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Adolescent Mental Health from a Mum’s Perspective

by Olivia Barry of Livvy B Interiors

So much of my time is spent talking with teens as they help me design the Livvy B bedding range and I hear a lot about the difficult issues they face.  But what about their parents?  Clearly, the focus needs to be on the child first and foremost, but we mustn’t forget the needs of the adults who support them.

I have been asked twice in the last week if I would write something from the parents perspective. And although up until a couple of months ago, I had experienced my own mental health issues, throughout my life, through adolescence into adulthood. I had also spoken to many, many parents and in fact grandparents who were struggling with the reality of their child suffering, I had not been the parent with the child going through terrible personal trauma.

Sadly, however, that all changed recently and although I don’t want to go into much detail about the facts, the acuteness and sudden unravelling of a usually happy child, was, hands down, the most frightening experience of my life. Without exception, not surprisingly, that has been echoed to me time and time again with parents I have spoken to.

I feel privileged to be rung up by parents, who want to buy from me, but also want to tell me their stories and why they want to support me and the teenagers we support through our work. The worry and anxiousness all too present in their voices.

But what I tell them, and want to tell those reading this, you are not alone. Of course for our children’s sake we keep it within the family, sometimes just between the parents but, and certainly at times in my case, I kept a lot of it to myself, knowing if I confided in my husband, he struggled to not ‘try and fix it’, he just wanted to make his child happy, which in turn made the situation worse.  I wanted to take the pain away from everyone involved and therefore at times, I felt totally like an island trying to stop the waves overwhelming me.

What I find hardest to accept and deal with is not being able to control the situation. Lying awake, night after night, just in case I missed something.  And when I heard a noise….Why?  What’s going on?  Why are they going to the loo? Should I go and check or will it make it worse?  Why are they going outside? Do I follow them?  What are they getting from the car?  Did they leave something  harmful, intentionally in there for when I am asleep?  

Sounds crazy I know but when you have seen and been told things by your child, every possible scenario goes through your mind.

The guilt and failure I felt as a mum were acute, and as much as friends told me it wasn’t the case, I just couldn’t accept that my parenting had not been the reason for what my child was experiencing. It is hard not to go over every minute detail of their life and try and pick out what it was that  surmounted to this crash of deep sadness and anxiety.

It is with reluctant determination that I find myself having to dig deep inside to try and find the acceptance that I am not wholly to blame.   And it took a trip to my wonderful counsellor, and the support of my friends, to see that maybe I wasn’t the only cause, and nor lovely reader, are you! As difficult as it is not to blame ourselves the reality is all of our children’s mental health is influenced by a multitude of factors.  These include DNA, school, age, peers, life experiences, personality traits, pressures, being a teenager and yes, home environment in some cases.

We have to remember though that this is life and as much as we want to shield our children from the harsh realities we face at times it is not realistic or helpful for them.  What we can do is look after our own mental health to keep ourselves strong and as grounded as possible to guide them through hard times.  We sadly  don’t have a magic potion to give them but we can be there with kindness, understanding and boundaries. (It is now more than ever I’ve discovered they need me to make decisions for them. It takes one pressure off an already confused mind and gives them one less worry to ruminate over.)

So I want to finish off this piece with just saying, remember you are not alone.  There are many parents and guardians facing similar challenges and although you may want to stay anonymous for the safety of your child and family, which is totally understandable, there are support networks out there where you can share and feel supported but stay hidden, like the Teen Tips Club, with it’s forum, allowing you to privately vent your worries without judgement.  Alternatively if you think a chat with me might help please feel free to contact me at livvy@livvyb.co.uk.

About Livvy B Interiors

Livvy B is an ethical company designing bedding and accessories alongside adolescents who might be suffering from a challenging time in their lives. Livvy B donates 10% of sale to Mind Charity and all their products are sustainably produced and made in factories supporting local communities in India.

Livvy B offers Teen Tips Club members a 10% discount.

Visit www.livvyb.co.uk

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