While this site is about writing, I am also a teacher, young people’s mentor and a mum of three and, this afternoon, was in a discussion in a support group with parents experiencing anxiety and grief because their young person or young people has not done or cannot do what they see their peers doing because of mental health problems – perhaps together with SEND and physical ill-health, because these things are often intersectional. Without offering specifics here, I really understand this because I have been and am going through it. If your beloved child – and we were talking about older children and very young adults – cannot leave the house, will need permanent support, has come out of school under trauma and is or has been very well, that is a difficult situation for you, as their parent to cope with. Not because you want them to be someone else, but because you hoped things would be different for them or their lives would be less difficult. You see their peers going to parties, travelling, having jobs and going off to university and it is painful. We can try to pretend it isn’t, but perhaps that does not help. These were my thoughts to help us feel better; things that have helped me. Yours may be different, but here goes.
- Education is not linear for everyone. It cannot be. It has taken me nearly three years to get over having two things reiterated by those in senior positions in schools. One was that if you cannot cope with school, you would not be able cope with college/university/a job; the other that you should not let your peers go past you. It has, I am sure, taken my young person a while to get over this too – but they did better than me! I am absolutely sure, and my background informs me, that this binary view is not true. Lift your sights and have faith.
- Some problems take a lot of time to get over. Help is not forthcoming for many families. It was not for ours. But time and love are an awesome couple. Some young people take longer to find a point when they are happier in their own skin, steadier and better able to cope. Also, see point 2. It is hard, but this is not a race.
- You may look at lots of bright and confident young people – and they are great; of course they are! – but stay in lane and remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Focus on what you have and that there is one key thing you might remember. None of us knows what difficulty we might have in life. It may be that your young person, through adversity, ends up better equipped to manage any number of things than those who sailed through. Also to have empathy and skills when other people need help. Like the bright and confident young people. None of is invulnerable. We need one another.
- Managing mental health problems, going through the things some of our young people have, requires immense bravery. Don’t ever forget that. And their problems are not failures: don’t ever ingest that one, either.
- Celebrate the small wins. They are still wins. If you heard your beloved laugh, do something with a bit more confidence, navigate a challenge, celebrate. Sometimes, you will raise the bar and sometimes lower the bar on this one and I reckon that’s fine.
There is so much more to write, and I will, I will, but for now, here are five points given with much love.