WALKING ALONGSIDE YOUTH - AN ONLINE ANXIETY COURSE
youth with anxiety through relationship
A story about nourishing: Taking the lead
Trina is a 14-year-old Indigenous youth living in foster care. She has lived in the care of five different foster caregivers in the last three years. Trina’s parents struggle with addiction and mental health challenges that make them unavailable to provide the care she needs. Trina’s grandmother and some other members of her extended family, who live on reserve and who practise their traditional ways, are a big part of Trina’s life. They have all expressed a desire and willingness to stay involved in Trina’s life as much as possible. Trina is very attached to her grandmother, who has taught her how to drum and sing traditional songs. They also like to bake together.
Trina is quiet and keeps to herself. Her anxiety symptoms can be described as moderate to severe. Trina says she only feels safe at night if she checks the doors and windows and ritualistically looks under her bed and in the closet at least three or four times before going to bed. Her caregiver has tried to explain that this is not necessary and says it’s all in Trina’s head. She explains to Trina that the home is perfectly safe. Trina is seeing a counsellor, who has given her calming strategies for reducing anxiety at bedtime. But Trina cannot sleep unless she adheres to this bedtime ritual. Her caregiver is growing impatient.
Nighttime separation is creating a huge amount of alarm in Trina. She may be 14, but she is already facing unbearable separation from her parents, grandmother, extended family and other familiar comforts.
How might Trina’s caregiver meet her relational needs as a way to address the alarm that is fuelling this anxious and troubling behaviour? And how can the caregiver meet Trina’s need for physical closeness at nighttime? What closeness rituals can be created to replace the existing alarm-fuelled rituals?
Nourishing Trina through relationship rituals that help her hold on through the night, and help her hold on to her parents and grandmother while apart, will help reduce the alarm that she is experiencing and that is affecting her ability to sleep at night. Two specific things might help the caregiver nourish their relationship in this case:
These are potential approaches to meeting a youth’s relational needs. This is not a prescription.