Family and Friends

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“If society values its children, it must cherish their parents.”

John Bowlby

“If we, as a society, expect to have strong children who embrace strong qualities and values, we must recognize the need to start this pattern with strong parents.”

Gregory C. Keck & Regina M. Kupecky

Important People

Young people experience mental health problems within a family (or similar) setting, so it’s great news that working closely with and supporting families, through a systemic approach for example, is increasingly becoming a focus for preventing and treating these problems. A family is a multifaceted unit and each relationship within it is unique, because each personality is unique. At its best, it’s a container of security and peace where everyone can be their true self. Certainly, this is most urgently vital for young people who are engaged in the gradual and sometimes bumpy task of becoming themselves (Payne & Ross, 2009). Carers, relatives and friends also experience the challenge of recovery, and so need to be well looked after and supported.
The world of the young person experiencing mental health problems can be a starkly lonely, isolated one. When a young person is in hospital, there’s a need to keep in contact with existing friends, as well as making new ones on the ward. Mindfully recognising and supporting good relationships plays a significant part in working to improve young people’s mental health. Friendship is an important part of everyone's life, but to a young person having friends and being accepted can be a matter of all-consuming concern. Peer acceptance is linked to a better sense of belonging and fewer behavioural problems, while the fostering of friendships eases feelings of loneliness. Peer support can help to take away shame and embarrassment, it can let young people know that they’re not alone, that they don’t have to suffer silently. Peer relationships may be more important to young people than parents, and asking them about their friends may help you work out the setting of their presenting problems.

Knowledge of the different contexts that surround the young person, including their family, is crucial for reaching an understanding of their beliefs and behaviour (UCL CAMHS Competence model). There will be happier outcomes if clear aims are agreed with the young person and their families or carers prior to admission (Cotgrove, 2013). Of course, each family will have its unique concerns, areas of focus and levels of commitment.

Throughout adolescent development (especially between ages 15 to 18), parenting can be a very tense time, and so CAMHS staff are mindful that things are probably feeling pretty fraught, even without the stresses and strains of mental health problems.
“When there is a crisis in the family, parents are often tempted to protect their children: sometimes they won't tell children what is really happening, and often they won't let them see what they, the adults, are really feeling. Within a family, however, there is seldom only one person's problem... The problem is compounded by the fact that children do not always show their anxiety or grief. In fact, they may act in ways that seem quite inappropriate, showing indifference or lack of concern.”

Fenwick and Smith (1998)
'"Significant others" are people who are important to the [young] person... These people might be relatives, friends or neighbours. Each has an important role to play in that each brings something to the child that can enrich his life by adding to what he is already receiving.'

Mirabelle Maslin, 2013 - read more here

"As social beings, the capacity to form and maintain relationships is essential to us and how we function within society. It is a key component to being mentally healthy, and having a positive sense of wellbeing. This is true for children and young people of all ages, from the very early years through to the teenage years…

While young people will no doubt form relationships with their peers on the wards, and hopefully with practitioners as well; it is a time when they need those strong and secure relationships that families and good friends can provide. If your child is miles away, it is very difficult to provide this support on a day-to-day basis. If you as a parent are stressed, this will impact on the rest of the family and your relationship with them.

Relationships are important on so many levels, and across the life course. But, if we can make sure that [young people] are able to form and maintain positive relationships in ways that make sense to them, then this will help get them off to a good start in life and support their mental development.

This is important for children and young people themselves, but also their families, friends and the communities they live in."

By Paula Lavis, Co-ordinator of the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition

From Mental Health Foundation - Read more

Carers, relatives and friends also experience the challenge of recovery, and so need to be well looked after and supported. There’s also a need to keep in contact with existing friends, as well as making new ones on the ward.

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Parents Worry

Quality of parenting remains an important predictor of healthy and happy development, and that’s a massive job with loads of pressure and uncertainty.

Parents commonly worry more about their children in adolescence than at any time besides early childhood. To some extent, this is because the characteristic problems of adolescence seem to be on a larger scale than those of childhood; more seems to be at risk and the potential for adversity is much greater. Younger adolescents begin to crave their independence and may feel an individual, no longer ‘just one of the family’. They may use friends and friends’ parents as a gauge for their own upbringing, and parents may find their aloofness hard to live with. Consequently, parents sometimes feel rejected and can have difficulty accepting their child's need to be distinct from them. Nevertheless, parents and carers taking time to understand their child's painful feelings can deepen the emotional bond between them (Sunderland 2008). Parents have a welcome chance to really get to know their children.
“Reducing parental isolation - giving parents more opportunities to support one another - and creating a sense of communal responsibility for children is a… critical challenge. When parents have trusting, respectful connections with one another, they are more likely both to be effective with their own children and to monitor and guide one another’s children.”

Weissbourd, 2010
Adolescents need to experience a sense of belonging to a peer group. Boys typically form gangs and girls tend to have one or two best friends. 15 and 16 year olds start to make enduring and more intimate friendships, some of which whose influence parents may worry about. Even if parents have the best intentions, young people are often averse to letting them interfere or control their life.

Older adolescents become more capable of forming stable sexual relationships and will probably have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend at some point, and spend an increasing amount of time with them. Parents may worry about a too-early or too-serious commitment, and feel uneasy that it’ll have a negative impact on their child’s education. Having said this, most parents do manage to remain friends with their children, and with the right support, most families survive the teenage years with only temporary complications. Those parents who are awfully distressed and crushed, can gain new perspective with your help, which can restore a real sense of security in the young person.
Child psychiatrist William Beardslee observes that self-awareness and self-understanding are key in helping depressed parents cope with their difficult feelings, and in helping them develop stronger relationships with their children (Beardslee’s book is Out of the Darkened Room - When a Parent is Depressed: Protecting the Children and Strengthening the Family - see here). It looks at how depression is an illness that affects the entire family, not just the individual.
“Our mantra to teens is this,” say Dr Greenberg and Dr Powell-Lunder, who are both Clinical Directors at Four Winds Hospital in the US: “When your parents aren’t anxious, life is beautiful. We explain that parents worry about their kids, no matter what their ages, and when parents worry they tend to respond in reactive and sometimes negative ways.” Greenberg and Powell-Lunder are authors of the wonderful book Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual - see here.
What have I learnt from my teenage son?

One mother's voice
“The main thing he has taught me is that as parents today, we simply cannot apply the parenting we experienced. Kids today are more informed, more savvy, they have a voice. Our job is to listen to that voice. If we don’t, their voices either get louder, or disappear.

Just think: “What can I learn here? What is my child trying to communicate to me?” No matter how strong their anger or words, they are trying to communicate difficult feelings. Our job is to decipher them. And validate them. Then help them and guide them to a more peaceful
inner self.

Acceptance is key: acceptance of our child exactly as they are, and of our own limits. The lessons from my 15 year old son in the last eight months have been terrifying, bewildering and a true awakening. I thank him for that.”



Parents commonly worry more about their children in adolescence than at any time besides early childhood. Parents and carers taking time to understand their child's painful feelings can deepen the emotional bond between them.

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“Teenagers today need a greater tolerance for uncertainty; they need to be more flexible, more prepared to accommodate change than in the past. As a result, family - those whom you can really rely on - becomes even more important.”

Franks & Wolf, 2008

Family-Focused Strategies

Family interventions include a range of collaborative strategies, which aim to boost a family’s capacity to manage the impact of a young person’s mental illness. They can lower levels and regularity of expressed emotion, and reduce relapse. The restoration of daily structure and functioning continues to be a central focus for treatment.
Parents and carers need training just as ward staff need training. Young people need prepared parents as much as they need loving parents. Parent interventions can elicit all the good ideas they already have, provide structure and direction and give them confidence. Increased confidence equals greater self-control, less anger, less guilt and less frustration. Increased confidence means more respect from their child. Without confidence and support, many parents struggle to know how best to help (Severe 2004).
“Some families I work with have produced code words to use, that remind everyone involved what they need to do in [volatile situations]. Getting rid of the tension is partly down to acknowledging that conflict will happen, and knowing what to do with it when it does.”

Sarah Newton, 2012


Three Commitments

According to Severe (2004), there are three commitments or promises that every parent needs to make to become more successful. We think they also apply to all adults involved in their care:

  1. To have courage to be open and accept new ideas.
  2. To have patience - plenty of patience. To give their child time to change.
  3. To practise.
Examples of Family-Focused Strategies

  • Strategies for goal setting

  • Problem-solving

  • Communication training

  • Information provision

  • Relapse prevention

Source: adapted from Pharoah et al 2006
“The task of writing rules should be an interactive one. When working with families we recommend that teens and parents each come to the table with a written set of rules and consequences.”

Greenberg and Powell-Lunder, 2010

Young people need prepared parents as much as they need loving parents. Parent interventions can elicit all the good ideas they already have, provide structure and direction and give them confidence.

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It’s All about Secure Attachment

Recent child development research has shown that a child's secure attachment to parents (or their main carer) is powerfully connected to the parents' insight into their own early experiences. Bringing significant family members together in a safe and supportive environment can help to improve communication and build a better understanding of each other. It could be the first time that family members learn about what it’s like to walk in their young person’s shoes and, thereby, start to understand why their relative behaves and feels like they do. Research also shows that both the quantity and quality of the communication between adolescents and parents impacts adolescent decision-making. Nothing strengthens a young person like an authentic connection with their nearest and dearest.
An understanding of the family lifecycle (the emotional and intellectual stages we pass through from childhood to our retirement years as a member of a family) and developmental models are useful for staff to hold in mind. It’s essential to understand the young person’s history, how they’re responding to parents and how parents are responding to them. Disruption to the family cycle, at the crucial stages in child and adolescent development, may cause increased dependency (see Barrett, 2009). This may not be age-appropriate, and may require a review of family life and relationships, and the re-establishment of phases of dependence / independence.
Rick Sudsberry (2014), a registered clinician with the Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children (ATTACh), suggests that all parents, and clinicians who help parents, must answer the following questions:

  1. Are we causing relationship responsiveness within this child and within this adult who leads that child?
  2. Are we influencing emotional regulation through parent leadership?
  3. Am I being someone with perspective, interest, curiosity, empathy and compassion, who causes this child to benefit from my adult influence?
A systemic approach to working with families aims to look at the presenting crisis within the broader context of family relationships. It helps everyone involved work towards exploring and adjusting the meaning and function of the problem within their family. We can learn about what a family values from the pattern of their everyday functioning.

This is a good way to define family: “The family in a psychological sense is formed by the interactions of all its members, their feelings for one another, and the way these are integrated into daily life.” (Bettelheim, 1988)
“The Association of Family Therapy defines ‘family’ as any group of people who care for each other and define themselves as such. The term ‘systemic’ has its origins in general systems theory, and is based on the idea of ‘human systems‘; that people live in relationship to each other and their environment. This influenced the development of a therapeutic model that shifts the therapeutic focus from the individual psyche to the relationships and communication between people…

Systemic family therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that views human distress as arising out of relationships in a social context. Therapy sessions take place with parents and children of all ages, and may include members of the extended family, friends and professionals, i.e. whoever is identified as relevant to the issue in question.”

Partridge & McCarry 2009
Key Points About Multisystemic Therapy

  • Multisystemic therapy (MST) is an intensive family-based treatment that targets children and young people with severe behaviour problems or antisocial behaviour, including chronic or violent young offenders.

  • The primary aims of MST are to reduce criminal activity, reduce antisocial behaviour such as substance misuse and violence, and decrease rates of incarceration, outside of home placements and hospital admission.

  • MST has also been studied as an alternative to inpatient admission for young people in psychiatric crisis. For a number of young people MST is not appropriate, but for some, research suggests that the intervention may be more effective than hospital admission.

  • MST is intensive and relatively expensive. Therapists provide a service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a caseload of between four and six young people. Each treatment lasts 6 months and there is an average of 60 hours contact during the treatment period.

  • The Department of Health has funded ten pilots across England to test MST’s efficacy. There are also existing programmes in other areas of the UK.


Source: adapted from McDougall, 2013
What Works to Enhance Inter-Parental Relationships and Improve Outcomes for Children?

The Early Intervention Foundation have carried out a review of ‘What works to enhance inter-parental relationships and improve outcomes for children.

