One of our MSc Psychology students has recently completed a project looking into the support networks available for parents and carers of adolescents. This has generally been a relatively neglected area when considering support for parents; there are an abundance of resources available for parents of babies or younger children, but very little once their children hit high school. As one parent has commented “There is a lot of sympathy and understanding when you lose sleep over a new-born but far less when you can’t sleep for worrying about what your errant teenager is up to.”
One of the striking findings from the MSc report was that parents have no idea what ‘normal’ teenage behaviour is, and can feel very isolated worrying about what may or may not be atypical behaviour. The proliferation of social media and the Internet has raised a whole plethora of new concerns for parents that didn’t exist a decade or so ago and this can be very difficult to deal with. Cyber-bullying; grooming; inappropriate access to sex and violence. These are all challenges that parents are trying to navigate and sensitively deal with. Then there are a whole barrage of mental health issues that come with being a teenager. Self-harm is massively on the increase; eating and self-perception disorders are exacerbated by the media, and adolescence is typically a time when affective disorders might manifest. How do parents know what is a ‘phase’ and what might need professional intervention?
Parents in our study generally said that they would like to see more forums for meeting other parents and having an opportunity to talk about their issues with other people who were going through similar experiences. They also reported wanting access to professional advice, such as workshops or information leaflets. In response to this feedback, the E&D team in FMS will be planning at least one workshop over the coming months to address some of these issues and provide advice/support for parents or carers of adolescents. There is clearly a demand for access to this kind of information, and we are keen to trial a workshop that may lead to a further series of events.
In researching the information that is currently available to parents/carers of adolescents, we came across a fantastic organisation that is all about promoting mental well-being in teenagers. Young Minds offers toolkits and info packs to schools and parents, as well as providing a forum for parents and teenagers to express their views on the issues affecting them. They run various projects throughout the year, focusing on the challenges affecting teenagers, such as self-harm, building resilience, and a range of mental health issues. This is exactly the type of forum parents have been asking for, and we hope to help build links to provide better access to these kinds of services…