Connecting with your child can, at times, be difficult, particularly if they’ve experienced early life trauma, or have ADHD or autism. This article is written by Shelley Farnham, founder of Complex Connexions which she set up “To enable parents of young people, who experience emotional and behavioural challenges, to understand and communicate with them in a way that strengthens connection and supports the whole family’s wellbeing.”
Complex Connexions CIC
When you have a child or teen who is struggling with behaviour; finding it difficult to pay attention or settle at school; perhaps showing their feelings through big emotions at home and possibly experiencing difficulties associated with ADHD/ Autism, this can result in strife, disconnection and struggles within their family.
This scenario can feel extremely overwhelming for a parent. They’re usually doing their best to understand and support their young person, but knowing that they are instead resorting to shouting, threats, and punishments that are out of sync with the way, they want to parent, and the relationship they want with their child.
As that parent, you feel isolated with little support and often judgement from those around you and sporadic or ineffective support from professionals. You are exhausted trying to advocate for your young person and know that others are looking only at their behaviour and not the strengths and positive traits that you see. You carry guilt about the struggles in your family; calm and connection feel like a distant memory.
I know how you feel
I know these feelings well. My son, D, who is 17, now has a diagnosis of ADHD and Autism, but we experienced all of the above. We travelled various pathways to mental health professionals before he was eventually referred for assessment and given a diagnosis of ADHD, and then later, Autism.
But the diagnoses in themselves did not really help us to understand D and, with very little professional support on offer, we felt that he was labelled with deficits and disorders, particularly at school. It was heartbreaking and caused much turmoil in our home, as we tried our best to understand, communicate effectively and remain connected.
I made the decision to do my own research to learn and understand as much as I could about ADHD and Autism. Being a qualified teacher in South Africa and working as a teaching assistant in the UK, you would have thought that I had some knowledge and training on this. But no, I certainly had a lot to learn!
Research and training
Many hours of late night googling, webinars, reading, podcasts and training courses later, I had learnt a lot, implemented various methods and ideas and knew for certain that one particular concept made a huge difference for my family.
Once I better-understood D and saw the real need beneath his behaviour and was able to shift my perspective on the things he was struggling with, I could then change my communication, responding with compassion and clarity. This meant that he and I were able to rebuild our connection. It also meant my husband and others did the same, and this truly restored the relationships in our family.
In 2020, still learning (often making mistakes but able to return to this concept of building and maintaining connection each time) I knew that I wanted to share this with other parents who were going through similar difficulties in their family.
My community interest company, Complex Connexions, now provides workshops for parents where I share these ideas and strategies that have been so valuable to us and to other parents I have worked with.
In these small online groups, I support parents and carers to explore understanding their child as an individual, to see their strengths as well as recognise their difficulties. And to look beyond their behaviour to what they really need, developing communication to empower them.
This deeper understanding and calm communication enables collaboration and co-operation within the family. Talking to other parents with similar family experiences also reduces isolation and overwhelm as the participants feel supported, as well as offering support to others.
I want parents to know that they can make such a positive difference for their young person and for their whole family, when they are able to embrace these principles and focus primarily on creating a strong relationship with their young person.
Connection is no magic wand – we are certainly still learning and as D has grown up and his challenges have evolved, as the demands at school and of life have changed, we have had to keep working things out as we go.
I know that when I am low on energy myself, I can go back to old habits of using threats and punishment, but the lens of connection has enabled us to keep building new patterns of communication and to have the confidence to support D in the most effective way.
I want to enable parents to feel empowered, to have clarity and confidence to parent their child or teen in the way that works best for them, to support them and to advocate for them in the most effective way. I want them to be able to give their young person a feeling of safety, acceptance and belonging in the family, which, in turn, will empower these young people with resilience and confidence going forward.
Get in touch
If you’d like to find out more about what we offer through Complex Connexions, please visit our website. We’re also on Facebook and have a free Facebook community. I’m always available if you’d like to ask questions or find out more information, just get in touch.
Head over to our parenting section to read more articles about some of the issues we face as parents.