Key findings include:

  • The quality of the inter-parental relationship, specifically how parents communicate and relate to each other, is increasingly recognised as a primaryinfluence on effective parenting practices and children’s long-term mental health and future life chances.

  • Parents/couples who engage in frequent, intense and poorly resolved inter-parental conflicts put children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.

  • Children of all ages can be affected by destructive inter-parental conflict, with effects evidenced across infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

  • The context of the wider family environment is an important factor that can protect or exacerbate child outcomes in response to exposure to inter-parental conflict. In particular, levels of negativity and parenting practices can exacerbate or moderate the impact of inter-parental conflict on children.

  • Inter-parental conflict can adversely affect both the mother-child and father-child relationship, with evidence suggesting that the association between inter-parental conflict and negative parenting practices may be stronger for the father-child relationship compared to the mother-child relationship.


Bringing significant family members together in a safe and supportive environment can help to improve communication and build a better understanding of each other.

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Keeping Family in Mind

The family context is integral to getting a good understanding of a young person’s world, and the family’s active participation during and after the assessment stage is vital. Young people don’t usually ask for help on their own and it’s commonly a parent, carer or a caring professional that brings any concerns to CAMHS.
The use of a family-focused approach can help restore the family’s functioning, so they can happily and healthily move forward, together with the young person. Rituals of leaving the ward are important for all involved, including family members. A celebration of the young person’s time on the ward, their successes and the well-wishes of those they are leaving are invaluable. Often families have made friends with other young people’s family members, and they might wish to exchange contact information and stay in touch (see Wardipedia). When appropriate and constructive (and most of all beneficial for the young person), this can be a great source of help. It’s thrilling to see parents pick each other’s brains for ideas (Severe, 2004).
“Usually, my goal in working with a family is to coach the parents, to strengthen their attachment with their child and help them learn how to manage their own reactions, so that they can be the calm, confident Captains of the ship for their child. I help parents foster a genuine connection with their kids that will awaken their natural instincts to cooperate.”

Susan Stiffelman, family therapist
“I isolated myself at first and felt reluctant to compare notes with friends who also had children. But when my son was small we always chatted about how the kids were doing. I ended up downplaying his teen problems and how we felt as a family. I didn’t want to make him sound bad or admit to feeling like a bad mother. I felt like a failure and always had a niggling sense of guilt. It was a lot easier to admit to some of his behaviours as a toddler than how he was as a teenager.”

In the words of parents and carers…

Accounts from parents of what they find particularly helpful include:

  • ‘Being listened to and not being judged.’

  • ‘Being able to tell my story.’

  • ‘Having someone to talk to who believes me.’

  • ‘Someone who doesn’t expect me to “just get over it.”’

  • ‘Meeting others who know what it's like.’

  • ‘Availability - when I need to talk about it.’

These poignant statements are to do with the effects of child sexual abuse on the protecting parent, but they’re helpful to bear in mind in any context.

Source: McCourt et al 1998
“It’s as if the family is in a small boat, drifting down a quiet river. Some days there are storms and you need to batten down the hatches; there are occasional dangers, but generally the journey is smooth. And then one day it happens: the realisation dawns on you that one of the kids is not in the boat anymore! In fact, he’s somehow now got a boat of his own and is fifty metres downstream waving at you. You can’t work out whether he’s saying ‘Help me!’ or ‘Goodbye’. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, you have just passed a sign reading ’Dangerous rapids ahead!’ Within moments both boats are rocking violently. Almost all your energies are taken up just trying to keep your own boat afloat and yelling warnings of impending rocks to your teenager.”

A father cited by Parsons, 2007
"No two families ever have exactly the same situations to deal with or resources to call upon. But no matter what the circumstances of people’s lives, we believe that all families and individuals, by virtue of being human, have deep inner resources that can be called upon and cultivated, resources that can help enormously in making important choices as we struggle to bring balance into our lives and into our families."

(From 'Everyday Blessings: Mindfulness for Parents' by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn)

The family context is integral to getting a good understanding of a young person’s world, and the family’s active participation during and after the assessment stage is vital.

