I have a difficulty with 'relentless positivity'. I think positivity has an important role to play in how we narrate our lives but I think the overuse of it with children and young people can leave them feeling alone. For example, one young person I met felt as though their quality of life was being strangled by their anxiety. In a bid to offer reassurance, the adults around him storied his anxiety in a way that sounded alien to him.
"Don't worry about your anxiety, I've read 1 in 4 people have it so it's quite common." "Your friends won't mind you having a panic attack in front of them. I bet lots of them have had a panic attack. People are used to seeing it. Just tell people about your anxiety. It's such a normal thing for people to have it. They'll get it."
His story differed enormously from the 'relentlessly positive' story he was told. He found it too difficult to share, "You repeatedly telling me how common my anxiety is is making me feel even more weird. All these other people must be out there coping with it better than me because I can't see anyone else struggling like I am. Other people might not mind when I have a panic attack in front of them but I do. I'm scared to tell my friends I have anxiety. You say they'll get it but what if they don't? I'm the happy one who makes everyone laugh. Who am I if I'm not that?"
It is perfectly natural to want to support children and young people to look on the bright side of life and to imagine that things will have a positive outcome. But it is essential that we allow children and young people to explore THEIR experience of the world, rather than repeatedly telling them how we see it. When we allow a child or young person to tell their own story and share how that story feels, it becomes possible to explore key questions such as, "How can I support myself with this?"
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