February 12, 2020
Weathering the Storm
By Dr Kathy Weston
Storm Ciara has caused havoc where we live. As a family, we watched out the window as it tore down fence panels, ripped branches from trees and untidied the otherwise tidy driveway.
Everyone who has been to my talks knows I love a metaphor (!) and a storm provides the perfect metaphor for being in crisis and experiencing subsequent renewal. The storm was unpredictable as it raged through our garden, but its energy brought us closer together. The fact it caused our electricity to cut off meant we had to stop working individually and come together to chat. It provided the perfect reason to stop.
For the first time in his life, and with no gadgets or screens to engage with, my teen son fell asleep in front of the fire. Following the storm, things don’t look the same, and in a way that’s a good thing. Without change sometimes being forced upon us, we stay in familiar patterns that aren’t always that beneficial. Whatever happens in life, we should stay focused on the opportunities that arise from the difficulty. A storm provides the perfect metaphor for that.
You will recall in last week’s WW, I chatted about my recent experience of helping my son through some challenging academic exams.
As results day approaches, I have been thinking about his resilience should the news not be what he is hoping for. I can’t anticipate the result, but I do know that children need a coping strategy for what might happen, as this can alleviate anxiety and stress.
We have created a ‘Plan A’ envelope if all goes well and a ‘Plan B’ envelope filled with positive things we have taken from the experience, reasons why he is proud of himself and fun things we can look forward to as a family. This means he has a psychological template for passing or failing and he won’t fall down that dark hole of ever feeling like a failure or worried he has disappointed his parents. In a sense, by preparing ‘Plan A and B’ envelopes, all future chats are taken care of, and he has a sense that after Friday, we can all move on! Hooray for that.
Social media has been in the news again this week with one family arguing that their teen would not have committed suicide had she had not access to online suicide communities urging her to take her own life.
Elsewhere, a father who did not know his child was in great mental distress at university begs us to ask our older teens how they are doing, and to keep all communication channels open. Parents rightly want to know about what their children are doing, and seeing, online, and more often than not, we can’t be there for those all-important chats.
If you have just given your child a Smartphone, or are about to, consider putting the BBC Own It app onto their phone. Using a combination of self-reporting and ‘machine learning’, ‘the app builds up a picture of your child’s digital wellbeing and serves relevant content, information and interventions designed to help your child understand the impact that their online behaviours can have on themselves, and on others’.
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