Crackers at Christmas

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30 Dec 2015

As part of our My View children’s therapeutic care project, our therapists run weekly psycho-educational groups which provide a supportive space for young refugees in the UK on their own to learn new social skills and find ways to manage their new life here.

Working alongside a drama therapist, Refugee Council children’s therapist Sarah Temple-Smith has been running a drama therapy group in East London. Here, Sarah reports on the group's last session.

With the holidays almost upon us, I decided to bring some traditional British Christmas fare in the shape of mince pies to the last session our dramatherapy group. After all, part of the value of group work is psycho-education – getting to grips with the new culture and society these young people have found themselves living in.

As the first people arrived I started to question the wisdom of that decision. The pies remained undisturbed on their holly-patterned plate. Meanwhile the decidedly unseasonal custard cremes were soon nothing but a few crumbs and a memory.  Hardly surprising, perhaps; mince pies can be somewhat of an acquired taste - one which many people never acquire.

Not so the crackers. I had prepared an end-of-group activity, using flash cards with multiple choice questions about group members’ hobbies and pastimes. Designed to help cement the connections the group had made together during the past eight weeks, each person picked a card at random for someone else to answer. If they answered right, I explained, the two participants would get to pull a cracker.

Blank looks all round. So I explained that the point of those prettily decorated tubes I had given out was to utterly destroy them by pulling them apart and making them explode.  And pretty soon all the young people had taken to this strange new custom with gusto. Amid bangs and shrieks, little toys shot across the room. Within moments each head- or in one case, ‘gangster’ cap- was sporting a tissue paper crown.

Then followed the traditional British Christmas ritual of reading out the jokes and trying to find them funny. My excuse, that the punchlines might have lost something in translation, went down about as well as the jokes. Not that anyone seemed to care.

As the session drew to a close, each young person came up to the front to be presented with a signed certificate celebrating their attendance amid enthusiastic applause from the rest of the group. Afterwards some of them confided that this was the first time they had ever received any kind of public affirmation for an achievement.

The last of the snacks were finished, even the odd mince pie sampled. Then it was time to clear up and leave for the last time, taking with them memories of all the fun and the friendship, or as one young man summed it up: "I learned new games and respect for each other.”

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