One of the most terrifying parts of parenting starts when your child gets diagnosed with a mental health disorder. You might start feeling lost and confused and unable to even function. However, this is the time to be proactive and handle it effectively. This is the time that your child needs you to step up and help them deal with it.
Mental health disorders are often seen as taboos which make it harder to treat. People have a lot of preconceived notions and many even dismiss it calling it just a phase. However, you need to keep your mind open and understand what mental illness is all about. You need to do away with your pre-conditioned notions as well. It is quite normal to feel confused or even be in denial. But, you need to accept it and get proper treatment from experts.
Your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, what to do next:
Get Immediate Help
There are experts in the field of mental illness in children. Once you feel something is different about your child, then do not wait or think of it as ‘just a phase’. Look for child psychologists and experts, schedule an appointment, and make sure you get help as soon as possible.
Understand the Diagnosis and the Disorder
The first step of moving towards treatment for your child’s mental health issue is to understand the diagnosis first. As parents, you might not fully understand what exactly is going on, since some disorders can be quite complex and difficult to process. Mental health issues are also seldom discussed in our society, which makes it further difficult to have a conversation about it and understand the different types of disorders.
Do your preliminary research and know what constitutes the disorder, or what your child has it. You can consult a mental health professional for any doubts. Learn about the symptoms, and how people might have different symptoms. Once you understand the disorder and the diagnosis, you will be more equipped to handle the mental health issue.
Process the Diagnosis and the Disorder
Once your child is diagnosed with a said disorder, it is normal to feel a range of emotions. You can feel confused, angry, sad, or fear. However, you need to remember that the mental health problem is not your child. It is only a part of them, and not their whole identity. Take your time and process the diagnosis. You need to realize that just because your child has been diagnosed with a mental health issue, doesn’t mean their whole life revolves around it. Try finding their many other valuable qualities like they are an avid reader or they love to draw and embrace and encourage those qualities.
You also need to come up with a working plan as to how you will react and respond to certain symptoms that can come up with your child’s mental disorder. Understand all the symptoms and make a plan as to how you will react when said symptoms come up.
Plan It Out With Your Therapist
Once your child is diagnosed with a mental health issue, you need to have a comprehensive treatment plan. This might include psychotherapy, meditation, creative lessons among many other things. You as a parent cannot make this plan alone. Consult your child’s therapist and come up with the most effective plan for the treatment. Remember different disorders requite different treatments, so you have to work and plan accordingly.
You need to come with a support group. When a child has mental health issues, it is not possible to treat it all by yourself. You need to come up with a group of specialists who can give your child the required importance and help. Contact both a school social worker and a psychologist. You also need to be in constant touch with them. If your child is resisting therapy, then check in with the therapist after three sessions. If they are still resisting then you might need to explore other options. Also, keep in touch with your child’s teachers in school and keep a note of their progress. The teachers should also be aware of your child’s disorder. You can sit with the teachers and come up with an effective study plan also.
Get your whole family involved as well. Explain to your near and dear ones the issue and what kind of reaction and support the child needs.
Create a Supportive and Warm Environment
One of the most important things that you need to make sure is that your child gets support, love, and encouragement. Your child already has to live with a crippling mental illness, it becomes harder if the environment is not supportive. Minimize stress and create a warm and loving environment, where your child can grow. You also need to keep your mind open. Mental health issues are not taboo and should not be treated as one.
This will help your child to come to you and express their issues and feelings rather than hiding them. Always tell your child that it is okay to feel this way and that there is hope. Welcome them with open arms and keep the door for communication open. Never make your child feel that his illness is just a ‘phase’ or they are just being ‘needy’. This will just make them close down and repress leading to further problems. Openly talk about the disorder with your child and help them understand what they are going through as well.
Find the Required Resources
Many parents think mental health issues hamper a chance of having a happy and healthy life. However, this is not always the case. Many children will go on to live happy and successful lives while living with their mental disorder. However, to facilitate this, you need to make sure that plenty of resources are available for your child to thrive in.
Get in touch with NGOs and other mental health organizations. You can also look for in-person training centers or mental health workshops. All of this will help your child thrive and manage their mental disorder effectively. Children with mental health disorders also often find solace in creative arts like dancing, art, or crafts. Understand if your child is inclined towards any of that and find proper creative centers for children with mental disorders.
Some disorders can be quite crippling and need special schools. Find out about the special school and enroll your child in those schools. These school tailor learning methods according to your child’s needs, so that your child’s education is not hampered.
Give Some Time to Yourself
This is quite an important step when it comes to dealing with your child’s disorder. Dealing with mental illness can be quite exhausting for you as a parent as well. You might not be equipped or even know how to react at times. Sometimes it might spiral out of control and you too with be filled with all kinds of emotions. In such cases, you also need to look after yourself and give yourself some time. It is natural to feel frustrated and hopeless. But, you need to hold on. Some days can get bad, however, there are also moments of pure love and happiness which you will learn to cherish.