Children Mental Health

Helicopters, Snow ploughs and Resilience

A big part of my job is in supporting children with their mental health. This is not an easy thing to do for a number of reasons. Firstly I am not a clinical psychologist, although that would certainly make things easier. And secondly, there is a growing number of young people requiring support so the demand for help can be a little overwhelming. According to the Mental Health Foundation, statistically now in the UK mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. These figures account for those receiving specialist support for a mental health issue but do not take into account those who are not receiving specialist support or those who are simply struggling to manage their emotional wellbeing, so in the end, the numbers become quite alarming and are closer to 1 in 4 than 1 in 10.

The Mental Health Foundation states that ‘good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. From experience, a lack of resilience is a big part of where the additional numbers are coming from and causing a shift from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4. While some conditions may be unavoidable, the increase in eating disorders has often been linked with social factors and influences. similarly I would argue the increase in anxiety disorders and behaviour disorders might well be to do with the environment, the experience and the resilience of the child. Despite all we hear on the news about the dramatic rise in mental health conditions in young people, I am not sure there has been such a major increase in depression, schizophrenia, or OCD. The experience of those of us who are offering non-specialist support would certainly say that the numbers of those cases has not increased in quite the same way.

I don’t mean to devalue what we are doing here either, I just wanted to make the point that while we may complete a wealth of specialist training in order to use strategies to support the youngsters day-to-day, mental health is not our primary profession and for me as an educator, it can be a pretty large step at times and also take its emotional toll. Fortunately, I have a very supportive home environment and good levels of personal resilience and I think that a lack of these in our children is partially responsible for some of the reason for the increase. There is not always a lot we can do to change someone’s circumstances although we can support them with how they manage them. For many though, that is not the issue and I think that part of the problem is the increase in parents who are projecting their own aspirations and anxieties onto their offspring.

Helicopter parenting was not really a thing when I was growing up.  If you got in trouble at school then you were punished at home too. The chances of my mum going in to school to sort it out were slim to none. Instead she sorted me out and we just all got on with it. These days so many parents hover above their children, watching their every move, ready to swoop in and fix things for them whenever it goes wrong. While this comes from good intent, it leads to young people who never really learn how to manage situations of difficulty themselves. They learn that they need help, that they need to be looked after and they learn that there are no real consequences to their actions.

Even more dangerous than the helicopter parents are the snow plough parents who move along in front of their children, clearing the path of anything which may be even slightly hazardous. This can lead to a young person who never has to cope with anything difficult at all. Everything becomes anticipatory and so even when things would have been tricky and then turned out fine, they are never allowed to evolve. This sort of overcare can lead to the child never experiencing any sort of adversity. In fact, they are never aware that there could have been anything adverse in the first place. Putting a child with this experience into a busy, unpredictable world (or even a school) where very occasionally bad things happen, is going to be completely overwhelming.

Now I don’t want to do down parents. I am a parent myself and, although far from perfect, I do try my best, but sometimes we just need to stop and think. A desire to protect needs to be balanced with a desire for offspring who are confident and independent, so that needs to be practiced and modelled in a safe environment. If you don’t model trust and respect, then your child will not learn trust and respect. If you don’t model and encourage resilience and self-regulation then they will struggle to learn those things too. And if you hide your emotions and feelings instead of modelling some coping strategies, then your child will also struggle to articulate and demonstrate their thoughts and feelings.

I see examples around me quite often of people who are sending messages, albeit subconsciously, which really are not helpful to the child in question. I have found myself doing it at times when caught off guard and my thinking aloud has revealed some of my own anxieties. I remember quite clearly an occasion where this went on to influence my son who made a decision based on a sense of not being safe, which ultimately I had created. I am guilty too of not always practicing what I preach and if you aren’t modelling what you teach then of course you are teaching something else. Although I try to show good examples, we are all only human and so when I mess up, I try to explain what has happened and use it as a learning experience for all of us.

When I first had my girls it was important to me that I didn’t pass on my own unhealthy attitudes about eating. I tried very hard to eat normally and not to make it, or my body image an issue. It wasn’t until we are at an eating disorders clinic with my daughter that I realised how unhealthy my ideas still were. It was inevitable, I suppose, that some of that would come across and perhaps there is nothing I could have done to stop that. We pass on many of our positive traits to our children and so it makes sense that sometimes the not so great aspects will also have an impact. It was upsetting for me to realise not only that she had an eating disorder, but also that I was probably part of the reason she was susceptible. On the plus side it did make it easier for me to understand and support her, so I guess every cloud and all that.

I think what I am saying is that as parents we should try out best to love our children and support them to be independent and confident enough to leave us. If they are happy and resilient then I think we have done a good job. I do think what we need to do is to look at what we have become on a social level and ask if the way our society is, influences some of these rises in poor mental health in our young people. I know there is a push to bring in extra resources which I cynically think will mean they are cuts elsewhere, but what can we change so that young people are more able to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults?

