Bethan O'Riordan

This weeks Ask Bethan: “How can I help my child while we wait for a CAMHS Assessment?”

I’m seeing a significant increase in parents waiting for a CAMHS assessment for their child.  My opinion is that lock downs have been hard for many families and now the toll is beginning to show. 

The wait for the CAMHS appointment can be long, especially if your child’s behaviours and emotions are getting progressively worse.  What I am seeing is that the lockdowns have shone a light on a child’s inner world; isolation is the number one indicator for mental health.  As humans we are a social species and need to be in a tribe to survive. When this connection is removed all sorts of tricky things happen in the mind. 

If your child is struggling with their emotions, your child needs you to do these three things:

  1. Have clear boundaries that you stick to, but that also be flexible when needed.
  2. Create an environment which is open to listening, validating, calm, consistent, compassionate and not shaming.
  3. Reflect on your behaviour and how you respond to your child.

What I tell every parent when I meet them is that a child’s greatest therapist will always be their parent. I know that the professional assistance of a CAMHS therapist is helpful in supporting a child but my experience is that every parent can develop, or enhance their skills in helping their children.

When anyone goes to therapy, the primary role of the therapist is to have an unconditional positive regard for their children. By this I mean a therapist will always hold the child in the highest of regard, listen to them, validate them, accept them and offer help.

I believe that with the correct guidance, every parent can also offer this unconditional emotional safety for their child too. I know it’s not easy and can be tiring and overwhelming, but the value of the parent re-parenting themselves and upskilling in this way holds untold benefits in creating a healthy relationship between them and their child.

It’s so helpful when a parent takes on this responsibility as it also means that when your child ends therapy, the emotional environment is supportive for them to continue to thrive.  We want the alliance to be strong between child and parent, not only parent and therapist.

So in answer to the reader’s question, “what can I do?”, you can begin by working out what do you find difficult about your child’s behaviours or emotions? Where are you stuck?  And what do you need to change to be supportive to your child and yourself? Above all, I urge you to reflect on how you can upskill and be the solution to your child’s problems.

If you would like support to answer these questions and create a plan to help your child, I can help you in three ways:

  1. Book a parenting consultation. We discuss your child’s needs and behaviours in this hour session and create a bespoke practical plan to support you, your child and family. after the session I’ll email you a session summary so that you’ve the answers when you need them. Available online or in person in my practice in Blarney, Cork.
  2. Try the Calm Parenting Club free for 7 days. This online membership is a powerful low cost way of accessing myself and other like minded parents to get the support and answers you’re looking for.
  3. Book a Counselling/Psychotherapy Session and create change within your life. Available online or in person in my practice in Blarney, Cork.

Don’t forget to get your free guide 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting for practical tips to help support you to be the change your children need.

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