Philippa Downs Counselling for Children

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Information and support for Bereaved Families and those affected by a parent or partner's Alcohol or Drug Use


I have worked as a Bereavement Counsellor, with children and young people between the ages of 4-18 and as a facilitator for groups of children affected by a wide range of bereavements such as suicide, sudden death, lengthy illness, the loss of a parent, grandparent or sibling.

I understand the long lasting impact that a bereavement can have on the whole family. Everyone in a family will grieve in their own way and family members can avoid talking about their feelings in case they cause upset or distress to each other - often everyone is feeling different things at different times which can make it hard to find the "right" time to speak. Children and Young People often feel as if they are "the only one" in their peer group who has had this experience which can be very isolating and it can be hard for them to talk to their friends about what's happened.

As well as supporting the individual child or young person, I can also provide helpful ways for the family to keep communication open and to remember their loved one together in a way that is not overwhelming. I am able to work with individual children, siblings or the whole family together.

Useful websites for bereaved families:
Child Bereavement UK: Tel: 0800 0288840
Winston's Wish: Tel: 0808 8020021

Families and Children affected by Adult Alcohol and Drug Use

One of the biggest barriers to families seeking help in this situation is getting stuck over whether their loved one is "addicted" or "dependent" in relation to alcohol or drugs. Families frequently don't seek help for many months or years of intense difficulty, because they cannot be sure whether the person can be classified as "addicted". What is actually more relevant is whether the drugs or alcohol are causing problems with relationships, work, finances etc. If you are feeling very worried about someone's drinking or drug use and it is interfering in their life, it may be time to explore what help might be available for you and them.

Living with someone who is battling problems with Alcohol or Drugs can be exhausting and extremely challenging. Because of the stigma surrounding this very common problem, the person with the difficulty finds it very hard to admit they are struggling and they usually minimise their consumption and deny there is an issue. There can be a feeling of intense shame in the family and there is often enormous pressure from the person who is drinking or taking drugs not to tell anyone what is happening. These feelings are very common and a normal reaction to difficult circumstances but you do not have to manage this problem alone.

Children of all ages, (even very young ones), can be deeply affected by their experience of a parent's problems with alcohol or substance dependence and frequently don't speak to anyone about their fears and worries. This can leave them isolated from their friends and often blaming themselves for the situation. Children often manage these feelings by employing behaviours which help them cope - these might be challenging behaviours, such as anger and distress or a tendency towards perfectionism and very compliant behaviour, taking on more responsibility than is usual for a child of their age. Helping your child to understand their experiences, in an age appropriate way, can relieve them of feelings of guilt and shame and build their confidence, resilience and self esteem. This will support them in the future, regardless of whether the person with the drug or alcohol problem is willing or able to seek help for themselves.

It is estimated that there are about 2 million people in the UK affected by a parent's drinking, 700,000 of them aged between 10-17, so if you are experiencing this problem, you are certainly not alone. Please do call me for more information on how to help you and your children if your family has been affected by Drugs or Alcohol. There is no obligation to continue with counselling but I may be able to help you find more help. If you are not yet ready to speak to someone, please do check out the websites below for more information to support you and your children.

Useful contact information:
NACOA: Tel: 0800 3583456
DrugFam: Tel: 01494 442777

My practice is within easy reach of Wimbledon, Merton, Raynes Park, Putney and Wandsworth

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