Mind Matters – Looking after the mental health of children and young people

It really is a very busy time for us working in the mental health and psychological wellbeing field. Services for children and young people are particularly strained and we are finding it hard to find team members able to work with children and young people to join our practice.

Headlines such as this one: “The pandemic have driven an unprecedented surge in demand for mental health services for children and young people” and this one: “Children’s mental health: Huge rise in severe cases, BBC analysis reveals all” summarise some shocking statistics detailing the worsening wellbeing of our young and the pressure on services to provide support and treatment.

Often parents know better than anyone else in their child’s lives that something is not right and feel helpless as their attempts to try and talk about the situation and help are dismissed or rejected. Often confused and hurt both the parents and children find themselves feeling unheard and misunderstood.

But if you are a parent and are worried about your child or children or if you know parents who are struggling then there is help at hand. As we have been receiving a constant stream of enquiries from worried parents and guardians and as we understand what can prevent communication between parents and children at times of difficulty, we have started offering parenting consultations.

The pain of misunderstanding and disappointment can be huge for both parents and their children and yet these misunderstandings can be resolved. If you are a parent, then there are a whole range of ways the struggles of children and young people can impact you. Apart from the obvious agony that comes from thinking your child might be unhappy and fear around failing them as parent, typical experiences include:

  • Finding the role as a parent difficult, challenging, and stressful
  • Experiencing self-doubt and feeling not good enough a lot of the time
  • Feeling upset, overwhelmed, angry and lonely
  • Wondering what’s happened to your life, your identity and who you are now that you are a parent
  • Thinking you should feel happy and lucky, as everyone keeps saying, and yet you don’t. You often wonder if there is something wrong with you.
  • Finding the struggle impacting on your other relationships including partners, close family members and friendships.

Painful ruminations about family structure and a sense of responsibility that comes from contexts including having a mix of shared biological, step and adopted children, being same sex parents, single parent, or maybe joint custody or other voluntary of legal situations exist.

All these painful experiences do at least serve to draw the struggle to our attention and will continue until we find resolution.

The only thing all parents share is the fact that the arrival of a new baby, babies, child, or children is one of life’s greatest and most significant events and the experience of becoming a parent is always deeply personal and unique. It can be helpful to think about how all parents will experience being a parent somewhere on a continuum from a feeling of ease to unease. It is normal not to struggle and it is normal to find things difficult, it is also possible to find parenting feels different over time or with different children.

Parents sometimes feel that they are not allowed to express their real feelings but must be happy as everyone expects. Many mothers also feel like failures because they didn’t have the sort of birth they wanted, they find breastfeeding difficult, or they feel like failures as mothers because they’re not able to live up to their own very high expectations. Meanwhile partners and other family members can also struggle with feelings of failure as their attempts at helping and supporting do not seem to be working.

Many people feel like this throughout their parenting journey as their child moves through the different developmental stages of their life: babyhood, toddlerhood, young child, older child, pre-teen, adolescent. At every stage, the challenges and the goalposts move, and we all must adjust and learn how to manage our child’s brand-new developmental stage.

If you feel like this, you are not alone. Things can settle down and you can adjust and feel more in control of your life. That may last for a while until the next stage, but by then, especially, you’ll be more used to the challenges and more familiar with your own patterns and issues. You will also have learnt some helpful tools and techniques to raise your self-confidence.

If you are a struggling parent or know of any then please be assured that whilst it might be hard to find services to help your children, there are services available to help you help them.

Nicholas Rose
Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Couples Counsellor and Coach

UKCP registrant, MBACP (accred), UKRCP
PGDip, MA, Adv Dip Ex Psych

Nicholas Rose & Associates
Counselling, psychotherapy and coaching for children, adults, couples and families.

nicholas-rose.co.uk

Read more blogs by Nicholas Rose

Read the next in the series – Mind Matters – If you have noticed a new reluctance to do things that didn’t exist before the pandemic then you are not alone

Read the previous one – Mind Matters – Is therapy in mainstream drama and TV a good thing?

See all Nicholas’s Mind Matters blogs here

Read a profile of Nicholas here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features