Parenting a Child with Mental Health Issues

Parenting a child with Mental Health issues is difficult, draining, and rewarding all at the same time.

My son has Depression and crippling Social Anxiety, which keeps him from having many friends.  He is on medication and sees a therapist regularly, but still struggles every day.

Where Do You Start?

Every parent should start with medication and therapy, if you can afford them. It’s not a given in today’s insurance industry that you will be able to find a good Psychiatrist to prescribe the meds and a welcoming Psychologist who specializes in your child’s issues. Where can you turn to find these people? The American Psychiatric Association has a helpful resource page. The American Psychological Association also has a wonderful locator page for Psychologists.

The key to settling on the right doctors is whether or not there is a good rapport.  Your child has to be able to speak freely and feel like the doctor is listening empathetically.  If your son or daughter says the doctor doesn’t “get them”, it’s time to move on to a new one.  And you will most likely have to try several therapists before you find the right one. It’s frustrating, but so worth it for your family once you’ve found the “one”.  The same will go for the meds- the first one you try will not be the magic pill you hoped it would be.  Keep on adjusting the pills and dosing and, together with the therapy, you should see progress.  

A proper diagnosis is most likely going to be in line with what your child has already described to you but the professionals will be able to zero in on whether there is something else you need to consider in your treatment plan. This is the start of your healing path.

What’s Next?

Let’s say you’ve found the Psychiatrist and medication, and you’ve started talk therapy with a Psychologist.  What do you do next?   You listen and watch. Your child may feel you are being a detective, but that’s what it takes to gauge how they are feeling.  My son admits to not being honest sometimes with us when we ask him this, so you have to be willing to ask the questions in different ways. Go with it until you get to something that feels like the truth. Share your feelings so they know that you’ve been through similar situations.  Tell them how much they mean to you when they are down and let them know it’s okay to feel that way.  They need to know you are more than a parent- you are an ally.  Mental Health issues are frequently a lifelong battle and your child deserves the best team you can assemble to fight back.  

Focus on your child’s health and talk to them about their feelings at every opportunity.  The reward can not only be their improved health, but a stronger relationship for you both.

For more resources, see the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

By jebrownwriter

Houston, TX-based Writer and Photographer. Proud pet rescuer who spends nearly all his money on them.

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