Amanda is a single mum of three children, Tara, Jackson and Chloe. She has been working really hard on a single parent pension to provide a good home for her kids. “My children come before me, they’re the reason I wake up every day.”
Amanda’s childhood “wasn’t the best.” Love and encouragement were not part of her family story. Amanda is keen to ensure that she breaks that family cycle and that her own children grow up healthy, happy, thriving and stable. Adding to her daily challenges in raising her children, Amanda has battled anorexia and found herself in relationships that were abusive. Her children have no contact with their father or extended family.
As a consequence of this painful journey, Amanda says she has poor self-esteem. Feeling depressed she turned to marijuana to help her cope. “I was using marijuana like medicine, I had no-one to really help me, no-one that I felt I could depend upon.”
Amanda felt her greatest need was to find some positive new friends – people she could confide in. She wanted to develop some confidence in herself and to learn how to cope better with life and stress. Amanda also wanted a male role model to make a positive connection with her son Jackson so that he would gain confidence and be at peace within himself.
Jackson’s lack of confidence led him to thinking of harming himself. He then began avoiding school, falling behind his peers with his education and failing subjects. Naturally, as a caring mother, Amanda was very concerned for Jackson’s welfare and her concern was exacerbating her anxiety and subsequent marijuana dependence.
“While Tara was doing well, I was becoming increasingly worried – not just about my welfare, but more importantly to me, Jackson’s well-being. Jackson was very angry with life, isolated and anxious. He needed a positive male role model, someone to take an interest in him and encourage him. I knew he needed to complete his education. The problem was that I didn’t know who to turn to or how to deal with the issue, I couldn’t find anyone to help. I felt like I was failing as a parent and life was falling apart.”
A local youth service recommended that Amanda and Jackson might benefit from connecting with the COACH program. She then met the COACH program Coordinator Deb Anderson who introduced her to mentors, Kevin and Heather. Kevin says, “My childhood wasn’t easy and I wanted to be supportive and helpful to others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.”
Heather has developed a friendship with Amanda and connects well with people one to one using her own experiences to help her relate with people who have challenges in life. While Heather has become the confidante that Amanda needed, Kevin has become the stable male presence that Jackson required. The two bonded over their shared love of the X-Box, playing guitar and making a birdhouse together.
Program Coordinator Deb Anderson says, “Heather has become a trusted friend for Amanda, and Kevin was like a grandfather – perfect for Jackson. In respect to Jackson, Kevin’s greatest attribute is his listening skills and ability to empower Jackson to make his own choices. He never pushed Jackson to do something he wasn’t interested in. Importantly, Kevin was persistent with Jackson. If Kevin said that he would visit Jackson on a certain day or time, he would. He’d never cancel on him, or break his promise. He was becoming the stable male in Jackson’s life.”
Amanda says the whole family have been transformed by their involvement with COACH and that she has become great friends with mentors Kevin and Heather – even inviting them to Tara’s eighteenth birthday party. “To me they are a part of my family.”
“I think the whole family has benefitted, not just Jackson and I, but also Tara and baby Chloe. With Heather’s help, I am managing stress a lot better than I was. I’m not using marijuana to cope, the household is more peaceful and I am able to attend to the needs of baby Chloe in a more positive way. Jackson’s attendance at school has risen from 50% to 100%. He has gone from a D grade student to B’s and A’s.”
Deb Anderson believes that their involvement in COACH has turned the family’s life around. “Amanda is no longer isolated, she is happy and coping with life much better and the awards on the fridge tell the story of how well Jackson is doing at school. Even his sister Tara says he is good company when they go to the movies together!”