A parent child connection is the most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind
I’m currently doing a course with psychotherapist Betsy de Thierry and the above was something I wrote down from one of the sessions.
Relationship, connection, safety – something that we are all created for, things we need to thrive but something I’m noticing more and more that lots of young people don’t have.
Poor mental health and young people is now often appearing in the same sentence – what’s to blame? Social Media? Covid? Gaming?
What about lack of …. Human Interaction? Physical Touch? Affirmation? Validation? Encouragement?
If the above quote is true, what about young people who don’t have parents or young people who have parents who are struggling with their own poor mental health or are working 2 or 3 jobs so don’t have enough time to be present.
As human beings we were created to belong. That is the wonderful thing about family. A place where you can be loved unconditionally, you can be accepted with all your quirks, where you can be championed, celebrated and cheered on.
But what about when then that isn’t your experience of family? What happens then?
What I see is happening then:
- Young people struggle to concentrate, focus and learn
- Young people feel numb
- Young people have pain inside that they are not able to vocalise or put into words
- Young people feel empty
- Young people find failure really painful
- Young people are unable to build healthy connections with others – as it hasn’t been modelled
- Young people seek out experiences (smoking/alcohol/drugs) desperate to either feel something or to feel nothing.
- Young people have low self esteem and self worth
- Young people struggle to sleep (don’t get me started on how important sleep is)
- Young people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to cope
- Young people lack resilience
Betsy also said that ‘all behaviour is communication’ and ‘every behavior that is dysfunctional, comes from pain’. Many of our children and young people are crying out for help in the only way they know how too. What are we doing to respond to those cries? Labeling them? Medicating them? Getting angry with them? Punishing them? Shaming them?
I’m not writing this to shame or blame anyone – I get that all parents and primary caregivers are likely to have their own stuff going on, and being a parent is probably one of the toughest jobs out there.
But we can’t ignore that this is a problem. We have to do something – and from what I am learning it seems that the secret is relationship. But relationship takes time, effort, and intentionality and there isn’t an end date. That can feel a bit scary.
What if life isn’t all about you, what if we experience life in all its fullness when we put others before ourselves and our primary intention is to serve those around us rather than to gather experiences and wealth? Maybe living life to the full is investing in relationship and relationships?
If people are what is really important then our young people are crying out for that to be modelled to them and to have an experience of that. If they never experience it, how are they ever going to be able to write an alternative ending to their story?
I’m currently having so many thoughts all the time about what ongoing, consistent, loving support could look like in our society ….
A final thought – yes one of Betsy’s … ‘We need to change lives, not just manage behaviours’.
On one level, fear is healthy. ‘Fear’ is an emotion brought on by a perceived threat. It is a natural emotion. It is God-given…a basic survival mechanism. It keeps us alive and protects us from danger.
Can one act of kindness make a difference?