When you’re a new parent, you often have all sorts of ideas about how your child’s future will look. Most of all, you hope that they’ll live a long and happy life.
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety, ASD etc., you have a new range of possibilities to grapple with. Will your child deal with stigma due to their condition? How will it affect their future career and relationships?
Learning that your child has been diagnosed with something can be challenging for any parent. It’s common to experience feelings of grief, depression, and helplessness. In an instant, all the ideas you had about your child’s future have been altered.
But there are ways to help your child and treat their condition. If you are concerned about your child or dealing with a new diagnosis, here are some ways you can support them and yourself:
Signs that Your Child has a Mental Illness
No child behaves perfectly at all hours of the day. It’s common for them to rebel, throw temper tantrums, and react negatively sometimes. But what if you suspect the issue lies within their mental health?
According to the latest data from the CDC, the most common mental illnesses and behavior disorders in children are depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Be aware of these signs that may indicate your child is dealing with a mental illness:
- Problems with school. If your child has issues focusing, with procrastination, or controlling their impulses, they may be dealing with ADHD. These problems commonly manifest at school, especially during tests. A drop in your child’s school performance may be a sign that they should meet with a pediatrician.
- Behavioral/social issues. Your child may have outbursts that make it hard for them to make friends. They may have trouble socializing with others, either due to anxiety or difficulty focusing on the conversation. These symptoms are common among children who deal with various mental and behavioral disorders.
- Negative thoughts. Most of us think of children as carefree and happy individuals. But that isn’t always the case. What if your child is frequently sad? They may act withdrawn, lethargic, and seem uninterested in their favorite activities. Your child might be dealing with symptoms of depression.
These signs do not necessarily mean that your child has a mental illness. However, they are cause for concern, and they indicate that you should consult with a doctor or pediatrician.
To be the best parent that you can be, you also need to take care of yourself. It’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re worried about your child.
Supporting yourself is especially important after your child is diagnosed. You may be dealing with a range of difficult emotions that are tough to process. A few ways to get the support you need are to confide in a close friend or family member, seek therapy, and/or practice self-care. If you’re looking to connect with other parents who deal with similar issues, try to find an online support group. You might find it helpful to read and share stories with others in a similar situation. Finally, look for literature on the subject. Not all parenting tips will work with your child, but you can gain valuable insights by reading about the experiences of others.
Even though your priority is helping your child, you can’t do that to the best of your ability if you don’t take care of yourself as well.
You may actually feel some relief when your child is diagnosed. It can be a positive experience to finally understand why your child behaves the way they do. Once a diagnosis is made, you can start finding ways to support your child with their specific challenges.
After your child is diagnosed, the next step is arranging the appropriate treatment for them. The following interventions can be very effective at helping your child deal with the impulses they struggle with:
The doctor or pediatrician may recommend medication to help your child manage their symptoms. Only you and a medical professional can decide whether this is right for your child or not. It will depend on what mental illness they are dealing with, the problems they’re experiencing, and the medication that’s recommended.
Taking your child to therapy is another helpful intervention. A therapist can teach your child valuable coping mechanisms for their specific issues. They can learn how to manage their anger before an outburst occurs. If they deal with depression, a therapist can talk them through their negative thoughts and offer other perspectives.
When your child is diagnosed, it’s difficult for many parents to process and accept the news. But a mental illness doesn’t mean that they won’t have a happy, fulfilling life. All it indicates is that they have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that need to be treated accordingly. With the right treatment and support, your child can learn to manage their mental illness in healthy and productive ways.
Veronica Wallace is a childhood educator and blogging enthusiast. Some of her favorite articles can be found on the KIDTHINK website. KIDTHINK specializes in offering clinical treatment of mental illness in children aged twelve and under, along with community outreach and training for this type of treatment.