Improving your child’s mental health outcomes

One of our counsellors found this article from 2011.  After 10 years it resonates even more today than then.

And it's certainly borne out by the children and young people who access counselling with us today.  Even a large number of the young adults who attend counselling have been impacted by their upbringing.

It's not just adverse childhood experiences

We hear a lot in the media about those children who have been brought up in dysfunctional families, or have been starved or love, or sadly abused.  It's no wonder we think that these children grow up to be adults with mental health problems.

But what if striving to be a perfect parent is causing our children problems too?  As the article describes, the therapist at first saw young people who had grown up in difficult circumstances.  Then she started to see young people who had a  brilliant childhood.  Parents who were their best friend, lots of money, great siblings.  She was stumped and started to research this to find out why.

What were the issues?

The therapist, Lori Gottlieb, saw more young adults who were experiencing anxiety and depression and a feeling of emptiness.  They had difficulties in their career and in relationships and felt empty and without a sense of purpose.

What were their parents doing?

The parents wanted to make sure that their child had everything in life that they had missed out on growing up.  One of the big things was removing that sense of failure when they did not achieve everything they thought they should.

Struggling at maths ? Lets get a tutor.  Bully at school? Parents intervene.  Broken the rules?  Talk about consequences and no punishment or boundaries.

Is it possible for a parent to do too much?

Parents only want their children to be happy - what's so wrong with that?

As adults is life a breeze?  We all have things that happen to us that make us sad or downright depressed.  How do we learn to deal with the disappointments caused by not getting that job we really wanted, or a relationship break up?

We need to develop a resilience from a young age. And that is a learned skill that we get from the adults in our life.  They model how we should cope with a difficult situation in a healthy way so that we know how to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and get on with the business of life.

As parents we need to be brave and show our children that although difficult things happen in life, we will have sad feelings and be upset, but we can move forward.

What can parents do differently?

It's hard for parents to see their child upset, be we do need to learn how to just "be" when our child is upset.  If we rush to action and fix things for them, that's effectively telling them that being upset is something that should be stopped at all costs.

Allowing your child to understand they aren't great at everything - and that's ok - is always important.  When they start at University or work they won't get the praise they get from you all of the time.  There will be people who are higher achievers than them.  When they get into the real world it's no wonder they feel a failure or empty.

When do they become adults?

Because of the increase in house prices it's really difficult for young people to leave home until much later.  Even if they go to university quite a number of young people come back home.

In the 80's and 90's young people couldn't wait to leave home.  They participated in family chores so they understood how to do things around the house.    You were considered an adult at 18 and expected to leave home.  Now, we are classing people up to 25 as young people.  How does that empower them to become resilient adults?

Parents become parents to bring children into the world and help them develop into adults who will ultimately become the adults of the future.  If we continue to treat our kids as children we stunt their emotional growth.

Mixed messages

Because of the way our education system works, we are giving kids mixed messages.

We take the pressure off them by dealing with everything on their behalf.  But when it comes to exams we push our children to be academic, to fit society's expectations of getting to university.

They may not be academic - they may be suited to something different.  How is it ok to let them feel like failures if they don't get to university while telling them how great they are?

Dealing with death

Finally, if there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, is that everyone can be affected by bereavement.  The way we deal with a loved one dying can have an impact on the way we live the rest of our lives.

We need to examine how we deal with death ourselves as parents and think about how we talk about this important subject with our children.  There are some great resources on our website to help you explain in the best way.

Can we start a revolution?

Almost all of the young people who come into counselling with us have anxiety or depression.  Those issues will often result in family issues.  Often they come from very happy families but experience some of the problems we've discussed.

As parents, we have the future of our children in our hands.  Lett's take every opportunity to ensure our kids realise it's ok to be upset.  It's ok to fail. And more importantly they have to have boundaries and discipline.

If your child is experiencing problems then we can offer support in the form of counselling.  Please call us on 0191 4661314 for more information

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