For many parents, hearing that your child has a mental health diagnosis can be very hard. Many parents have lived in denial for years of their child’s symptoms. Often times saying, it is just how boys are, my child is just rougher than other children, or my child is just different. No parent wants to hear that their child is diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Mood Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, and/or Disruptive Mood Dysregulation. When parents hear those diagnoses a number of emotions and thoughts occur such as fear, failure, anxiety, and uncertainty of the future comes to mind. Childhood mental health diagnosis is not a death sentence or a goal stopper. With help and learning effective coping skills children can live normal and mentally healthy lives. Parents can assist children in reaching their full life’s potential.
Education: When learning that your child has a mental health diagnosis it is important as a caregiver/parents to educate self on the symptoms, treatment, and what can be done at home and school to decrease symptoms. It is equally important to learn about medication options for the child in conjunction with psychotherapy, parent management training, and psycho-education(learning about child’s symptoms, coping skills, and treatment options). Parents/caregivers, should become familiar with treatment options in your state to include outpatient therapy and more intensive therapy such as wrap around services. Some children would benefit greatly from a specialized residential setting to stabilized their symptoms. These options should be discussed in detail with your child’s therapist and/or psychiatrist to ensure the best standard of care for the child. Take the time to learn about your child’s medical insurance coverage for behavior health.
Intuition and In-tune: Parents are the best expert of their children. As a parent you know when your child is sick or not feeling like them self. As such, parenting a child with mental health illness is a tremendous task and highly important to be in-tune with their moods, feelings, behaviors, and actions. Understand your child’s triggers. Is it loud noise, change in routine, certain time of the day, or a certain person? As parent/caregiver you need to observe when your child’s mood changes. When do the child seems upset or happy and what causes the mood changes? With knowing and observing child patterns you will begin to learn how to cope with triggers effectively to decrease unwanted behaviors such as verbal and physical aggressive behaviors. Working with your child’s therapist as a team could assist you in identifying child’s triggers and steps to take to decrease unwanted behaviors.
Say “No” to the Naysayers and the Stigma: Yes, I said it Naysayers, There will be plenty of Naysayers in your life that would say “If it was my child he/she would not act like that”, “It is nothing wrong with that child he just need to be discipline” or the one I hear all the time “he would not act that way at my house”. These naysayers will come from all walks of life. They could be your child’s teacher, grandparent, parent, pastor, or friend of the family. Depending on how close the naysayer is to the family and child, you might need to educate them on your child’s symptoms and treatment. Talk to family members about your experiences as a parent and your child’s experiences to help decrease the stigma of mental health. Surround yourself with other parents that have similar experiences which can be a support for you and child. Recognized your own preconceived thoughts and feelings of mental health. It is important not to allow our own views and attitudes to prevent the child from getting the best treatment for his/her symptoms.
Parenting a child with mental health concerns is difficult and need additional support outside of family. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to a mental health provider that could assist the child and parents in working and coping with child’s symptoms.