When Bryan and I started out as young parents, we decided we would combine both of our parent’s way of bringing up children and pick out what we deemed the best! We also thought we needed to learn a bit too. So we found books and went on courses on the subject of toddlers through to teenagers. We were going to get through this well!
We talked a lot about how we wanted to bring up our children and before we began our journey we watched others and thought…. “Our children are not going to do that!”
Nothing can quite prepare a parent for what lies ahead in a teenager’s life. There are a lot of things we cannot control, like outside influences and the choice of friends. Some kids find it an easier ride than others.
When Anna started on her self-destructive path of bulimia we didn’t see it coming. It wasn’t obvious until she got very thin and started having dramatic mood swings. The chemical imbalance changed her personality.
Bryan and I set about finding help for Anna. It was beyond what we could figure out on our own. No textbook can prepare us for everything our children will go through. It took a bit of searching to get the right help for Anna and for us. The ultimate choice of how she was going to live was up to her. We also decided that we wouldn’t go away without one of us being at home when things were the most challenging.
There were two stand-out pieces of advice for us as parents that made the most difference to Anna. One was not to make a big deal about meal times or what we were going to eat. I always knew when she piled her plate up at dinner time that it would later end up going down the toilet. I had to bite my tongue as it seemed such a waste. We carried on with the usual family meal around the table together.
The second piece of advice was not to comment in any way about how Anna looked, even if it was good. We were to build her self-worth, by praising her, and acknowledging her when she was helpful.
The crunch came when we were told by our dentist that she was going to lose her teeth if she didn’t stop making herself sick. So 19 fillings and doses of calcium later became the catalyst for change.
I have a good friend who is an Intermediate School teacher, and the cases of self-harm coming through now are alarming. Bulimia is not so prevalent but it is the same self-destructive behaviour. It is a real worry when eleven and twelve year olds are cutting and burning themselves at such a young age.
The pressures kids are under nowadays is enormous. Often it comes from living very complicated lives, with broken relationships, social media and bullying, which is daunting even for the most confident person. I believe it is important to re-enforce self-worth in our children and we have learned to encourage them for what they do right rather than criticise them for what they do wrong.