December 2024 Newsletter

December newsletter

It’s Christmas…a story of hope

This time three years ago our son had returned from a first stint at a treatment centre in October and, after an evangelical first few weeks of commitment to his learning, to sobriety and new habits, he had begun to relapse and we were by this time in total disarray again as a family. For us the whole prospect of a ‘family Christmas’ was filled with dread, tension, sadness, fear. Christmas Day dawned and we all trod on egg shells, me holding back tears, my husband’s face etched with exhaustion, our other children on edge, uncertain…We got through it with the help of the wider family, we kept the show going on, we opened presents and we had a festive lunch and we sat around the fire and we all pulled together as a group amidst all the tensions. We silently and collectively somehow gathered around our son, and all our children, and around each other, held each other up, kept going, kept loving, kept keeping on.. and now I look back on that time which then felt so desperate and I realize that, in this seeming darkness, all those behaviours & attitudes was the real nub of it all – the message that we keep on loving whatever, that we keep on living whatever, that we keep on believing and seeing & finding the light – because in the end, beyond all the solution-seeking and sleepless nights and wondering what might be or if we should have done more or differently, this quiet steady message of abiding love is the most powerful we can give our children, ourselves and our whole family. This is why the Christmas story affects us all in some way – it is a simply story of family love, of new life and of light in the darkness.

This Christmas we are all going away together and our son is strong & engaged in active recovery and we have open, loving communication. He has passed a diploma in something he loves and he has a job. He is living independently, has friends and a community of support around him. There are still bumps along the road as he navigates his feelings and thoughts but he now knows how to ask for help, where to ask for help, that it is essential to ask for help and that noone can do this life business alone. We learn along with him and know how important the companionship of other families have been, and continue to be, for us as we travel along the road.

How we all wish there was a golden ball, a magic bullet, a clear understanding of cause and effect, but we know there isn’t. We do know that when we as parents are able to steady ourselves, to keep really living, to keep loving & believing in our children and to keep establishing some clear boundaries, then we are providing a good foundation. None of us truly know if that is enough (the rest is up to our children) and that is why connection and community is so vital. If there is a message our family would like to send to all of you & yours this Christmas it is exactly this – that we are all without doubt stronger together.

the anxiety workbook

This month we were so grateful to hear and learn from

Clare Ward at Special Networks (

on the subject of supporting our neurodiverse children on the Autistic Spectrum.

The recording of this as well as the slides from her presentation will be on the website next week.  Her book, which is available from Amazon, is a really practical, helpful guide for us as parents, for educators and for teens to work through and learn from.
Clare spoke alot about how much a low tolerance of uncertainty is at the root of the anxious response.

‘Often, when a child feels anxious, their behaviour can look like they are ‘acting up’, and it can be tempting to discipline them. But that is the exact opposite of what they need at that time; they need calm and understanding to reduce their anxiety.

With autistic children, anxiety can be caused by not knowing what is expected of them, what will happen next, or what will take place at a certain event, for example. Providing very clear information in advance can help with this.’ 

Learning to tolerate the unknown and uncertainty is a life process for most of us – these sensitive children experience this at a much higher volume and when they feel out of control and over-whelmed they will draw on any strategy they can find to protect themselves.  This can look like opposition, withdrawing, defiance, repetitive anxious reactions to life experiences, excessive control over routines.  It is hard for them to make sense of the world and to feel safe.  So, perhaps as parents we remind ourselves to open up more space to listen to and hear them and what they need, casting aside our worries and fears.  It’s a big learning as we often have to step out of expected cultural, familial, educational norms and be prepared to be open to a new way ahead, to a different tempo.  This is where communities like this, organizations like Clare’s and other mentors and teachers are so vital.

Please do visit if you are looking for more support for your teenager or young person on the neurodiversity spectrum..

Their approach is very special:

‘Our network, both as a metaphor and in terms of its day to day operation, is built upon our deeply held belief that, both as professionals and humans, what unites us is our diversity.’

Hopefully, in time to come, we won’t be focusing on all these labels of difference but instead on reorganizing our systems and societies to remember that it is our differences and diversity that underpin all our humanity.

January Talk

On Wednesday 13th December @ 6.30pm

Matt Williams will talk to us on

Support for Boys and Dads

Matt Williams has been a listening volunteer and Trustee with Samaritans since 2009 and was Director of Oxford Samaritans between 2019 and 2022.  He continues to lead Oxford Samaritans Feet on the Street practice Outreach initiative.

In his day job within the NHS, Matt is the Senior Programme Manager for Mental Health within Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  He works across the Thames Valley and South East England to adopt and evaluate innovative approaches to supporting and treating those with mental health conditions.

He is also Co-Founder & Chair of the Oxfordshire Men’s Health Partnership.

December newsletter

All of us at We Thrive wish you and your families a happy Christmas and hope that, as this image respresents, the light of new birth, possibility, love and renewal will shine on you all.

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