Living in a full-time D/s relationship when you have a family means that inevitably they will pick up on some of what you do. I know this is a worry expressed by those who don’t understand that our kids are not routinely made aware of the kinkier parts of our life. While sex and sexuality is discussed openly enough, the personal details of our sex life are not. It remains a behind closed doors thing and we have no plans for that to change. What it has meant is that the open communication is being modelled much more at home than it might have been otherwise. I think that this has been positive as they are now much more aware and more emotionally attuned to what is going on. They have also seen us deal with things which have been difficult and unpleasant and watched us bouncing back.

Sex Bloggers for Mental Health Week 4

Children & Mental Health
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  1. So good!
    What I see a lot is “child centered family” we do what the kids want regardless if that exhaust us or burn us out. When that happens, the marriage Itself is put on the back burner and unfortunately ppl suffer.

    When it comes to the kids catching things, you are so right. here we have a saying: a lot is caught them taught.
    One day me and my daughter were getting ready to go out and we check in the mirror together for the last time and she said: mom we are so gorgeous! I guess is the way I carry myself and she is watching me, I never had a lesson on that for her, although my husband tells her as well how pretty she is. (I am sure that has something to do with that as well) ?.

    I hope they are catching also a good marriage, eating healthy, living in a peaceful home, and being sexually and emotionally healthy.

    • Thank you for your comment and I love that story about you and your daughter. You are right – I think a lot of that self belief is learned from watching others ?

  2. Great post, missy! My focus and training in counseling psychology has always been with adults, but from what I know about working with children, you are spot on here. One thing I will say about what you and your husband are modeling in the home is that D/s takes a great deal of trust, respect, and love. I imagine that your children are observing how respectful and loving you are toward one another and I believe that is incredibly beneficial for them (especially when I consider how awful some couples are towards each other, even when their children are present).

    • Yes for sure. It is important to us as they have all been witness to the previous relationships where things were not going well and those elements were done so we have been lucky to be able to provide a better example this time. Thank you ❤️

  3. What an excellent post… I love your descriptions of parents, I think there is another hazardous category.. the indifferent parent… I have seen many who just seem to think that as a parent they have no responsibility to teach their child.

    • Yes that is true. I am not sure if they are growing in numbers the same way. They would always have been the children who would have required extra support though and still do ?

  4. Fab post Missy, so well written – thanks so much for sharing all you knowledge and personal stuff too – i was a “don’t wrap my children in cotton wool” parent – but did discuss so much with them as well – parenting is not easy for sure xx

  5. They say no matter what, something our parents do well land us on the therapist’s couch. We’re people and we do our best caring for our kids. I believe your kids wouldn’t consider otherwise with you.

    Also, to put so much of mental health care on you as the teacher seems like a lot. With everything else you have to accomplish as a teacher, making mental health care (to any degree) your responsibility is hard.

    • I think it falls to us as we see them every day and the specialist services are stretched. Also we are an essential service so we have to keep going no matter what we are dealing with where with health the kids have to engage with the service so they get the ones who are ready to make changes. There have been so many cuts that it has had an impact on where the help comes from. I find it all interesting so don’t mind doing it but as you say it’s hard with other things too not to feel you aren’t doing anything as well as you should be.

  6. Brilliant post missy, I like how open you are with us as readers, so thank you. This is something I am aware of on a daily basis, what we and others say and how they act in front of the children. So much is observed and taken in by them even at such a young age. It’s a hard battle with some extended members of the family to try and not tell them everything will ‘hurt’ them when they are just exploring their surroundings quite harmlessly. It’s a difficult balance, between protecting and over protecting.

  7. Very informative post. I remember reading about helicopter parents about 10 years ago and thought thank god i wasn’t raised like that. LOL. But what gets me is those “snow plow” parents. I do not like these types of parents, their children, our future will have no clue have to live life. I don’t believe in every kid should get a trophy at the end of the season. Life is hard, practice and maybe next year you’ll get that trophy. UGH. Sorry. I am very “old school.” It’s not easy raising kids and even more difficult with a mental illness.There is a line somewhere and trying to be careful not to cross it is not an easy task.
    Thanks for sharing this. Sidenote: At the end of the month there will be a prompt about eating disorders, food, etc.

    • I agree it is hard as a parent and when/where to draw the line. It is particularly hard where you share the same anxieties and ‘protect’ them by allowing them to avoid their fears. Id go with ‘tough love’ too over that. I saw the eating disorders one was coming up. I wrote about it not too long ago for the healing prompt (which I then missed lol) and that was the most open I have been. I will try to think of a different approach and see what I can come up with. Mental health is something I am interested in and care a lot about so I am enjoying writing about it so far. I just want to make sure I get the balance right. Thank you for your feedback and for hosting the meme ?

  8. Amen to this post! I work with kids, too…in the U.S. and I can attest to all of this. Parenting really has changed, and it impacts our kids in various positive and negative ways. I’m an old school parent for the most part, but I see the ill effects of helicopter parenting every day.

    • I am not surprised it is the same over there as I think it is a change in society in general. Yay for the old school – we need to stick together ❤️

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