The Bupa Parent Chat: Heather shares her experience of parenting

04 November 2019 . International

Bupa has recently launched a new podcast series addressing tough issues, concerns and questions facing parents today. 

woman and child

Here, one of the hosts, Heather McLean, shares her experience of raising four children and memories of her own childhood. 

I have four kids and I am a grandmother of soon to be two. Both my sons and one of my daughters have dyslexia, one of my sons has ADHD. Both my daughters are on the autism spectrum and one of my daughters has dyspraxia. So, I have a lot of experience of challenging behaviour and additional needs. Last year, through Bupa I shared a blog about my daughter’s experience of coming out. 

Ellie, my oldest daughter, suffered a lot of bullying at her school both online and in ‘real-life’ because she was gay. Her mental health suffered as a result, she did not get her ASD diagnosis until she was 18. She also has a hormonal disorder where her oestrogen levels drop and spike. She suffers with PMDD, which is a severe form of pre-menstrual disorder, where in addition to all the other fun stuff, she gets suicidal thoughts too.

It was not an easy time, but we learned that communication is everything. My younger son has struggled with his mental health and his ADHD does not help this. Anxiety and depression are things he lives with every day. Again, opening a conversation has been key to keeping him in a good place.

Mental health is something really close to my heart as both my parents struggled with this. I have been extraordinarily lucky with my mental health thus far, but it is always something my sisters and I were afraid of ‘getting’ when we were growing up. Although we had a happy childhood, my father is a manic depressive and my mother has suffered with anxiety and depression her whole adult life. So mental health was a normal conversation in our house and no conversation was taboo. There were happy times and not so happy times, and that is ok.

My father is also an opiate addict and has been for a very long time. Now in his 70s, he will still use opiates, but it is under doctor’s supervision. As a result, I run a free support group for the loved ones and families of addicts as there are many services to support addicts (quite rightly so too) but very little provision for the people who are directly affected by the addiction. We found this out when dealing with my father’s bad times growing up. I am also an elected town councillor (Independent).

If you think that all sounds busy, you’d be right. I strongly believe in open, honest communication and that if you concentrate on problems you will only see problems. I believe in focusing on possibilities and opportunities. I hope the podcasts will open conversations and minds. If they help just one person, then I will feel I have done my bit.

Tim, my co-host, is brilliant. We bounce off each other really well. My advice to anyone worried or concerned about anything is to talk about it; have the conversation.

The podcast series is available to listen or download on SoundCloud.