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Supporting a Child with a Mental Illness

Julia Harris

ThinkstockPhotos-120335444So you took your son or daughter to see a counselor – now what do you do? As your role shifts from being a parent to parent of a child struggling with a mental illness there may be a lot of changes you are experiencing. Your child has always needed you, but now he or she may need you more than ever – even if he or she doesn’t tell you. Here are a few tips:

  1. Your child needs your time – regularly put aside time to check in with him or her and schedule time to hang out. You can watch your favorite TV shows together, go to the movies, go to dinner, take walks, read a book in the same room, or pray together.
  2. Be curious – ask your child what he or she needs or wants from you.
  3. Ask and acknowledge how your child is feeling. Find ways to let your child know you care about how he or she feels, that you want to understand, and that it is okay for them to feel the way they do.
  4. Communicate to your child that he or she is not alone. Mental illness can make us feel isolated and lonely because it is not always a shared experience. Remind him or her that you are a team!
  5. Practice patience with your child and yourself – many mental illnesses can cause a child to feel sad or angry and to behave in a way that can make support and patience difficult. Try to be calm and remember that your child is doing the best he or she can and you are too; we all are.
  6. Take care of yourself. In order to be there for your child you have to put time into yourself – make sure to take the time to “refill” your heart, body, and mind!
  7. Consider seeking counseling for yourself for extra support during this transition.

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