I worked with a mum who asked for help because of her 13yr old son. She expressed that for a long time there had just been the two of them and they were very close. About 3 years previously she had met her current partner who also had a son.

Sarah said that she was worried that her son was becoming increasingly withdrawn and argumentative. Also from being a keen school attender, Mark had often refused to get up in time and the school had indicated their concern.

With Sarah’s consent we looked back over the previous three years. Further discussion highlighted incidents where Mark had not had his feelings recognised and Sarah acknowledged that she had tended to side with her partner in arguments and Mark had somehow become the ‘baddy’. Whereas her partner’s son had special treatment as he was not there all the time.

We looked at the situation from Mark’s point of view while at the same time acknowledging Sarah’s own feelings. Sarah shared her frustration at becoming overwhelmed by these feelings. It became clear that both mother and son felt sad and hurt and this was fuelling their arguments. Sarah began to understand what had led to the current problems.

We talked about ways Sarah and Mark could have fun. They both enjoyed playing cards and this opened up an opportunity for Sarah to let Mark know that she understood how he must be feeling.

I passed on some tips to Sarah about coping strategies when the heat is turned up on her own feelings. We also talked about the importance of identifying these feelings and finding ways to share and offload so that she in turn felt heard and understood.

At our last session Sarah said that even though we had never met, Mark was an extremely grateful young man who was back ‘on track’ with his life.

I was touched and we also celebrated the effort Sarah had made to bring about this change.