NUMBER 1126 • 31 JANUARY • SELF IN FAMILY WORK
Family support work is as unique and complex as each individual family I come into contact with. Who I am is constant to a certain extent, but who I am is also a result of my relationships. Thus, as each family differs, I will differ as we create our own vision of what our time together will look like. Yet there will always be common themes: respect, understanding, communication, boundaries, genuineness, and last, but certainly not least, love.
We’ve been taught not to think in those terms when we consider our work. But as I sat and considered everything I have learned, and as I have pondered why I am still in Child and Youth Care, I keep returning to the word love, and what it means to me.
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When I speak of love, I am obviously not using it in a romantic sense. I am speaking of a sense of connection, of belonging to a human family that is bigger than any role or technique or job description. Love is the greatest gift we can give a family, love expressed through unconditional acceptance and respectful, dignified treatment. Yet loving and accepting and celebrating ourselves and our families, with our mistakes, foibles and follies, can also be frightening. But no less frightening than remaining trapped forever in the isolation that comes from not taking the risk involved in making a true connection with a family.
In order to give love, and to receive it, I must allow myself to be seen. I must truly make contact with a family, remove the shield that comes from my professional “role” and truly bring myself forward to the contact boundary. Gerry Fewster spoke of this a few weeks ago in our CYC 474 class. He said that if we have boundaries, we don’t need to hide behind roles. I believe he’s right. I don’t think we can truly be present with families if we are hiding from them lest we get too close.
The best tool I have to bring forward with me in working with families is my true Self.
While we are all unique, in so many ways we are the same. We seek contact with others. We seek to be heard, to be under- stood, to be validated, to be affirmed. We laugh, we love, we hurt, we cry, we feel, we struggle – and we do it all out of some existential quest to derive some sort of meaning out of our lives. When I can share with a family the parts of myself that can help them in their journey, I have done more than anyone relying on techniques for the sake of techniques.
Tania Brzovic, (2004). Loving my work. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice (17) 1, pp.64-65