Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.

Is Your Family Perfect? (Probably Not. And That’s OK.)

Remember the magical Madrigal family from Encanto? When the neighbors ask if everything’s all right or if they need help with anything, Abuela pushes them away. 

Nope, everything’s fine here. Just please don’t notice that the house is literally crumbling around us. And whatever you do, don’t talk about Bruno. (“Who?” “No!”) 

I think a lot of people can relate to this: Don’t talk about Cousin Freddie. Or Kim’s depression. Or ADHD. Or how Marcus died.  

In his book On Writing, Stephen King reveals how much he struggled with fear and shame about his addiction because “I couldn’t ask for help. That’s not the way you did things in my family.”

A high school senior named Allison asks, “Why are we so special that we have to pretend that we don’t have problems?”


“When my older sister had an eating disorder, the doctors wanted to hospitalize her. My parents refused. […] I overheard my parents discussing that if they did put her in the hospital they could always tell people she had mono. My sister was down to eighty-five pounds and they didn’t want to get help because they were too ashamed.” 

(quoted in Queen Bees and Wannabes, p. 308)



Rosalind Wiseman explains that these parents do “love their daughter and want what’s best for her.” But they’re too afraid of what the neighbors might think. They’re letting their own insecurities block them from getting help for their child. (Queen Bees and Wannabes, p. 309)

Ironically, the neighbors may be equally reluctant to seek help for their own child because they’re afraid of being judged by Allison’s family. 

One mother explains, 


 “My life looks pretty good on the outside. […] On the inside it’s another story. […] Both of our kids struggle in school. […] It’s getting harder and harder to keep it all together. Every now and then I know my friends see glimpses of the truth—they have to. It literally makes me sick when I feel like they can see through it all.”

(quoted in I Thought It Was Just Me by Brené Brown, p. xv)


This doesn’t mean you should blurt out all your secrets to everyone you know. But it does mean there should be no shame in seeking help.

There’s currently a youth mental health crisis, so it’s likely that many other kids in your community are dealing with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or whatever challenges your child is facing. And they don’t have to struggle alone. 

You should be able to get a referral to appropriate counseling through your primary care provider or your child’s school, and many clergy provide pastoral counseling. You can also support your kid by listening nonjudgmentally to their concerns rather than assuming their behavior is intended to be disruptive or rebellious. 

If you’re located in California and need help determining if your child and/or family need professional help, contact Family Spring by submitting an inquiry at this link.


Related Posts:

Are You Missing Important Signals from Your Kids?

3 Problems with Parental Invalidation (and what to say instead) 

Treatment Options for Teen Drug Addiction

Why Authenticity is a Powerful Parenting Practice

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