Let’s face it, parenting is not for the faint-hearted. From broken bones to broken hearts … we survive one crisis after another, right?

Truth is, raising a healthy child is not easy, but raising a child with a mental illness is taking parenting to a whole new level, it’s life-altering.

When a child is diagnosed with a mental illness it ricochets to the entire family.

From the moment your child is diagnosed, your life will be turned upside down. On the one hand, parents may feel relieved that they finally have answers for behaviours that are confusing and often very scary. Relieved that there’s finally a name for your child’s moods, behaviour and perception of the world. But, on the other hand, understanding the details and how to best to support him can be daunting. The illness, and sometimes the treatment thereof, can strain marriages, jobs and finances.

Although 20% of all South African kids suffer from a mental illness that significantly impacts their daily lives, this is a lonely road. Caring for a child with mental illness while balancing the needs of your other kids, work, and the normal day-to-day nitty-gritty … it’s tough.

Your experience navigating your child’s mental illness will be personal to you and while it’s almost inevitable that you will make mistakes along the way - and that’s okay - know that how you respond to his or her needs will define your relationship for the future.

Off course, each family is unique, but there are some general, often overlooked tips that can aid families struggling to help a child with mental illness.

Here are a few of the essentials to help you on this journey:

  • Do your research. Knowing the signs, symptoms and triggers of the illness will be invaluable and will bring an element of peace to your life.
  • Take care of your family. Make sure that your other kids understand what their sibling is going through and spend time with each of them.
  • Create a safe, loving environment free from judgement.
  • Team up with teachers. They can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on. Still, deciding who to tell and how much to reveal is a personal choice.
  • Set guidelines, rules and limits. Beware of enabling or repeatedly rescuing him or her. This could lead to a co-dependent parent/child relationship. Allow them to make decisions for themselves and validate that.
  • Find your posse. There are parents that share the same sense of isolation. Look for friendship and support in this group of knowledgeable parents.
  • Ask for help. Reach out to family and friends, you can’t do this alone.
  • Be an advocate for your child. Be brave and speak up against negative stereotypes.
  • Take care of yourself. Remember, this is not your fault. If you’re struggling with sadness and anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Caring for your child will become impossible if you don’t.

Ultimately never losing hope and keeping your child safe and stable, is what this journey is about.

Good luck brave mom and dad.

Source: psychcentral.com, www.greatschools.org, www.psy.com.net, www.healthyplace.com, www.nami.org, www.psychologytoday.com, www.carergateway.gov.au, themighty.com, www.all4women.co.za, brainchildmag.com, www.theglobeandmail.com, www.time-to-change.org.uk, www.nytimes.com, www.parenttoolkit.com, www.webmd.com, www.mayoclinic.org, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, www.mentalhealth.wa.go.au, www.ulifeline.org, www.huffingtonpost.com, myclevelandclinic.org, www.sadag.org, www.timeslive.co.za, www.heretohelp.bc.ca, www.edition.cnn.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.