Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Healthy Habits: When Your Child Has Mental Illness

When you have a baby, you want the best for them. You imagine their first steps, first words, the first time they’re able to tell you exactly how they feel using complete sentences and every milestone to come. It’s truly an exciting journey to watch your baby grow into a fully aware capable human being that you love and adore.

You want to show them the world, share your experiences with this person who has an inherent bond with you. Nobody wants their child to suffer, but the reality is that life is unpredictable and sometimes people are dealt a raw deal. When your child begins to show signs of mental illness, this can be upsetting to you as a parent and you might not know what to do.

First, understand that your feelings are normal and real. Noticing that your son or daughter is coping with something that seems to be out of their control can make you as their parent feel powerless. If your daughter, for example, begins to show symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you might become nervous. Perhaps you notice that she is counting her toys excessively, unable to leave the house unless she performs certain routines or rituals or repeats the same questions over and over again seeking reassurance from you; this can be concerning and also draining to you as a parent.

There are many different mental illnesses that can affect both adults and children, and genetics play a part in them. We know that certain more severe mental health issues have a genetic component more than others, such as schizophrenia.

As parents it’s natural to feel frustrated with your children and this frustration can increase in intensity when it comes to mental health issues. If you as their parent or guardian also have a mental illness, you can empathize with their experience and you could have a variety of feelings, including guilt or even shame. Honor the feelings you have when you are trying to help your child.

It’s okay to reach out for help when you need it. There are resources online for parents who are coping with raising a child with mental illness. It’s important to be able to talk about your experience out loud and this can be done in a therapeutic setting. Sometimes it’s challenging to find the time to see a therapist when you’re a parent, let alone the parent of a kid who has mental health issues. One great option is online counseling. There are great companies out there like BetterHelp where you can get the support and guidance you need to get well. Whatever you do, please don’t suffer in silence. Speak candidly about your truth and own your feelings. An online counselor cares about your wellbeing and wants to help you cope with the challenges of raising a child with mental illness.

Lastly, talk to your child. They need the same thing that any child needs: unconditional love and support. Your child may have different issues than other neurotypical children, but they deserve to be loved and appreciated.

You are doing the best you can as a parent, so give yourself a break because parenting is an incredibly hard job. And the more you educate about childhood mental illness the better.

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