"She just doesn't get it. Get me. I'm nearly a grown-up!" my indignant 14 year old patient tells me shortly after she evicted her Mum to the waiting room, with a head flick.
This isn't strictly true. She may be as tall as me, have the same shoe size and have this make-up contouring thing nailed. But I can categorically say until she owns a crock-pot, pays taxes, collects coupons, realises 20 t-shirts for £20 is a false economy and knows where to get the best coffee at 6am, she is not there.
What transpired over the course of the consultation was that she was experiencing symptoms of stress. Manifested as threats of suicide both at home and at school. Parents held to ransom; their teenager self-harming or taking their own life the punishment threatened should the rewards not be given. And the actual grown-ups too scared to call their bluff. The price over their child's head worth more than curfews, data allowances and school attendance.
My best endeavours to tease any form of articulated, emotional response, met with comments about how hard, unjust and down-right frustrating life as a modern day teenager is.
And I get that.
I wouldn't want to be torn between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat and WhatsApp, spending the majority of my interactions through a screen. Lost in a world of unrealistic comparisons, cyber-bullying, feeling left out and as if you never measure up to the screen-perfect content of all social media platforms. It has dramatically changed the way we communicate, socialise, make and maintain relationships.
Living in a digital world has far-reaching benefits. Avoidance isn't the answer but an awareness that with every great opportunity comes a stumbling block. And if our eyes, as actual bona fide grown-ups, aren't open to this from the outset, if we're not adjusting our own sensibility, then we are in no place to help the children of today. To help them navigate the weird landscape of short-hand conversations and disjointed messages where critical social skill development is lost.
With consent I invite my patient's Mum back in to join us whilst I summarise the salient points.
"I just want to talk to you", is her final comment to me as she breaks eye contact to look at her Mum for the first time. And there we have it in a nutshell. She wants to talk. She craves that face to face connection.
We discuss how to navigate modern day teen-dom, how to manage her own expectations as much as those of others. To be herself rather than trying to shoe-horn herself into the perfect box which she believes she should fit. She isn't depressed. She isn't suicidal. Over diagnosis, over medicalisation, over referral to mental health specialties, counsellors and life-coaches is not the name of the game here.
She doesn't need her online persona micro-managed. She just needs it to be an accurate reflection of who she is. And be proud.
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!
OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly