Parenting is a relationship that invites us to overcome our limitations and adapt to change. Adolescence is a threshold time for both parent and child that offer both challenges and valuable opportunities for growth. These challenges do not have to be faced alone. Many parents find that in addition to the support and services they receive from qualified mental health professionals; they wish to speak to other parents who have had similar experiences.
What parents can offer parents:
For many parents, there has been at least one occasion where the parent has felt blamed or responsible because of the emotional and behavioural challenges their child is experiencing and is often other parents who are living with similar challenges that can truly make another parent feel accepted despite the difficulties they are experiencing.
Many parents may not get the kind of sup¬port and understanding from family and friends that they have gotten in the past for other challenges they have faced. This can sometimes come from other people’s lack of understanding of the situation or their fear of what they are seeing happening to your child and your family. Parents in peer support often get a sense of relief because they don’t have to explain why their child is behaving the way they are or why, as par¬ents of this child, you are tired all the time. The other parents just ‘get it.’
Many parents benefit from sharing infor¬mation with other parents. A lot of useful information can be exchanged. Such as: Talking to someone about the impact that mental health problems have on your child, family and friends. Discussing the stress of dealing with multiple doctors, learning a whole new vocabulary, and dealing with the finan¬cial aspects of mental health problems. Finding support and advice about special classes and services, about how to talk to educators about your child’s difficulties, and how to remain optimistic. Learning tips from other parents on how they have managed similar challenges. Developing confidence in your own ideas and impressions about what your child needs and wants. The group is run as an open group which allows new parents to join at any time. In order to gain the full benefit of the parent support group and though our experience, we suggest attending for a minimum of 12 weeks.
The Important Role of Parents
Although parents learn that the adolescent must be responsible for changing herself, they also learn that there is a very important role they can play in structuring the environment, becoming less reactive, and helping to decrease their adolescent’s emotionality.
Structuring the Environment
Parents have often been conditioned by the adolescent to respond ineffectively to high-risk behaviours because they are afraid their adolescent may do something dangerous. Parents may need support in how to create an environment that is more balanced and more conducive to learning safe and skilful behaviours.
When parents are able to create a more validating environment, the adolescent feels heard and better understood. This leads to more communication between the parents and adolescent, fewer emotional outbursts, and a calmer and healthier environment for the entire family (Fruzetti, 2005). The idea of validation resonates with parents who understand that their adolescent accuses them of “not getting it” or “not understanding.” Validation within a family can be quite healing.
They may find it distressful to acknowledge the pain their child experiences, which is necessary to genuinely validate them. In addition, parents often want to fix problems or make them go away, especially if they are accomplished in other areas of their lives, or feel it is their responsibility to resolve their adolescent’s problems. Parents may hope to minimise the pain by dismissing the problem.
Parents can become frustrated because what they see as attempts at being helpful may actually be experienced as invalidating by their adolescent and therefore ineffective, often leading to more emotional outbursts from the adolescent.
Parents are sometimes hesitant to validate their child because they confuse it with agreeing with their child. It is helpful to remind parents that validating does not mean agreeing; it means genuinely acknowledging that the feelings of their adolescent make sense given the adolescent’s experiences.
Participants will be supported in:
Finding sustainable ways of supporting themselves and their children.
Developing effective communication skills respectful of themselves and others.
Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Developing healthy responses to self-defeating behaviour in themselves and others.
Shifting ‘stuck’ family dynamics by way of dialectical thinking and reconstructing realities.