What to Say to a Parent of a Child with Mental Illness
Have you ever wondered what to say to a parent of a child with mental illness? As a parent of a 17-year-old with bipolar disorder and social anxiety, I have. In this blog I will offer ideas of what to say to a parent of a child with mental illness.
Acknowledge the Pain of Mental Illness
When you're thinking about what to say to a parent of a child with mental illness, acknowledge the pain the parent has shared with you. Saying you are sorry to hear my son Bob is depressed makes me feel heard and validated. It makes me feel like it is okay for me to open up and talk about my son's mental illness. It makes the bipolar depression he is experiencing real and that helps me deal with it. I need others to acknowledge the invisible all-consuming mental illness my son lives with everyday.
Empathy and Compassion for a Parent of a Child with Mental Illness
Show empathy and compassion. Parenting a child with mental illness is challenging and complicated. I sometimes feel like I am walking a tightrope across an erupting volcano. When I hear you say my situation sounds extremely difficult, my burden lightens. Your compassion gives me strength to keep doing what I must for my son, Bob.
Say you will be there, figuratively and literally. Parenting a child with mental illness is often lonely and isolating. When friends or family offer support, it means a lot. When my friends were at book club, I was home with Bob whose crippling social anxiety kept us from going anywhere. I will never forget the time two neighbors showed up with lunch and visited for 20 minutes. I was touched they came to support me even though I had presumably fallen off the planet.
Things to Say to a Parent of a Child with Mental Illness
Ask questions, listen and be respectful. It is comforting to hear questions about how I am and what I am going through. When you ask me how I'm doing, it makes me feel like you care. I might tell you too much information or I might not want to talk about it at all. Either way, I'm glad you asked.
Offer to do things with a parent of a child with mental illness. Sometimes I need a break. When you invite me to coffee, it gives me permission to take that break. I appreciate the invitation and will do my best to meet you for coffee.
Saying the right thing to a parent of a child with mental illness is not hard. Empathy, compassion and non-judgement go a long way. Most of all, just be there with support for the parent of a child with mental illness.
Halli, C. (2015, March 29). What to Say to a Parent of a Child with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2015/03/what-to-say-to-a-parent-of-a-child-with-mental-illness