Written by Cai Graham, author of the TEEN Toolbox™ and parenting expert, specialising in adolescence, and is being reproduced with kind permission.
I don’t work with Cai, she’s not paid for me to share this, and I have never used her services – but I have a number of friends who would recognise themselves in everything that Cai describes below, and I felt like it just might help someone...
Dear Parent of a Struggling Child,
It’s hard isn’t it?
Watching your “baby” struggle.
It’s hard isn’t it?
Seeing your once, happy go lucky child, morph into a confused and anxious teenager; lashing out at any of your efforts to look after them.
I know that you too struggle, bewildered and unsure of what to do for the best.
It’s hard isn’t it?
All you want to do is wrap them up in your arms and protect them from ‘the big wide world’ – and yet they resist any of your attempts to bring them close.
Parenting a teenager is hard – It’s damn hard.
“But Mum! You just don’t get it!”
As their parents, we feel that it is our responsibility to keep them happy and safe – we are supposed to have the answers – and yet we continue to feel powerless in this fast paced world. A world of school league tables, cyber-bullying, gun & knife crime, climate change and gender fluidity…
Much if this is alien to us – and it is hard to keep up.
So you see – I get it.
I was You.
I see You : Tiptoeing around the house – treading on eggshells trying desperately not to upset the temporary peace that has finally settled.
I see You : Looking at your daughter as she slopes out of the door – hoping she won’t be treated as cruelly today by her mean-girl “friends”.
I see You : Driving around the block again – clutching at the conversation – as your son slowly opens up to you.
I see You : Witnessing their anxieties – terrified that if it gets too bad they might think of doing something stupid.
I see You : Worrying perhaps, that they think you don’t love them, because all you seem to be saying is NO.
I see You : Sneaking into your daughter’s room – hoping that a late night hot chocolate will alleviate her anxieties as she struggles with the mountain of school work she is tackling.
I see You : Deflecting the verbal abuse as you try and reassure your son that you want to understand his struggles – all the while watching him withdraw further and further into his own tormented mind.
I see You : As your child collapses into the car, appearing to have the weight of the world on their shoulders? And all you can think of to say is “How was your day?” Desperate for connection, desperate for confirmation that this time, today was perhaps a good day.
I see You : Lying in bed in the wee small hours – beating yourself up that another attempt at support was misconstrued, ending with shouting and tears.
“Mum! You just don’t get me!”
I see You : Collapse in a heap at the kitchen table wondering where on earth you went wrong – and how on earth you can drag you and your family out of this mess; desperate for the laughter and calm to return to the home again.
You see, I understand your fake smiles when someone asks you how you are; pretending that everything is perfectly fine. The alternative would be confessing that you feel you are letting your child down. You and your child are both struggling; but what’s even more upsetting is that you are suffering separately. Alone.
I know that feeling of despondency when you look into the mirror and catch a glimpse of the truth behind your own eyes. Every day there is the sadness, and the hopelessness. You see that your child is in anguish – but it feels like there is fuck all you can do about it.
And then there’s the guilt – oh my goodness – the GUILT. Because you have absolutely no idea how to mend your fractured family.
How can you share these feelings with anyone else? Speaking your fears and worries out loud would be admitting that you cannot cope and that things are out of control. You are terrified of being judged. Not only will someone think badly of you, but worse still, your already vulnerable child will be scrutinised even further.
As our children move towards adulthood, they need us more, not less.
But adolescence brings isolation and confusion; because now the problems are so much bigger, there are consequences.
In their bid for independence, our children unwittingly shut us out – just when they need us the most. But how can we support them – if we have no idea ourselves?
The problem is that nobody ever taught us how to communicate properly – we were never really shown how to address our own feelings – let alone those of our confused and recalcitrant children.
That said, I need you to understand that it can get better.
We knew that parenting teenagers was going to be different – but not like this. Blimey – we’ve been parenting long enough to have learned something – surely? This is exhausting. However, this is not a struggle where we can just give up and admit defeat.
Having a teenager is a game of Tug-of-War. Each of you needs to hang on to your end of the rope. Your child needs to see – that however bad life gets – that you will always be there for them. Hanging on – together.
Whilst you are wrestling with your own anxieties and scrambling for the right words to say, your child is struggling even more. They have yet to develop the emotional intelligence to rationalise what is going on. They reject you because they cannot voice what’s going on in their head, too busy summoning all their energy to desperately hold it together. They are seeking to deal with the tsunami of emotions that plague them on a daily basis. All too often they have no idea what is going on in their heads either – and it is scaring the shit out of them.
They have so many demands from school, their friends and society, that they feel like they are suffocating.
One young man said to me “It’s that feeling of drowning – but there is no water.”
Your child is terrified that you will lose faith in them.
So please don’t give up on them – even though you are bone tired and you feel that you have nothing else to give.
If this rang bells, if you nodded along, if you feel this is you, then read on, as Cai shares the service she offers to help parents like yourself.
Is to open up the conversation in a different way. Perhaps you need to find someone who is impartial or perhaps you need to gain a clearer understanding of just what you child is going through.
That is exactly why I have created a series of solutions – for families just like you.
My programmes are designed to help both you and your child. Whilst predominantly it is your child who is struggling, it’s really not about sides – it’s not about blame – it’s about making a crappy situation better.
My programmes are fast. Unlike the mental health services, you won’t have to wait for weeks even months. So long as you apply and practice these tried and tested exercises that I provide, you will see results almost immediately.
My programmes will help you better recognise the “warning signs” and to know what to say to your child, and when to take action.
And if you are the teenager reading this – my material will help you better understand, that what’s going on in your head is fixable. You can get rid of the isolation and the fear and the chaos that swamps your thoughts.
My programmes will help you take back some control in your life – so that you can have the confidence to know that the crap in your head is not going to let you down at the worst possible time.
My programmes will show you what to do when things get too stressy or when your worries are beginning to mushroom out of control again. You will build your confidence to know how to stop your anxieties, without drawing attention to yourself.
So please, rest assured that however desperate you might be feeling at the minute – it’s not that none of this can’t be fixed – it absolutely can. But it just takes some courage and for you to trust the process; and above all, to trust one another.
Because – Parents – when your child knows that you have their back – rather than being on their back – that’s when the magic happens.