Parental support for teens with mental illness
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 live with a severe mental illness. During this age range, the quality of the parent–child relationship is a major factor in determining the child’s future mental health.
Although the influence of parents shrinks as children get older, they can still provide substantial help by offering emotional support and connecting their emerging adults to mental health services. This involves reaching out as well as taking a step back. Parents can often be left frustrated and exhausted.
Differentiating support from control
The best parents can do for their children is to provide them support and encouragement. However, treatment decisions can’t be made for them. Suggestions and input could be offered, but be prepared to accept and support their decisions. Parents immediately enhance their quality of life by just treating them with respect.
Ways to support children with a mental disorder:
- Learn about mental health, the child’s condition and available treatments. Knowledge provides practical insight and perception
- Show interest in the child’s treatment plan. Talk with medical professionals about what expectations to set from the treatment plan and the possible effects of medication
- Encourage the child to follow the treatment plan. This could involve providing transportation to therapy sessions, prompting them to take medications as prescribed or just getting to know their preferences
- Seek collaboration within the family. Communicate and cooperate with the whole family to allocate responsibilities rather than burden one person
- Paying attention is an important way to demonstrate support. If the child says unkind things, try to distinguish and acknowledge the pain, unease or confusion behind the attack instead of indulging in preventable arguments
- Resume “normal” activities and routines. Allowing family life to revolve fully around the child’s mental illness can be detrimental to the entire family’s well-being. Ease back into a regular routine. Indulge in activities unrelated to the illness.
- Find support. External support and encouragement is critical. It becomes easier to cope with stress when one regularly interacts with people who understand. Support groups are available to help people living with mental illnesses and their family members
- Prioritize safety. If there’s a risk of violence, make safety a priority. Preparing a crisis plan for any emergency and setting limits ahead of time can make critical occurrences more manageable
- Stay committed. Children with a mental health condition benefit enormously from having a solid support system. This includes reminders that their parents are there to help and not giving up
The journey of recovery for the mentally ill is intermittently shared by their families. At Sovereign, we fully understand and acknowledge the importance of family support during and after treatment. Our family systems therapy facilitates the family members of the patient to understand the dynamics of the illness and its recovery, alongside providing them tools to better manage the situation and recovery of the patient. If your child is struggling to start his or her life due to a mental illness, contact us right away through our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer
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