Children’s Mental Health Week – What is Normal?

Children’s Mental Health Week – What is Normal?

28/1/2021 //

A blog written by Claire, one of our amazing therapists at Inclusion Hampshire. 


In my work supporting young people’s mental health questions about normality come up frequently.
Sometimes it’s there in conversations:

“Am I weird”

“My thoughts/ behaviours aren’t normal”

“I’m different”

Sometimes it’s an unspoken worry that we can sense but doesn’t feel as clear and takes time to understand that’s what we are exploring.
What is normal? Should we be trying to be more normal, or should we be fighting against the idea and its expectations?
For some people ‘normal’ has been used as a standard to be achieved and anything different is failure or wrong. Over many, many years the concept of normal has been divisive, splitting those who strive for a status quo and those who battle to be unique or to be accepted as they are. This can be internally on a personal level, within a family, community or culturally in their country or their place in the world.
Where does the diversity of humankind fit with this idea? What is a ‘normal’ gender, sexuality, skin tone, job, family, home or even brain or body?
Growing up we encounter many expectations about how we look, think and behave from how we are treated as children, to the laws in society which tell us what is acceptable behaviour.
When I travelled to Madagascar, I was having a lively debate with a local man, we spoke about how differently our countries treated the division of wealth and our support systems. We agreed on some things and disagreed on others. However, we ended the conversation with a saying he gave me: “It takes many different flowers to make a beautiful garden”.
We are all born different, no one person is identical to another. Even identical twins are not perfect matches. As we grow the environment we live in and see around us shapes who we are. This is especially true in teenage years, the pressure to be confident and know who we are can feel very challenging at a time when so many changes are happening.
Inside your brains are adapting based on your experiences, your emotions can feel like a rollercoaster and outside your body is changing alongside other people your age, like school friends or in the media. Comparing often happens almost unconsciously and can feed into the difficulty of feeling ‘comfortable in your own skin’.
My question would be: “What does ‘Normal’ mean to you?”, how does it fit with your identity? Does it create an opportunity for self-exploration and growth or does it feel like an obstacle in connecting to others and their understanding of you and your support needs in life, do you experience feelings of shame or guilt?
If it is the later description, there are many places to reach out for support. Having an idea of where the challenge is can really help to find the best placed people. Humans are social creatures and although social means very different things for everyone, you deserve to be heard, understood and loved.
If you would like help exploring your identity and self-belief take the first step and speak to someone or do some research. The internet can be a tricky place to gain information as it also contains misinformation, but it can be a good starting point to launch off from.
I really like this short video by Childline that explores the idea of trying to fit a way we think we should be:

Find out more from Inclusion