South West Wellbeing Centre

South West Wellbeing Centre

Helping parents with their family challenges.

A Psychologist’s Perspective

Life can be challenging, and many parents find that out early on: a crying baby, lack of sleep, toddler tantrums, your child is bullied, teenage dramas, kids not listening? For the family unit, there are additional challenges; dads working away, mums working, children in after-school care, isolated from extended family, relationship drama’s, separated couples, shared care arrangements, learning disabilities, cancer, accidents, Autism, ADHD, financial pressures……the list goes on.

As a Psychologist, I see many people in direct care roles with children-mums, dads, couples, grandparents (even neighbours and foster carers). So many people have a variety of challenges and difficulties. I get referrals every day from Doctors, phone calls from parents and other health professionals.  The general consensus is that the world is changing, the problems are getting bigger, we are seeing more children with depression, more children with anxiety and more families struggling with so many interpersonal issues. We open up the paper and we see the “news” again, another death, an accident, reports on natural disasters, attacks, accidents, drug issues….the list goes on. Adults are juggling so many demands on their time; partner, family, work, children, Facebook, friends, family expectations, own expectations……..all of this encircles and surrounds the family unit, whatever that looks like and is composed of- and all of this adds to the daily, weekly and monthly challenges.

Some people seek out professional help-sometimes when things have progressed down a road of difficulty and challenge for some significant period of time. Often they have tried “this” and “that” and “this and “that” and apparently things are still the same; the child still tantrums, the teenager refuses to talk, locked on their room.  The ex-partner who causes difficulty-either directly or indirectly. The children who spend time with their dad, then their mum-doing “week about” or swapping every day or few days. These things are unsettling and cause change, and that can be emotionally disruptive even in itself. Other children find the school learning environment difficult, but don’t know it. Their families experience tantrums, meltdowns and emotional upheaval.

Other children have health challenges, or their parents do. Some children have parents who can’t meet their needs; whether it be physical needs like food and safety or emotional needs……..some children are abused (sexual abuse and other trauma’s) while other children have cancer or severe illness and all of this impacts on the developing child, their self-esteem and their ability to manage the world – impacts on their personality and their emotional Wellbeing.

So they seek support…..often that means finding a Doctor, a Paediatrician or a Psychologist.  I have discovered that many people have stereotypes of Psychologists-thinking they have special powers and can read minds….this can make some people uncomfortable and anxious. Other people think that Psychologists can make things change, can create change and that if their partner or child attends counselling, that things are guaranteed to improve. Many doctors or parents think that CBT ( cognitive behavioural therapy) is a simple step “cure-all” -of course, don’t get me wrong, certainly counselling and psychology services can be beneficial, but to expect that “someone” can work I such wonders in such a short period of time would be truly amazing.

Yes, Psychologists can be involved in creating change and in assisting clients to experience improvements, ultimately, however, it is the client themselves that needs to change, to decide that they “can” change or that change is possible. So it’s a combination of readiness, motivation, mindset and specialist skills.  Often the clinical consultation can assist the client to determine factors that led to the situation, clarity in amongst the fields of difficulty, focus in amongst the chaos. A professional can assist in the discussion of emotions, and in determining what some other options could be, suggesting strategies, or pointing out techniques that can assist in particular situations.

So, I sometimes need to explain further, and to say, we don’t have a magic wand, or “my magic wand is broken”…. “I’d love to wave a magic wand and solve your families difficulties, our countries challenges and the world’s dramas but it just doesn’t work like that”.  And it’s not fair or correct to put blame on a professional for a person, or child, not changing or improving……in actual fact, it’s up to the individual to become self-aware, learn some things that can be beneficial and be willing to experiment, to try things differently…..for children it’s also about their home environment, the care provided by the adults, the routines and consistency……..the stability and nurture, the time spent with their significant adults………the people who are good role models for them. All of this contributes to a child’s Wellbeing.

Many people are not aware that Psychologists are trained for a minimum of 6 years -in a range of things, understanding child development, human brains and memory, social interactions, how to do research, understanding people, understanding different disorders, techniques to treat many conditions, how to engage with children, strategies for this….and that……..and every year we add further training, upgrading many skills.

All of this knowledge combined, plus years of experience, and consulting with peers and experts in the field, mean that there is a great awareness and understanding of many human conditions. For those of us who specialise in working with children, and their families-there are specialist techniques we are trained in for engaging with different ages of children, and different therapies that assist with different conditions.

Over the years, I have heard and seen many parents share their difficulties, concerns and challenges. As time goes on, we will explore and discover a range of issues together. I hope you can join me next time. Jay


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