Admitting to yourself that your child might have a mental illness is the hardest thing. As parents we don’t like to admit that there are somethings that we just can’t control. This is only the start of a journey that will encompass your lives.
I have come up with what I think are good tips for dealing with the stigma and feelings of failure.
- Admit to yourself that your child needs more help than you can give them.
- Consult your pediatrician. Bring along any documentation you have concerning your child. Especially stuff from school, because that is likely where you child spends a majority of their time.
- Don’t just accept the first psychiatrist or psychologist that you are referred to. You and your child need to be comfortable with the people on their team.
- Start a journal. I keep two. One about my child, and one about me, and how I feel. You don’t have to share your personal journal with anyone if you don’t want to. The journal about your child is to help you and the psychiatric team work through the many facets of your child’s eventual diagnosis.
- Seek outside supports where and when possible. You will need all of the help that you can get in this part of your life. No man is an island, and you need to understand that there will be times when you need to take a break from your close involvement in your child’s care. It is okay to admit to yourself that you need help.
- Involve your spouse in as many aspects of care as possible. Communication is the key. Where possible, ask the doctor to write down recommendations so that you can share them. Make sure that you take good notes while working with the team caring for your child/family.
- If you have other children, they need help too. Mental illness doesn’t affect just one person in the household, it affects the whole household.
- Medication is a tool, not a cure.
In the end, it is important to remember that everyone involved in the child’s life is part of the care team. No matter how old. Hour for hour, siblings spend more time with each other than they do their parents, that is just the nature of life in a family.
As a parent, you will get frustrated with your child. This is perfectly normal and can’t be controlled any more than the mental illness that affects your child.