Life is tough when your child has a mental illness. It gets even tougher when you do, too.
You might be thinking, "Wait, what did you just say? You're okay with your child having a mental illness? How could you say such a thing?" It's true, though. I am okay with my child having a mental illness. I have a lot of reasons to feel that way, and I think if more parents could take this attitude, life would be easier for everyone.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my local school system has closed until further notice. The problem is, I still have a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at home who needs to learn, grow, and stay busy. I still have a full-time job and a pile of bills that aren't going anywhere. And I still wrestle with a lot of depression and anxiety that makes it difficult to hold everything down without the reprieve of an eight-hour school day. So what's the trick? How have I learned to take care of my child's ADHD, education, and all of my other responsibilities in the face of such unpredictable school closures?
Once again, I'm going to admit something that's difficult to bring up because that's what Life with Bob is all about--transparency and honesty. So here goes: sometimes I feel burned out parenting a child with mental illness. I have found ways to cope, but parental burnout has still lodged its way into my life and my family's lives. It's affected the relationship I have with my son and the relationship I have with myself. What is parental burnout, and what can you do about it when you have a child with mental illness?
Parents can advocate for mental health care improvements for our children with mental illness, and we're in in a unique position to do so. As we travel through America’s broken mental healthcare system, our voices can help shine a light on problems and advocate for mental health care changes that would help our children in their quest for mental stability.
You can sometimes predict that a mental health setback will happen, but still, when it happens, a mental health setback seems to come out of nowhere. I got a call from school staff this morning saying that my son was disrupting the class. He had been out of his seat, kicking chairs, and refusing to do work. In the background of the call, I could hear his teacher attempting multiplication lessons while the paraprofessional explained quietly that my son was now on the floor, unmovable and unresponsive to everybody. He was no longer allowed on Friday's field trip. The staff put the phone to my son's ear so I could try to talk him, but he hung up on me instead. After months of doing amazingly well at school and home, this was definitely a mental health setback.
My daughter just graduated from a year of shock therapy for major depressive disorder (electroconvulsive therapy [ECT]). It gave her life back. Her severe major depressive disorder had stopped her from functioning in life and kept the threat of suicide lingering over her like a vulture waiting to pounce. Yet, today, a year after beginning shock therapy, she has finished her college program, gotten a job and is socializing and taking care of herself with a kind of sparkle that had once seemed impossible. Shock therapy for my daughter's major depressive disorder created a miracle for her.
Hello, I’m Susan Traugh, one of the authors of Life with Bob about parenting children with mental illness at HealthyPlace. I live with a husband with bipolar disorder and have three children with mental illness: two with bipolar disorder and one with generalized anxiety disorder.
A child's mental illness isolates the whole family. Social anxiety, unpredictable outbursts, sensory issues--all these things can make the outside world exhausting for your child (Mental Illness, Isolation, and Loneliness). Judgment, stigma, and fear make it exhausting for parents. Isolation in childhood mental illness is our biggest enemy. Fight it.
It's important to know how to manage your child's problem behaviors caused by mental illness when you're not there. When your child struggles with mental illness, going into public can be terrifying. More terrifying is wondering what your child is doing in public when you're not there (Parenting Children with Behavior Problems). One of my son's diagnoses is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I'll discuss more specifics about parenting children with ADHD throughout March, but for now, just know that ADHD sometimes makes children socially awkward and they display problem behaviors that you need to manage even when you're not there.