Offering comfort in a crisis: how Cindy turned trauma into a mission for good
On the very worst day, the slightest hint of kindness and comfort can give back a little hope. Especially for a child.
For many kids escaping a violent household, the height of their trauma can come while listening to a parent file a report in a police station, amplified by the lack of comfort and distraction.
Cindy Barden knows this from personal experience – and it’s her mission to provide a sense of comfort in kids’ darkest hours because, as she says ‘I couldn’t for my own kids. Let me do it for others.’
Cindy is the founder of Lil Bug Love, which provides police stations with comfort kits for children – a colourful bag containing her trademark knitted cuddly snail, earphones, a journal, colouring in books, and more. The kits are available in stations across the City of Logan and, at the time of writing, almost 2,500 kits have been handed out, with another 200 on the way to stations. Kits for babies are a recent addition, with a knitted baby blanket and dummy.
On the night Cindy escaped her violent relationship, one of her 2 children was with her at the police station – right there, in the interview room, as Cindy repeated over and over again what had happened.
‘Children are sitting there being re-traumatised by having to listen to this. They want to be there, and stay close to their parent, but it is so harmful, and the effects last a long time,’ Cindy says.
‘Not only are those conversations traumatic but you are also talking about a person that the child loves, whether they want to or not.
‘Our kits are a way of showing the kids some comfort and distraction – and that someone has thought of them. They are so powerless in these situations.’
Feedback from agencies such as the police and Child Protective Services has reaffirmed to Cindy that she’s doing the right thing.
‘I have the kind of feedback that really makes me feel like a rock star, and in fact Child Protective Services has told me that when they meet kids who have gone through this experience, they can tell apart who had one of my kits in the police station and who didn’t,’ she says.
She says the idea came from a conversation between herself and her daughter.
‘I acknowledged that what my daughter had had to go through was awful and we talked about how it would have been good if there was something there for her,’ she says.
‘From there we came up with the idea. I just wanted to make things better for these kids in a moment that was never going to be good – but it might make the kids feel the hurt a little less and they might be able to focus on something else for a while.’
Lil Bug Love is powered by donations, the generosity of suppliers, and a large network of craft groups making snails, bags and baby blankets.
Cindy also speaks at schools to Year 8 students about healthy relationships.
‘I do get a lot of kids disclosing their own experiences to me – especially young boys – and kids take it on and feel shame, they blame themselves,’ she says.
‘I tell them they are powerless in this moment and nothing is their fault – but that they have a secret power, which is that when they grow up, they have the power to not become this person, to be different and kind and not repeat this pattern.
‘There are so many people going through it. Parenting kids while going through this is the hardest thing in the world. How do you make them feel safe while you are there, while you are trying to leave – how do you reassure your children that things will be ok when you don’t know if they will be?
‘As hard as it is, it is important to quiet your own chaos and talk to them to make them feel heard. We need to hear our kids because if we don’t, how can we expect them to heal?’
To donate to Lil Bug Love, head to the Facebook page.
This May is Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Month. On the evening of 4 May, Logan City’s 3 water towers will be lit up in purple, along with other buildings across Queensland.
For details of the vigil, head here.