Discovering that your child is suffering from a mental illness can come as a shock to many parents, and often you won’t be sure where to start or how to properly support your child. If you have little experience in mental illness yourself, it can be difficult to relate, but don’t worry, read on for five tips on how to better support your mentally ill child.
Consider Family Therapy
It can often be difficult for parents to truly understand and empathize with what their child is going through, and communication can be tough, especially if the child isn’t open to it. Family psychiatry can help to break down the boundaries between parent and child, to help everyone in the family unit communicate and empathize with each other. This will not only help your child, but may also provide you with the skills and objective perspective to tackle some of your own problems.
Learn to Listen
One of the most important ways you can help a child who is suffering from a mental illness is simply to listen to them. We often underestimate the power of lending a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on in favor of trying to come up with practical solutions or arguments. In many cases, a child who is struggling may find a lot of relief simply from feeling like they have someone they can talk to, who won’t judge them.
Research Their Problems
As a parent, you can’t know everything, and the likelihood is you are not a psychiatric professional and therefore aren’t going to have a lot of in-depth knowledge of mental illness, which is okay. However, if you want to truly help and support your child, research what they are going through. This will not only help you to better understand and empathize with your child, but also to become better able to stand up for them in situations involving schools or doctors’ offices.
Show Them That They Can Rely on You
One of the greatest and most helpful assets a person struggling with mental illness can have is a strong and reliable support system, and as their parent, you are going to be the first port of call. Reassure your child that you will be there for them no matter what, come rain or shine. This may mean making a shift in your priorities, for example, you may need to take more time off work to attend therapy sessions with them, but remember that this can go a long way towards making your child feel safe and secure.
Be Patient and Understanding
Patience can be difficult to practice, especially when we are dealing with kids, but if your child is struggling from a mental illness that is causing them to act out, it’s especially important to remain patient and understanding. To do this, you will need to look after yourself and there are many tools to help you find a bit more inner peace. Studies have shown that even just ten minutes of meditation per day can really make a difference in bringing down your stress levels.
Knowing how to support somebody with a mental illness can be a struggle, but the above tips should help you to find ways to help them feel at ease.
The article is written by one of the parents with a mentally ill child