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Good Advice from the CAMHS Community

In the words of a family therapist…

“As a family therapist, you need to be able to structure and lead sessions. It’s no use being quietly reflective in the face of lively, argumentative and boisterous family members. At times, it’s also necessary to get out of the chair! You need to be able to find ways to create a context where everybody’s voice can be heard…

Because you’re focusing on the family, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t imply that the family is the problem. The problem is the problem, and an atmosphere of co-operative exploration is the most useful ambience to create. You have to engage with the family’s logic, with why they do the things they do. If you don’t do that, you can end up with people feeling blamed. Responsibility is a more important theme to explore. Blame rarely leads to fresh perspectives and useful dialogue…

As a family therapist there’s always a colleague around to whom I can talk, so I rarely feel alone in this work. The value is in seeing possibilities emerge, often in the very small but important moments that occur in our practice, when we learn to recognise them. There is so much creative potential in families and family therapy. This is what keeps me inspired after many years of practice.”

Jim Wilson (Therapy Today, 2009)

In the words of a school psychologist…

“If the relationship between teens and parents has been filled with power struggles and conflicts for months or years, it will take more than a few days of responsible behaviour to improve that relationship and build trust. Parents and teens need to remind each other to be patient and stay focused on positive behaviour and attitudes.”

Dr Sal Severe, 2004
Some families are much better than others at handling problems and coping with stress. This will inevitably affect the young person and their relationships. Some of the things that frequently work well when working with families include:

  • Don't be critical.

  • Don't compare one child or family member with another.

  • Do all you can to boost the young person’s self-esteem.

  • Remember that one of the most valuable assets a young person can have is a family in which people talk to each other, express their feelings and try to explain why they feel and act as they do.

Source: adapted from Fenwick and Smith 1998

The value is in seeing possibilities emerge, often in the very small but important moments that occur in our practice, when we learn to recognise them. There is so much creative potential in families and family therapy.

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Followers, Likers, Sharers, Friends

As most parents (or carers) soon discover, a young person often looks for validation from their peer group, rather than from the adults in their lives, and in the early teenage years - there’s a strong sense of peer group ideology. Friendships can be a wonderful source of emotional strength for young people, and may help develop their self-confidence (see Barrett, 2009). In fact, there’s lots of evidence that peer groups can have many positive influences on young people, including: having a focus, making good decisions and adopting prosocial-behaviour. Friendships are the training grounds for important future adult relationships. Close companionships are characterised by mutual affection and a sense of dependable togetherness.

In a world of virtual social networks, assessments need to involve a conversation about the young person’s ‘digital life’, i.e. their internet use and online relationships.
“Both peer acceptance and friendships affect a child's self-esteem and psychological adjustment; even popular children can experience feelings of loneliness which are alleviated more by intimate friendships more than by popularity with peers.”

Dogra & Leighton, 2009
“Peer support is a valuable way of supporting young people because peers are often better positioned to relate to them than adults can. It can increase the self-esteem and the sense of control for both the giver and the receiver of peer support.”

Cooper et al 1998, via here


“It is not news that teenagers are particularly susceptible to peer pressure. But for the first time in history, our teenagers' peer group is vast, counted in hundreds or thousands rather than tens of people.

It is fragmented, vivid and compelling. It's present around the clock - in videos, photos, ill-expressed comments and harsh opinions, dramatic cries for help, exaggerated versions of events, indiscriminate 'likes' and retweets, or an isolating on-line silence when posts are ignored. This is without adding overt bullying or grooming to the mix. Gaining healthy perspective - something that we know is neurologically challenging for teenagers at this stage in their development - is a tall order.

Equally, social media can be a good way for any of us, at any age, to enhance friendships. There is evidence that it can be a positive psychological force for some people some of the time.”

Sarah Dale, chartered psychologist, coach and author. (Quote from here)
Young people use companionship to find their own voice, learn about sharing and feel accepted for who they are as a person, rather than who they are as a family member or client. Ward companionships (when appropriate and supervised by staff) can be very powerful to young people, and it’s likely they will look for acceptance within their ward peer group. Having friends from home visit them on the ward can be bittersweet: it can be excruciatingly embarrassing or uplifting – and most likely a bit of both.
“I lost a lot of close friends when I was ill. They didn't understand or want to understand why I felt the way I did. So on admission I felt pretty lonely and lost. The belief and insight I got from the staff and other patients was invaluable in helping me deal with this.”

