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How to Cope With Your Child’s Mental Illness

When you bring your baby home for the first time, you want to protect them from every possible danger in the world. You want to provide them with a bright future without major problems arising. Unfortunately, life sometimes has other plans. A dilemma no mother or father wants to face is how to cope with your child’s mental illness. 

The majority of mental illnesses develop by the time a person has reached young adulthood. According to psychiatry.org, 50% of mental illnesses begin by the time a child turns 14. A full 75% of mental illnesses are in play by the age of 24. This means parents are often still caring for their children or instrumental in still helping their young adult children when the child has developed a mental illness.

Common Types of Mental Illnesses

Many different types of mental health challenges exist. This makes getting a proper diagnosis an important first step in knowing how to cope with your child’s mental illness. Knowing what your child deals with helps you prepare for how to help them manage their condition. Some of the most common types of mental illness include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder

While a host of signs and symptoms can signal a mental illness in your child, there are some common ones to look for. These include:

  • Excessive amounts of fear or anxiety
  • Long or repetitive periods of feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty perceiving reality, which can include hallucinations or delusions
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A loss of interest in hobbies, pastimes, and friendships
  • Usage of drugs or alcohol
  • Inability to see themselves clearly in terms of their mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Physical ailments without a direct cause, such as headaches, stomach aches, body aches, and digestion-related problems

How to Talk to Your Child About Their Mental Illness

As a mom or dad, you may be unsure if your child may be experiencing temporary mood swings or other typical events that happen during adolescence and young adulthood. It may be tempting to write an episode off as just a case of the blues or anxiety that will self-correct if your child just pushes themselves. 

Parents have to look deeper to see if a pattern has been established. The child may be afraid of what’s going on and try to excuse how they act or cover up symptoms they experience. Start by sitting down with your child to have an in-depth conversation. Children often hide things from their parents in order to avoid feeling judged or risk rejection. Let them know that they are not in trouble, nor are you angry or embarrassed by them. 

Ask your child to talk about what behaviors and feelings they experience that trouble them. Ask specific questions, like what situations make them feel anxious or when they most commonly feel sad. See if your child can pinpoint a specific event that triggered a problem for them. If they can’t think of one, ask how long they have been dealing with a source of pain or anxiety. 

Mental Health Resources for Your Child

The younger generation today has the good fortune of living in a time when mental illness is openly discussed. Older generations tended to sweep the subject under the rug. Many people feared being embarrassed by seeking help for mental health issues or believed people could help themselves or somehow “snap out of it”.

A good place to start involves having your child evaluated. A physician can rule out any physical maladies that may affect a child’s mental health. A psychiatrist or therapist can meet with your child to do an intake and find out what mental health issues may be going on. Many kids respond to regular therapy sessions, sometimes coupled with prescription medications.

Some children have one or more mental illnesses that require more intensive treatment. Many residential treatment programs offer round-the-clock care for young people who need help learning to manage their mental health. Because addiction to drugs or alcohol often accompanies a mental health diagnosis, several professional treatment programs treat both the addiction and co-occurring mental health problems. 

The National Institute of Mental Health provides a plethora of information relating to various mental illnesses. As a parent, you can get ideas and resources for how to cope with your child’s mental illness. You can speak with your insurance company to see what resources are available.

Don’t forget that as a parent, you deserve support, too. Look for parental support groups that take place either in-person or online. Being around other mothers and fathers who know what you’re going through can help tremendously. You can compare notes on your experiences, exchange tips and resource ideas, and commiserate with people who have walked in your shoes. Taking care of yourself helps you to cope with your child’s mental illness. 

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment in California

Riviera Recovery offers young adults a place to experience sober living while they learn to manage their mental health diagnoses. Our beautiful Southern Calfornia location provides two gender-specific, sober living homes with round-the-clock management. Our residents attend therapy outside the home and learn valuable life skills to prepare them to live responsible, independent lives when they return home. 

Reach out to Riviera Recovery now and get started on helping your child learn to manage their mental health.“