A 12 year old girl with self harm scars trailing up her arms, marches out into the kitchen pushing a packet of open biscuits off the bench to the floor as she brushes past them. She is precisely name- calling each of the family members individually, who stand idling awkwardly in the kitchen, not sure what to do or how to calm her down. She then walks to the pasta pot on the stove and tips the full content of the pot into a small bowl, spilling some of it on the bench and the rest on the floor. With the bowl in hand, she then marches to the couch and snatches the remote out of her brother's hand, to turn the television up to an ear bleeding volume. The father exhausted and hunched over, stands still hoping that with his frozen posture he can somehow prevent her from escalating any more. He can't. She continues calling out obsenties to her brothers, both of them listening to abusive words that they have heard every single day. This girl has complex behaviours, ADHD, autism and more. This is daily occurrence. She receives support, the family does not.
The Cared for.
There are many children and teens in our communities that are struggling every day. These children with disorders, special needs, disabilities or mental health problems are living in homes all across the world. The reasons for the disharmony with these children, are complex and many and could be as a result of being unable to manage life due to mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression. It could be due to a diagnosis such as autism, ADHD, schizophrenia or OCD. As well as all of this, they may have socialising issues or issues due to socio poverty. These children may have an overall lack of ability to cope in this world we have all created, including them. These child often have sleep problems, communication problems, hyperactivity, anger issues and social anxiety. They can be often violent, aggressive and abusive towards themselves and their family members or those that care for them on a daily basis. These children can often take medication that can impact on their sleep habits, appetite and movements, which in turn, impacts on their moods and general wellbeing.
Overall, there are many children and teens in our families across the world that are mentally and physically unwell. We are living in war zones within our families.
So who is caring for these young people? The parents, carers, siblings and community as a whole are the people responsible for the welfare of these children, until they can support themselves. They are dealing with the day to day behaviours and issues that arise with all these problems that these children present with. They are dealing with the abuse, the reactions, the heartache and the constant tension. The carers are the frontliners. So then we may ask, who is caring for the carers?
The day to day struggle and intensity of family home life is monumental. Parents and carers of children with special needs are suffering and how are they supported?
Family life for a parent with a child with special needs or mental health issues is often relentless and unbearable. They can be a victim of abuse, trauma, exhaustion, worry, anxiety and fear for the future of their child and themselves. These parents are living day to day life with a need to manage and balance a family life situation that is intense and sometimes dangerous. These carers are often suffering from their own mental health problems due to the situation that they find themselves in through their moment to moment choices over time. They find themselves in a situation where they cannot make change or even feel positive about the future.
6 Ways to Care for the Carers.
1. Self Care
Self care is something the whole world needs to apply, but where to begin? Are you caring for others? How can you care, if you feel tired, strung out, unhealthy and worried? We can start to take a step back as the carer and look at how we are caring for ourselves.. This may be as simple as stopping still and connecting back to the body. The key to self care is not the things we do here and there, but the moment to moment quality of our movements, often choosing gentleness and slowing down.
As a community what can we do? How can we support the carers? How can we provide a space for them to feel nourished and steady. To feel equipped to care for others? Without question or judgement we can start to observe the people around us and be willing to notice where we are seeing families struggling. Are you or your friends tired, run down, making excuses for family members? Take the time to listen and speak about what is going on in the families of children with special needs, disabilities or just sensitivities in the world? Be willing to take the time to notice those around you and ask people how they are truly.
3. Make change
Make changes in the home that support all those involved. Get help for siblings, speak to a counsellor, be willing to detach from how you would like things to be and start to really clock what is going on. We can't make change until we are ready to admit that there is something to change.
Where have you played a part in all of this? What choices have you made that have lead you to this situation? Be honest and dig deep. The more you see your part, the greater chance you have to make change.
Take a moment to look at the situation with the child with the disability . Are they running the house? Are they intimidating others? Is your child/children or teenager creating an entitled environment, were they behave like they deserve to get anything they want? Do they bully others to get their own needs met? Do they manipulate? No one owns anyone in a family. No one needs to dominate the tone of the family home, especially when they are irresponsible.
Do you sympathise with your child/teen? Feel sorry for them? Feel guilty because of what you feel you have contributed to, with their situation?
Sympathy does not empower. Sympathy is imposing. It holds the other person back and suggests that they are not capable of being enough or their full selves. The less sympathy the more the person can feel their own true potential. We are in truth, all incredible, if we choose to live this.
If you feel guilty then why? Get to the seed of the problem and clear it. In many cases we blame ourselves for other people's choices and in some cases we need to get honest about how we have been irresponsible in life, to then find ourselves in the situation we are in. Once you get real with yourself, you will less likely feel sorry for yourself and for others.
6. Reach out.
Get honest with yourself. What has got you to this place in yours life? What choices have you made? What can you now do differently? Speak up. Open up to others. Don't be ashamed of your situation. It may be challenging but you are worth supporting. Start making a stop to what you know does not feel okay. Start to speak honestly about the situation you find yourself in at home. You do not deserve to be abused. It is not okay based on the arrangement of the family and the deal you made. Break the deal. Do not feel ashamed and like you have failed, because your family life is stressful. Reach out to your friend, doctor, counsellor or the school. Professional support is a first step to break the cycle of abuse.
Full of Care.
At the end of the day the carers care for the cared due to either obligation or free choice. Which one are you? If you choose to care for another human being, then nourish, support and love yourself to max, first. If you are obligated and struggling, then seek help and make some changes. Your life is precious and you are more loved than you could ever imagine.
If you need support please reach out. It may just be the first step to bring a better quality to your life and the life of your family.