Mental illness in children is growing to become more and more common. Some parents think their kid will never be affected so when it does happen, they don’t know what to do. The stigma around mental illness in children can also cause parents to feel embarrassed and reluctant to discuss it with loved ones. In case your kid is even diagnosed, here are some do’s and don’ts:
Do not feel embarrassed
Feeling embarrassed due to your kid’s illness seems ridiculous, but it is very common. Because mental illness can cause kids to act in completely irrational, disrespectful or dangerous ways, some parents rather keep it all in the family and don’t discuss their situation with friends or loved ones. It becomes a completely taboo issue, a feeling that can pass to your child as well – he or she might feel that they are such a disappointment or that what they are going through is so unique and terrible no one must ever know about it. This, in turn, can keep them and you from seeking help.
The best way to deal with mental illness is precisely to think about it as a disease. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell others your child had cancer or even a broken arm. And you wouldn’t think twice about asking help if that was the cause. Mental illness is just that – an illness, something that does not define your family or your kid.
Always make sure to follow doctor’s orders
Many people with mental illnesses go through phases in which they decide to stop taking their medications or they refuse to see doctors. As a caretaker, it is your responsibility to make sure that does not happen, even if that pill causes your kid to be nauseated or feel drowsy – common side effects of medication. Even though this might be hard, you have to understand that doctors really do know best and that, depending on the mental illness, your kid might change drastically if he or she is a mere day without medication. Progress is slow and painful with mental illness – don’t complicate it further for stopping treatment midway.
Do not blame yourself
It is true many mental illnesses might be made worse due to the environment people are raised in and some might actually develop as side effects of childhood trauma and neglect. But unless you were a very irresponsible parent, you probably did not cause your kid’s mental illness. Many teenagers who suffer from depression or other types of illnesses blame their parents, sometimes even as a manipulation tactic to get them to do whatever they want. But blaming yourself is not going to fix anything and you are only inflicting more pain.
Take some time off
It is very, very stressful to handle people who are mentally ill. The mood swings, the unpredictability, the drama…everything can be very difficult and frustrating. Even though it might seem selfish, it is important to take some time off and realize there is more to life than being a caretaker for someone who is mostly dependent on professional help to get better.