Being a parent is a hard job, being a parent with a child with additional needs is an even harder job. It’s not that you’re asking for any special acknowledgement, but you don’t know what you’re doing as a parent at the best of times, and then comes along a whole set of other parameters that you have no idea how to deal with.
Firstly, you have to recognise that your child does have additional needs, and with child mental health it is not always obvious or immediately apparent. You may start to recognise that this seems to be more than what other children are displaying, or feeling, and you may talk to other parents about it, but when other parents say their child is the same, you leave it there. You almost know that it’s not actually the same, but you don’t want to exacerbate your child’s behaviour as you feel guilty talking about the bad behaviour your child demonstrates. There is also a huge feeling of insecurity, of what if it’s me? What if I have caused this? Maybe I haven’t dealt with it right?
So, you may have found it difficult to really open up to other people, and you may have sought professional help. I spoke to my GP, who was sympathetic, but again I felt guilty talking about all the bad stuff. The GP kindly referred my daughter to CAMHS, who were unable to provide help as they did not have the resource. The letter pointed me in the direction of a few books and things to try, most of which I had already tried off my own back and were of little help.
I spoke to the school, but because my daughter was very conscious of what other people thought of her, they were not aware of any problem at school. I did push, and they were able to provide what little support they could, when they have limited resource and a big demand.
We tried a few costly professionals, the journey was not smooth, but we kept going until we found the right contact which eventually got us on the right path. The journey has not always been smooth, but I now have my daughter back, and she is loving life again, taking risks and trying new things, with a huge smile on her face.
So, it’s hard not to feel alone, hard to keep going when you feel there is no where to turn. Hard to keep smiling when you see other people who have no idea that you have dug to the depths of your soul to keep calm and patient that morning, whilst your child has sobbed with utter despair at the thought of leaving you to go to school. Hard to say to your child when you have managed to get them to the classroom door “Have a good day Darling” with a smile on your face when minutes prior you had shoes thrown at you, punched and kicked and told how much they “Hate you”. Hard to answer a friend that you’re “Fine”, when they say “Good Morning, How are You?”, because you have no other way inside you to answer that question, when you are feeling anything other than fine.
But more than anything, the sadness you feel as a parent, thinking how unhappy your child is, how they are moving through life, following the motions, when they are constantly exhausted at portraying to the world a happy child who can fit the “norm” when their head is full of a million thoughts, doubts, worries and fears. When they are scared to say all that they feel, when they don’t have the words to explain it, that they believe that everyone else is the same as them, but everyone else is coping with it all just fine.
I say all this because maybe you also feel like I did, and still do on many many occasions, and maybe it’s just helpful to know, You’re Not Alone.
I encourage you to keep going, keep pulling on your inner strength to stay calm, keep exploring avenues of help and support, forgive yourself if you get something wrong (which you undoubtedly will because you are trying so hard), keep understanding your child is not being personal to you, give yourself a break if you can, and tell yourself you are not alone.
This has been written by a parent of 3 daughters, two of whom have anxiety.
If you need support for your child, please contact our Family Liaison Officer in the first instance:
Hampshire FCT Family Liaison Officer, Jane Peacock
Tel: 07538 029 210