'Parenting is tough,' says Kate as she visits early years unit

Updated: 

The Duchess of Cambridge has praised the efforts of mothers with emotional issues who have turned their lives around, despite parenting being "tough".

Kate heard the stories of women who have battled problems like depression or difficult upbringings during a visit to a specialist unit run by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families.

For the past five years the centre's early years parenting unit in Holloway, north London has been supporting families who are at risk of their children being taken into care.

The Duchess met mothers who had completed its intensive treatment programme and she paid tribute to women telling them "parenting is tough" but despite the "experiences you've all witnessed" and initially not receiving support "I find it extraordinary how you've managed actually, so really well done".

The unit will typically see a parent who has lived through an abusive childhood, whether suffering neglect or physical attacks, or is suffering from mental health problems like depression and whose child, aged under five, is at risk of being taken into care.

In a lighter moment one little boy was left transfixed by the Duchess who wore an outfit by Eponine, when she was introduced to a group of mothers still being helped by the unit.

Kate, who is patron of Anna Freud Centre, chatted to a 19-year-old mother, known only by her first name Amber, and her 18-month-old son Le'Juan.

The teenager, who has been receiving help for anxiety problems, chatted happily to the Duchess with her little boy on her lap and she made Kate laugh when she asked her child, who was staring at the royal guest, "what's this strange woman?".

The young mother said later: "I think people need to know exactly how mental health affects people and that there are places exactly like this unit, that do really intense treatment and not just somewhere you can attend once a week.

"I've only been here four months but already I'm noticing differences in myself especially on the anxiety side. Now I'm able to recognise when I'm going into an anxiety attack when before I was oblivious to it."