How To Help Your Child

9 Tips to Parenting a Child with Mental Illness

If you or someone you know is parenting a child with mental illness like Schizophrenia,     Schizo-Affective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or serious Depression, here are nine tips  I have found have helped in my own journey:

1. Know that there is hope!

Know that there is hope! Whether you gain that through your faith, gaining knowledge, building a support system, or through other means, build a reservoir of hope and rely on that to help you push through the difficult times.

2. Don't be afraid to grieve

Don’t be afraid to grieve. Grieving is a natural process that helps us mourn loss, but all too often as parents, we feel like we have to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak, and create a plan, be in control, and more than anything, keep it together. After all, you have other kids to tend to, a suffering child to protect, and a life outside mental illness, even though at times you may not feel like you do. But, making time to grieve, gives you emotional space to heal and grow, which ultimately helps you have hope.

3. Treatment is available and it works

Treatment is available and it works. Keep in mind that treatment comes in many different forms: traditional medicine, therapy, psychiatry/psychology, meditation, non-traditional medicine (vitamin supplements, etc.). Do your research and learn everything you can about the options available to you. With my son, we have changed his medication and treatment plan many, many times in the past 20 years. The key is to keep up to date on what works and to try a plan until you find something that sticks.

4. Find a good source of information

Find a good source of information.  There are family organizations that are organized and run by parents of children who face mental health challenges.  Who better to turn to for support and advice than someone who has had similar experiences.  Many times these organizations can also provide trainings to parents and their children to prepare them to advocate at both local, statewide and national levels.

5. Get support!

Get support! At a certain point, I wanted to know more and to talk to others who were going through similar parenting struggles. I wanted to feel that I was not the only ones facing the challenges we were facing. Take an Educational Class about your child’s illness. It can be a saving grace for us as parents and for our families. It can bring you together and helped you support each other as well as others.  The class can provide you with information and a support group of others who are experiencing similar situations with mental illness.

6. Speak up!

Speak up! Those with mental illnesses are sometimes ignored and their voices are often absent in conversations about services and the needs of children and families who live with mental illness.  There are some who are not yet able to speak out and fight for their rights. While defending your family’s rights you will find you are also defending the rights of those who are facing challenges. Speak up for them and fight for their rights. And support laws that will help them and help our society put aside this stigma and protect them.

7. Learn how to advocate for your loved one.

Learn how to advocate for your loved one. Gaining information is the first step. Once you have information, identify what is possible for your child and take steps to support him or her in those areas. For my son, he wanted to graduate from high school. It was a tough road with lots of tutoring and uphill battles, but he did it!

8. Remember that knowledge is power

Remember that knowledge is power. As you learn more about these diseases, you will not only feel empowered and hopeful, but your ability to provide loving care for your loved one will increase and the quality of your lives will be much better.

9. Don't forget yourself or your family!

Don’t forget yourself or your family! Being the care giver of a child with mental illness is time consuming. Sometimes, it feels that your entire world as a parent revolves around this one child. But, remember to take a step back on a regular basis. Pay attention to your needs. Pay attention to the needs of your other family members.

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