Health

How to Care for a Child with a Mental Illness and Support Their Mental Health

If you’re a parent or caregiver for a child with mental health needs, it can be difficult to navigate what’s best for them. Children with a mental illness often require more attention and monitoring, but every situation is unique. Every family faces different obstacles and has different resources available to them, making no two situations the same. More recently, the pandemic may have caused a spike in mental illness among all age groups, genders, and backgrounds of people. As a concerned guardian, all you want to do is provide the best care for your child, but how do you do so? There are helpful tools you can use, such as therapy, but a wide variety of other options also exist that you may have never considered.

Have a Routine

Children, especially those with a mental illness, thrive on a routine. Routines promote good mental health because humans like consistency and don’t like surprises. To set up a routine, try writing out your daily intentions out on paper first.  Go to bed and wake up at relatively the same time each morning to start your day off in the best possible way. Then, follow a strict schedule in the same order each time, forming habits as you go. Over time, those habits will become second nature.

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Seek Help from a Therapist

Sometimes you need a second opinion or another helping hand. This is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Many children see child psychologists regularly and it greatly improves their quality of life. If you think therapy is the best option for your child, never be afraid to seek out help.

Lean on Friends and Family

Support from your loved ones will be important as you care for a child with mental health needs. It’s also nice to have people close to you who are aware of your child’s needs and can help out whenever possible. Whenever you need a break, more help, or someone to listen, call up a friend or have some family over. The more you can help yourself, the more energy you’ll have to help your child. Your own mental health matters, too, so don’t neglect it. No one can pour from an empty cup so be sure to place a high value on self-care.

Educate Yourself

Learn everything you can about your child’s mental health condition. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be to help them. Keep in mind that any suggestions for helping your child should be taken into consideration but not treated as a rule or magical cure. Everyone responds to new tools differently, so don’t set high expectations on your child to improve right away. Healing takes time, and there’s nothing wrong with trying something new as long as you use the tools as necessary and stop using them when they aren’t working.

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No one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes—even parents. Your journey as a parent of a child with mental health needs may look similar to other parents’ but will never be exactly the same. Developing a lot of patience and compassion will help you as you care for your child. The process is often slow, but worth it in the end. Whenever possible, remind your child that they are not defined by their mental illness. It’s important that kids know they have value just by being them. Remember that you’ll have really good days, and not so good days, but that all the effort you put in to improving your child’s life will be worth it in the end.

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