Mother’s Day is one day throughout the year where we take an opportunity to stop and acknowledge the great things the women in our lives have done. Our mothers, grandmothers, and family matriarchs are recognised for everything they have given us.
It is also a day where women are recognised for their contribution to the nation. And, there are many women who given their all in service to their country, making Australia a better place for all of us.
Tracy Lynch is one such woman.
Successful Businesswoman and Community Builder
Tracy runs a large allied health clinic in Wickham with over 22 businesses established servicing clients with a variety of needs. She is a highly successful counselor with a specialty focusing on relationship counseling, and assisting people who have gone through trauma. Despite her busy schedule, Tracy has been very active in building-up her local community.
“My husband, Simon, and I have been doing a lot in the local community for years. We have run community cafes from our home along with neighbours. We have always wanted t o embrace our local community, and sow into building connections”
So successful were Tracy’s community cafes that for over 7 years a regular group of 80 plus community patrons would visit Tracy’s and her neighbours’ cafes for coffee and a chat. Tracy believes the bonds created in this kind of work help people develop deep roots in their local community, establishing a sense of kinship that is sorely missing in many people’s lives today.
“It’s such a rich way for our kids to grow up; getting to know the neighbours and feeling a lot safer in the suburb they live in because they know lots of people, and have gotten to know people’s stories. It is really like the way our grandparents would have lived back when people knew each other.”
Helping at-risk girls and young women
For many years Tracy had specialised with helping girls and young women in at-risk situations. It is hard and confronting work but Tracy says her experience has helped her develop a new zeal for working with couples and clients experiencing trauma.
“About 6 years ago there was an epidemic in Newcastle and on the Central Coast where young girls were self-harming. In primary schools and high schools, there were quite a large number of girls using that type of behaviour to express themselves, or to avoid feelings.”
“They became my central client group for a number of years and I decided we really needed to educate them around their emotions and what to do with them a lot early than 12, 13 or 14. It was around that age that a lot of them were starting to self-harm.”
To help educate girls at a younger age so they had the skills to navigate dealing with sometimes complex emotions Tracy wrote a series of books.
Tracy says it is not only the onset of puberty which contributes to girls self-harming but it is often also influenced by the things going on girls’ lives.
Influences on girls’ behaviour
“1 in 2 marriages now end in separation and divorce. In any one class 50% of students will have come from families who have gone through separation and divorce. As a community, we don’t have enough processes to help families through a separation.”
Tracy believes this is one factor that contributed to the self-harm epidemic among girls. Also contributing were the pressures girls faced over social media and at school with bullying a problem for many.
“The girls I saw had so many feelings bubbling to the surface. Young boys did too but they had other outlets to let some of those emotions out. The young girls I was working with seemed like they didn’t know what to do with these feelings that were going on for them. One of the ways they decided to manage these emotions was through self-harm.”
“Some of these things come in trends, and once it gets to a tipping point it tends to move out of control and into larger numbers to the levels it was 6 or 7 years ago.”
How do we solve these problems and help girls?
The question many parents will have when discovering this alarming and frightening behaviour is, how do you stop it and have girls feeling better about themselves?
“I am passionate about trauma and how humans experience trauma. From extreme inter-generational complex trauma to family emotions that brew up. I think it is really useful to look at the behaviour that is going on.”
“In this instance, we are looking at self-harm. Try and open-up dialogue with that young person about what the behaviour is giving them. What is the purpose of that behaviour? What we always find is that every behaviour – including behaviour that comes across as really shocking and not useful– the young person is doing that behaviour for a purpose.”
“Mostly, it will be for a good purpose. They will say, ‘I’m doing it because it helps me feel something’ or ‘I’m doing it because it gives me a sense of control’, or ‘I’m doing it because I want more attention’. Often it is because they don’t know what else to do.”
Finding motivations for children’s behaviour is key
Trying to understand what the purpose is can be the key to preventing the behaviour from continuing. Tracy says it is often the next layer down, below the behaviour which is manifesting, that change can be realised.
“Usually there is a sense of rejection, confusion, disappointment or other feelings brewing underneath. Then the behaviour comes on top to try and help them to cope.”
To conquer the behaviour of self-harming, Tracy says parents need to keep the purpose behind the behaviour but find something new, positive, and in-line with family values the young person can do. Whether that is sport, fitness, art, or something else; childen need to learn a better way to express and deal with their troublesome emotions.
The top two sources for self-harm behaviour are problems in a child’s home life and difficulties at school.
“Often it is fractures within the family and then also fractures in relationships at school. Often what we find is that the two go together. If they are having problems at school but don’t have the relationships at home to support them that can be really tricky for them to navigate.”
“The better we become as a community about educating parents about forming close and open communication bonds with children when they are younger the easier this will become.”
Get educated and reach out for help
Tracy recommends parents who are seeing their child express this kind behaviour regularly seek help sooner rather than later. There are good private practitioners, she says, but also a wealth of resources families can lean on in these difficult times.
“Headspace is a great service and also Wesley Mission’s program, Young Healthy Minds, is also a terrific resource. They are there to help a young person who doesn’t have a mental health diagnosis but is really struggling. Don’t go it alone and do it on your own! Go and get some education and some support.”
What does your child need?
“Find out what your child needs from you. The 5 Love Languages from (author) Gary Chapman is a good place to start. You need to find out what fills up their emotional cup, whether that is quality time or words of affirmation or acts of service. What is it that fills up your young person’s ‘connection cup’? Potentially, it won’t be the same as what works for you.”
Solving problems at their core
Tracy has been inspired and driven to start solving some of these deeper issues at their foundations within the family. Her focus in her clinical work has now shifted to helping couples and families manage trauma and inter-personal relationships, rather than dealing one-on-one with girls. By helping couples and families, Tracy says many of these issues can be prevented before serious behaviours emerge.
Readers can find out more about Tracy by visiting https://www.tracylynch.com.au.