Updated: Apr 30
I’ve recently been working with the parents of several young people who’ve developed anxiety disorders, eating disorders and addictions. Working with the parents rather than directly with the young people themselves was a mutual decision for various reasons and it’s proven to be a been a successful decision.
Young people face different and possibly more difficult challenges than ever before, including, lack of employment opportunities, greater challenges to succeed in the education system, issues relating to body image, family problems and relationship breakdowns, substance abuse and associated peer pressure, pressures of materialism, lack of affordable housing, negative stereotyping, crime, cancelling, woke issues and potentially the worst of all is the 24 hour/7 days a week social networking. There is no escape from this.
As a young person (too many years ago to mention) I recall the times I had a falling out with a friend. I’d go home, have a cry and cuddle with my mam, and maybe spend some time alone in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself. That time spent away from the pressures of peer relationships allowed me to recover, regulate and regain whatever I needed to go back out again and reintegrate with my friends. If I’d had a bad day at school, it was easier to accept because we didn’t really challenge our teachers back then and respect for them was inbuilt. I always knew I’d get a job, a good job with good pay and there was never a doubt that I’d be able to afford my own place. I realise this wasn’t the case for everyone back then, but it was certainly more common to know where we were headed and if we didn’t want to stay at home, then we could generally afford to move out.
Back to the present day, it’s fair to say that young people will feel fearful at times and the reason for their fear(s) will vary and change as they grow. If the fear is not resolved, or continues for too long, or the young person experiences the ever-increasing difficulties listed above, it may develop into an anxiety disorder and potentially lead to difficult behaviours such as anger, irritability, and a need for control. They may experience sleep problems or physical issues including headaches and stomach aches. All of this can lead to problems in social situations at school and at home.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to treat anxiety disorders because it’s one of the few approaches that are ‘evidence-based’. However, many young people are unable to engage with this type of therapy as it involves learning healthy ways to cope with the worries and emotions they don’t fully understand. Often these feelings and emotions are unconscious, so cognitive work, including talking therapies, can fail. Research shows that of those young people who do actually engage in CBT, only half respond. Research/studies have shown that a parent’s involvement in their young persons treatment can help reduce anxiety.
Although we may have to sing for any recognition from our young people, us parents can be in an ideal position to help, particularly with support from a trained therapist, if our children naturally rely on us for reassurance and protection. The approach I’ve taken with the parents I’m working with is to allow the space needed to talk about and learn about the issues they are all facing. We talk about what internal resources are available and I share rational and empathic/supportive ways to respond to their child’s anxiety. This in turn has helped to reduce parenting-related stress. It’s served to give the whole family a break.
I’ve been given permission to share this from one of my clients: “Sandra, it’s made a huge change in my house. For the first time in a long while we can actually talk to our child, and he seems to have new hope – he’s stopped using at home and this is a huge step for us. There’s still a way to go but we feel better equipped now and hopeful…”.
Mental Health services are free on the NHS, and I would always advocate this option should be explored first. The Care Quality Commission sets out waiting times for community child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Whereas funding this is a priority for Local Authorities, the reality (I’m told by various friends, colleagues, and clients) is the national standard for waiting times is being exceeded and this places risks on the young person, as their presenting mental health issues escalate during the wait for help. Sadly, this impacts on their childhood and this can affect them into adulthood too.
So, if you want to know more about the work that I do in this area to see if it can help you, your child and your family, then please get in touch. Sandra, SCT Therapy.