Specialist adolescent counselling.
Specialist adolescent counselling.I was recently asked to help a mother as she told her children that their father would probably be sent to prison for theft. She was understandably angry and worried about how her children would take this terrible news.
Here’s what I thought she might think about saying,
“Some people do things like taking things from other people. Some people who take things that do not belong to them can be mums and dads and it causes pain and unhappiness and confusion because the people who love them, like us, feel worried about themselves and worried about their mums and dads.
But people seldom do things for no reason and I don’t know but I think there are probably reasons why daddy did those things.
Unfortunately, he has now put himself in very real danger of being sent to prison because he cannot manage himself so now he needs other people to manage him. If he goes to prison he will be OK and hopefully he will be different and more thoughtful when he leaves.
It’s not our job to make him change the things he does, it’s his journey.
If he does go we can visit him but I know that you might be so cross that you don’t want to see him. You might want him to get the message that you feel bad because he did something that has taken him away from you. However if you do want to see him, even if you are angry then I know we can see him.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for daddy because he is a grown-up and part of growing up means, even from a young age, it is you that must take responsibility for your behaviour including that behaviour which is not helpful to you and other people. Mummy will always help you do the right thing.
So, I am not asking you to feel sorry for daddy but I am asking you not to judge him, or any other person that takes things from other people, as bad.
I also guess I am asking you to be smart enough to ignore simple, unhappy, opinions from other people who have unhelpful thoughts and ideas about people who do things that make other people unhappy.
Remember, however you feel, mummy is here for you and she’s not going anywhere and she loves you very much and what I love doing most is helping you if you’re confused or upset or need help in any other way.
Mostly, I won’t wait for you to tell me you need me, I will just ask you if I think you are struggling. If I ask too much then let me know and if I don’t notice then I’m counting on you to let me know when you need help with daddy not being here.
This advice was based on the following ideas:
1, Once a child has been exposed to the idea of people doing unhappy things to other people and people breaking the law then a parent cannot pretend this has not happened and must deal directly with the issue.
2, A young person’s unhappiness and the pain must be openly acknowledged in order for a young person to become accustomed to their own uncomfortable feelings.
2, The person who has offended must be separated from their behaviour. A person is still inherently good whatever their behaviour, and, like their clothes, their behaviour can be changed when it is not suitable or is inappropriate.
3, Children must be introduced to the idea that matters are seldom black-and-white and that seeing shades of grey can sometimes be necessary in life. This will stand them in good stead when they have issues in the playground and in other relationships they experience.
4, Children must be helped to be strong enough to have their own opinions that can sometimes conflict with the judgemental majority.
5, Young people need to know that it is our own responsibility to ensure that our own behaviour is acceptable and safe and when it is not it can sometimes have a bad consequence for others around us who love us.
6, Children need to feel safe and contained by a carer who is strong enough and caring enough to actively seek to maintain their well-being.
7, We do not ask young people to empathise and prioritise other, older, people over their own needs for emotional stability and security. However we asked them to consider that life is complex and not black-and-white.
What do you think? How might you have handled the same terrible dilemma? I’d love to hear from you if you would like to tell me. If you would like to talk to me about how counselling can help you or someone you love then please get in touch with me by phone or email.