Young Patient

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“When my friends visited last they couldn't believe how friendly their welcome was. They were particularly taken with the cup of tea and biscuits given to them on their arrival.”

Young Patient
Most friendships are built on common interests. Music, sport, fashion, technology, games and other activities give opportunities for conversation and the forming of attachment. If a young person really enjoys music, they’re more likely to make friends with someone who also likes music. Providing a range of activities on the ward allows young people to stay in touch with their interests, and may facilitate new friendships on the ward. Activities, such as a problem-solving group where everyone present helps find solutions together, can inspire pro-social behaviour and form strong connections.
The Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) is the UK’s leading charity working to improve the health and wellbeing of 10-24 year olds.

The AYPH 'Be Healthy' project has launched a brilliant website about peer support. It's aimed at young people who want to support their struggling friend and those who want to ask their friends for support.
"Young people...told us that it's their friends they turn to first when they have a problem.

We think that young people deserve more recognition for the skills and expertise required to provide the kind of support they are already giving."

The Association for Young People’s Health

Young people told AYPH the three main things they want from their friends:

  1. Listening and emotional support
  2. A reality check
  3. Just doing normal things together

A screen shot from the website can be found below.

Visit the site:


peer support
"We know that young people understand better than anyone the pressures their peers face. Pressures that are completely different to those we faced when I was growing up."

Sam Gyimah, Minister for Childcare and Education 2015


A young person often looks for validation and acceptance from peer groups - on and off the ward.

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Featured Tools and Ideas

Click on the headings to read more and add a selection of ideas and tools to you own "Palette"

Animal-assisted Therapy

Animals are an important part of many people’s lives — their mere presence can contribute to human's happiness, making their life more meaningful. However, animals may do more than just provide companionship.

New research suggests they can improve emotional, social and cognitive functioning in adolescents with severe mental disorders. The study, published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, examined the effects of animal-assisted therapy, which is an intervention involving guided interaction between a patient and a trained animal. The purpose of this intervention is to aid a patient’s recovery process.

"The young patients who feel fragile, needy and dependent on others in the hospital context, can experience themselves as caretakers of someone else in the [animal-assisted therapy] environment," researchers said, according to The Pacific Standard. "This experience can improve their sense of self-agency and self-cure, and these positive effects are not only limited to the human-animal bond, but can be extended to the patient’s global functioning and to the entire process of care."

Source: - Read more here

Expressing reliability and support in friendships


Erik Erikson was a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychosocial development. He said that young adults (13-19) attempt to develop identity and ideas about strengths, weaknesses, goals and occupations. They’re seeking to know who they are, what they’re worth and the boundaries of where they end and another person begins. This can be emotional, sexual or physical. There is a move away from general relationships to a clique of best friends, and this will prepare them for adult intimacy. The main feature of this developmental stage is ‘fidelity’, expressing reliability and support in friendships and the ability to sustain loyalties freely.

BRAVE online


BRAVE online is an initiative offering psychiatric treatments and self-help for children and adolescents experiencing separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobia and generalised anxiety disorders.


A Feeling and Action Scale

A Tool for Families: A Feeling and Action Scale

Feeling and Action Scale is a communication tool that can be helpful for the whole family. It allows parents and their child to communicate their feelings and helpful responses in a quick and concise way.

The Feeling and Action Scale is a two-part communication tool. The first part, the Feeling Scale, consists of a range of numbers from 1-5. For each number assigned, the young person also assigns a one-word qualifier to describe how they’re feeling in the moment, or to describe their overall feelings about a situation or event. A 1 on the scale signifies that all is well, while a 5 indicates the young person is experiencing a crisis.

The second part of the scale focuses on actions. The Action Scale is a set of instructions that can help you help the young person when they are dealing with difficult feelings. For each feeling qualifier there should be an action, even if the action is ‘no action’. It’s important to recognise that there should be several action alternatives for each feeling. The ability to implement a specific action will, of course, be dependent on the situation.

