful that our chat with the head has worked. Using shocking words like 'trauma', 'shame' and 'abandonment' has finally made them sit up and listen!

After PE it was discovered that Mini had wet himself, although he flatly denied it, despite his teacher holding his wet shorts. She was ringing because she didn't know whether to push it and get him changed into dry underwear, or to leave him. Now despite being grateful for them taking things seriously and asking for advice...I'm a bit surprised that they would even contemplate leaving him in soaking wet underwear, but anyway. I asked them to change him, and if they encountered any problems, to ring me again and I'd go down there.

Why? Well, here's the sad part.

Later in the week, the local copper is visiting school, like he does every year to have the stranger danger/safety chat with the children. Apparently he did it last year too though we knew nothing about it.

Mini is scared of the police. Not always - sometimes he can just about cope, but mostly he's anxious about them. He hates the sirens that go past the house, and will jump up and hide or cling to me tightly. This is because Mini, being quite bright, knows that when he was removed from Birth Mum, the police were there. He knows that his Birth Mum really didn't want him to be taken, and so the police had to help the social workers take him to make sure he was safe. So his anxieties are understandable. But in his mind they're not keeping people safe, but taking them away.
But because I know that PC Plod is visiting I tried to do a bit of gentle work with Mini, to put him at ease:

'Do you remember seeing PC Plod last year at school? He came to talk to you all about how to stay safe...'

'No I didn't see him. I hate the police, they take people away and are scary'.

'The police only take people away to make sure everyone stays safe Mini - and you know I'll never let the police take you away.'

'They do take people, I don't like them. I'm not talking about it anymore'.

End of discussion. I didn't push it, just thought I might drip a little bit more information in later or tomorrow, without going over the top, and if it became clearer that Mini really wouldn't cope with a visit from the law, I'd talk to school. I did write in his home-school book though to give them fair warning about how Mini feels about the police.

So, going back to the incident at school. For some reason, unknown to me (could be a friendly visit to another class, could be a vandalism incident at school over the weekend...who knows?!) there was a policeman in school, talking to a teacher in the corridor between the hall where Mini had PE and his classroom. It is at this point, Mini's teacher believes he had his accident.

Brilliant - trigger identified. It's looking more likely that Mini will either sit out of the session with the police man, or I'll have to go in with him. Both are fine by me, but this brings a bigger problem.

How on earth do you convince a child with a fear of the police, that they are actually there to help keep us safe? Other fears I can handle - I can hoover up spiders or move them outside, I can keep a light on when he's scared of the dark, I can make sure I have alcohol hand-gel in by bag so Mini doesn't have to use the noisy hand-driers in public toilets but the police? Well, they're everywhere.
When he's older will this fear of the police become less intense and turn into a normal healthy respect for the law, will it make Mini a law-abiding citizen? Or will his dislike and distrust become more and more intense and will he turn into a criminal mastermind?

Who knows! But any ideas for making the police seem safer are welcomed!


  1. Our son was also removed by the police but instead of being scared is obsessed by them. Our neighbour is a non-uniform officer and he adores her. She has taken him into work a couple of times and he's been taken out in a car, met dog handlers and had fingerprints taken. He wants to be a policeman when he grows up.
    I was thinking maybe it is the uniform which is scary for young children with a negative experience of the police. Big ask, but could the officer visiting school come in plain clothes?

    1. Wow, what great experiences for your son - I'd love to go out in a police car! And it's great that he's got such a positive view.

      I did ask the school about the plain clothes possibility but got fobbed off with a defensive response about how uniform is important, and improves the experience for the children as many of them like to touch the handcuffs and try the helmet on. It seems that because it would only benefit Mini, it wouldn't be considered.

  2. Do you have any friends in the police? That Mini could see socially and then get to know as people? Just a thought, no idea if it would work. And I don't know any police officers, so not sure how likely it is that you will!

    1. Bizarrely, we do know several police officers, although we only see one of them frequently. He's plain clothes, and Mini refuses to believe that he is a police man. He's told me that 'X can't possibly be a policeman because he's too nice, policemen are horrible'.

      I've been given some advice by another mum who's in the police force and she's suggested I contact the community officer to see if there is anything they can do...regular visits, leaving uniform here for Mini to play with/try on. But I've also emailed our therapists (CAMHS and Theraplay) to see what they suggest...

  3. Try to find a friend of a friend who is a policeman. On the first meeting get the policeman to wear ordinary clothes initially to interact with the childr(en) - if they have a child to bring their child with them so Mini can see he is an ordinary friendly daddy. When Mini is comfortable with the person get them to bring their uniform so mini can handle it look at the buttons equipment etc. Get Mini a police dressing up outfit so both can dress up. Its a long shot and will take time to develop but if its possible may be worth a try - it worked for me with a an abused child I taught who had experienced police raids plus plus plus who had a similar fear. I admire you and wish you and Mini all the luck in the world!!!