Why we need to listen to our children

Why we need to listen to our children

Growing up, I was labeled as a bit of a ‘drama queen’, or even my least favorite word in the world ‘hypochondriac’.

I had this habit of over thinking, anything from my health, to the people around me. I was terrified of getting ill but I was even more terrified of people. I just don’t think I understood other children or adults, and that was a bit of a scary thing. Even with health, you can’t predict it, maybe that is where my fear lies; in the unknown.

This affected every aspect of my life, I would be overly cautious when walking in the great outdoors or even when I was sitting in the back of the car with my family. All I could think about was the many things that could go wrong. I just didn’t see the odds as in my favor as a child, I saw a chance as a possibility and therefore a reason to worry. Being highly empathic and sensitive certainly came with this heavy duty of living in a real world ‘final destination’ movie.

I wasn’t good with friends either, I couldn’t even say “hi” without getting voice block, even if I did manage it on occasion it would come out in this weird squeal or just sound like nonsense. I still struggle now, though, It also transfers into my constant rambling and repeating of sentences, a conversation with me can be a bit challenging; but I mean well.

I lost motivation at school, I didn’t participate, I kept to myself often and generally, was in an entire world of my own, separate to my class and every other child that I knew.

While this was bought up at parents meetings and at home, no one really asked why. I was just seen as this ‘shy kid’, and that was my fate, there wasn’t a consideration for the cause or for the possibility that I wasn’t shy at all.

Inside, I was desperate to take part, make friends and take on the world, it’s just, my head made me feel limited and at such a young age with little understanding of mental health, I had no way to manage it.

The truth is, I had been through a lot as a child, I was bullied, I had traumas at home and I essentially developed a heavy flight instinct, as a mental health professional once told me, I am hypertensive, and I learn to be quiet and remove myself from situations, or freeze, as a way to defend myself. I guess it’s a bit like how some animals play dead in the wild.

Author   Advocate and writer, Charlotte Underwood  @CUnderwoodUK


Advocate and writer, Charlotte Underwood

I struggled to find help as a teenager and even now as an adult, it still seems like I have a better chance of winning the lottery and getting private therapy, then getting support from my local services. The effect of this is that I am still that child with anxiety, but in an adult body. I did not grow out of it or come out of a phase. I still have all those thoughts, feelings and panic attacks.

Because children with mental illness will grow into adults with mental illness, if they do not have support.

It didn’t have to be this way and it dosen’t have to become the fate of many children across the world who are similar to the child I was. If someone had

noticed the signs and symptoms, if I was taken seriously and taught about mental health instead of labeled. If I was offered options and encouraged to talk. If I had support, I might manage a lot better as an adult, than I do now.

Instead I have layers of bad mental health that are almost too rooted to be helped by the services we have out there today, I’ve been rejected from help because I am too ‘ill’. Yet, for many services, I am not ill enough. It leaves me in this limbo, just because the child I was, was not taken seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, my father was so great in listening to me in my teen years, but it was a battle with my parents against the whole “Everyone goes through that” and “It’s normal”. It was almost like my parents were there but they didn’t really listen. I can’t blame them because they were once children who had their mental health ignored too, but it does become a domino effect. I can tell you that it is so lonely to feel like you cannot talk freely in your own home, or be understood, but the moment my dear father decided to sit down and help me understand these thoughts, I felt just that little bit stronger.

The only tip I need to give, is this: Listen to your children and their worries, even if they seem trivial.

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