Proud of you boys
For years, I have worked in the social service sector. Most often, with teenage boys who have been victims of horrific childhood abuse, many who have witnessed and been involved in things that would make your heart break. It can be challenging trying to connect with these boys on a deeper level, as most have gone their whole lives trying to maintain a tough exterior. Usually, their walls have been built so high that it’s a long, slow, process to go deeper into their difficulties. But today, was the most powerful experience of my working life.
Sitting in the room with me were 18 teenage boys. Each of whom had a history of abuse and trauma that was affecting their everyday lives. So today, I decided to try something new. I call it, The Backpack Activity.
I asked every boy in the room write on a piece of paper, the thing that he was struggling with the most. What was tough for him right now, what was hurting him, AKA - what was he carrying on his back? They weren’t to put their names on their paper – but told to scrunch it up and put it in the group basket.
Each boy then took a turn to pull a piece of paper from the basket and read out loud what was written. When each boy finished reading a piece – I would ask the room if the boy who wrote it would like to share.
Every single boy in that room chose to share. To discuss with his peers, his toughest issue or his biggest struggle. And I can tell you, by the end of the night, these boys were hugging each other, many with tears in their eyes. Incredibly, most of these boys couldn’t remember the last time they had shared, cried, and been comforted.
Over the course of the day, we spoke of topics such as suicide, family harm, brothers in prison, abandonment by fathers, mums' with drug addictions and young siblings recently taken by child protection.
The way these boys were able to open up, create connections and receive and give each other comfort, was the most incredible experience to witness. I know that these boys will go away tonight, feeling a little bit more open, connected, and a lot more loved.
My goal was to help these boys to open up and begin to connect with their feelings and each other. I can safely say that goal was met today.
Proud of you boys.