The Feeling and Action Scale:

  1. I’m great = No action needed.
  2. I’m fine = No action needed.
  3. I’m so so = I need some alone time in my room.
  4. I’m upset = I need some alone time and then I want to talk with you about what is going on.
  5. I’m in crisis = I need your help.

From: Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual (2010) by Dr Barbara R. Greenberg & Dr Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder PsyD. Read more here.

Helping parents feel less alone

A web-based resource to help parents feel less alone and give them information to help them cope with their child’s problems

“Parents tell us that, after they discover a son or daughter has been self-harming, they can feel very alone and isolated and may struggle to find help and support.

At the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the charity, we have developed a web-based resource to help parents to feel less alone and to give them information to help them to cope with their child’s problems. The website includes video, audio and text extracts from interviews with 39 family members of young people who have self-harmed. It covers topics such as the impact on the family, how to support the child, treatment options and advice from other parents, and provides information for parents and carers on what to expect from hospitals, schools and mental health services, plus individual families’ experiences with the healthcare system.

This resource is freely available and can be found here

We hope that viewing this website will help parents who are trying to cope with a child’s self-harm and show them that they are not alone. This is especially important at a time when there is such pressure on children’s mental health services.”

Professor Keith Hawton & Dr Anne Ferrey

Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford

(Quote from

Fathers need support

Fathers need support to spend more time on children and chores

Encouraging men to become more involved as fathers is the key to achieving gender equality, according to a landmark international study...

Hands-on fathers also help produce happier and better-educated offspring, as well as gaining significant benefits to their own physical and mental health, the inaugural State of the World’s Fathers report argues...

Nikki van der Gaag, an academic and author who co-wrote the report, said the findings were crucial in efforts to boost equality: “When fathers take on their fair share of the unpaid care work, it can alter the nature of the relationships between men and women and children, as both fathers and mothers will have more time for their children, women are released from some of their double burden, and fathers get to experience the joys, satisfactions and stresses of caring for their children.”

Read more

Guidance for parents

Guidance for parents - What happens if my child is admitted to hospital?

This is a good example of a web page dedicated to informing parents about what to expect.


Epic Friends


The Sheffield CAMHS team have developed the awesome Epic Friends website to help young people who think their friends may have mental health problems. The site offers advice on a range of issues including bullying, depression, anxiety, family problems, self-harm and eating disorders. It also offers guidance on when to seek help and where to go for further support.

The Parent Map - by Alistair Cooper and Sheila Redfern

A tool for parents.

What it is…
The Parent Map is a way of reflecting about yourself and how you parent your child. It encourages you to map out and think about what influences your parenting, such as current feelings, your past experiences and wider influences, such as beliefs and relationships.

It helps you by…
The Parent Map helps you become more aware of yourself and how you relate to your child. It also helps you to be more aware of the difference and separateness of your emotions from your child's. It helps you identify times when you are more likely to have strong feelings, which can be unhelpful in some situations.

It helps your child by…
The Parent Map helps your child because the more reflective and aware of yourself you are, the more stable your relationship can be. Your child will experience you in a more regulated and considered way.

It helps your relationship by…
The Parent Map makes links between past and present, which helps prevent past negative experiences impacting strongly on how you interact with your child. Your relationship benefits by being more stable and less reactive.

Keep in mind mind...

  1. Think about the need to be aware of yourself.
  2. Think about what influences your parenting, include your thoughts and feelings, the influence of past experiences.
  3. Use strong feelings to trigger self-reflection and make a connection with how this influences your parenting.
  4. Identify times when you think there might be a link between current and past experiences.
  5. Build a story of how you got to feel and think the way you do now:
    1. Did your level of emotional reaction fit the situation?
    2. What do you think may have contributed to you reacting in this way?
    3. How might a friend have experienced you in this situation, what would they have seen?
    4. Can you link your reaction in this situation to previous situations?
  6. Use your awareness of your 'triggers' to help guide you during future interactions; imagine, predict and reflect on where and how similar feelings and thoughts may arise.

© 2016 Alistair Cooper and Sheila Redfern.

From: Reflective Parenting: A Guide to Understanding What's Going on in Your Child's Mind by Alistair Cooper, Sheila Redfern


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