Deciding to get outside help for your child’s behaviors can be a surprisingly difficult decision. Not only do we worry about the stigma of seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, we also worry about placing ourselves under a microscope to be evaluated and judged as a parent.
I would like to let you know that you are not alone in this regard. No matter how confident you may have been in your parenting skills in the past, once your child starts struggling, you begin to question every decision you have ever made as a parent. We have been so bombarded with information about best parenting practices that we feel as if we have to be perfect or else our children will grow up unhappy. So if our child is struggling it must be our fault.
Let me relieve some of this guilt for you. Studies show that mental illness has a genetic component. This means that your child may have inherited the illness (if there is one). The belief is that some people are predisposed to developing a mental illness. Although, it is still believed that there has to be an environmental trigger. But this could be anything that the person’s mind considered traumatic. For my child, the trigger was the movie the Mummy. Now do I believe that if he never watched the Mummy he would not have developed the illness? No, I think that for him, there were already signs developing along the way. This was just the inciting incident for him, but it would likely have been something else later.
I strongly encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional if you even suspect there may be something going on. Time goes by swiftly and therapy and finding the right medications (if needed) can take up a lot of it.
When seeking a therapist, counselor or psychiatrist, try to find one that specializes in pediatric care. There is a huge difference between children with a mental illness and an adult. You will also want to make a list of any concerns you have. What behaviors have you seen that are concerning to you or others? Are they sad or anxious? When or where are these behaviors occurring? Is everything okay at home but they struggle with school or vice versa? The more you can document what has been occurring and for how long, the better the doctor or clinician will be able to help.
This may be a long road you are embarking on. But with proper support and education, the road can be a lot smoother than it has been for many of us. I hope to be able to provide some of that here on my blog. So please come back to find more information to help you along the way.
Published by Parenting For Good Mental Health
My name is Tricia. I am the proud mom of two amazing young men.
My youngest son was always a very energetic and highly reactive child. Life with him was often like a roller coaster ride. He had to work very hard to learn how to manage his emotions and behaviors. By the time he turned 10, he had learned to manage them fairly well. But one night while watching the movie The Mummy, his anxiety was triggered. Night after night, he just could not get the scary images out of his head. This went on for almost a year where he would cry in bed at night. Nothing we tried seemed to help. So we decided to take him to see a psychiatrist where he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the care and medications that he received from various professionals did not really help. By educating myself, I began to learn that there were many more options that had not been provided or suggested. I believe that had I had more information sooner; his care could have been better tailored to his needs. This was a very difficult time not only for my son but for our entire family. We had to develop new ways of interacting that did not cause fights over the littlest things. We had to learn the hard way what not to do in a crisis. My husband had to learn that you don’t have to have a reason to be depressed or anxious. Sometimes you just are. And that it is not helpful to say to a depressed person, that they have no reason to be depressed. Having never experienced these feelings himself, my husband really struggled with understanding these things. But now that he gets it, he wishes he would have understood sooner so he could have been more supportive to our son in the beginning.
Thankfully, our son has found his own way through the darkness. And he has developed some skills and tools for managing his mental illness. His path could have been easier and less painful for him had we known about these other options sooner.
As parents and caregivers we need to educate ourselves on their illnesses and the evidence based care options that are out there. We have a limited number of clinicians that treat children and teens, so we sometimes only get to see them once a month. What kind of impact do you think you could have on your child if you only saw him once a month? We need to bring as much to the table as possible. The clinicians can only work with the information they are given. The more you can tell them the better they will be able to tailor your child’s care to his needs. We also need to know how to be the parents our child needs because what works for other kids does not always work for ours.
I would like to help educate others so that their path to recovery might be made shorter. There is a lot of support out there, but sometimes we do not hear about it. NAMI is the first support that I will recommend.
NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the largest grassroots mental health organization in America. Through NAMI you will find support and education that can help you to better facilitate the care your child needs. https://www.nami.org/
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