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Parent Support – You Are NOT Alone

You may feel unseen, unaided and overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, and sad. There are mixed emotions when loving your child with mental illness. On one side, you wish there was more you could do for them; on the other, you feel guilty when you don’t understand why or how your child was born this way. If you are reading this, please know that you are not alone, and it is normal for you to feel this way.

This blog is focused on YOU, the parent/caregiver

Did you know that your children’s mental health was linked to your mental health? In a recent study, poor mental health in children was correlated to poor mental health in parents/caregivers (for more information, follow the link). It makes sense when the flight attendant says, “put your oxygen mask on first,” before helping others. Remember, you can’t help anyone else if you run out of oxygen. 

Steps towards self-care

First and foremost, it is not your fault or your child’s fault that they have a mental illness. You should not feel shame or guilt because many mental disorders are caused due to biological factors that affect the brain. There is not anything you can do to change that. Please don’t ignore this section, this is helping you get the oxygen you need to help your child. 

Talk to a friend or your support; it doesn’t have to be a long conversation.

  1. Take time to care for your relationships spouse, partner, other children, and friends.

  2. Nurture your passion. Often parents/caregivers put themselves on the back burner and forget about their own needs, hobbies, and true passion. Don’t lose that. 

  3. Sleep enough, this is very important. Remember you are modeling behavior. 

  4. Go for a walk alone or with your fur animal if you have one (animals are great at comforting and companionship).

  5. Now that we’re talking about pets. Take time to pet your fur animal (or your preference for a pet). 

“Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).” MyPet

How do other people really feel?

I thought that it was important to really understand how other people in your shoes feel.

Here are some statements from parents/caregivers:

  1. “My son’s illness brought pain and heartache into our lives, it also brought an awareness of gratitude. How I responded to his needs defined our relationship for the future.” -Joy

  2. “I am tired, and sometimes I want to give up. Other times I want to go away far from here, but my son needs me, and that keeps me going.” -Maria

  3. “I know what it feels to be judged.” -Alicia 

  4. “Thank you for making me a better dad. Dedicated with love and understanding to all families with children deemed different.” -PIXAR  

This last quote is from a short animated film by PIXAR called Float. Who would have thought that an animated short film could be so relatable? 

See, it is okay to feel the way your feel but remember, practice small self-care steps. This is not only going to help you, it will transcend into helping your child.

Is there Help?

Yes, there is help! Having a child with mental illness can present many challenges, but there is help and support available to you. 

  1. NAMI (National Alliance with Mental Illness) offers a free program  NAMI-BASICS that consists of a 6-session education program for parents, caregivers, and other families who provide care for youth (ages 22 and younger) who are experiencing mental health symptoms.

  2. The Parent Support Network offers free confidential meetings and is open to any parent or guardian who is concerned about their kids (ages 1 – 25) who struggle with anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation, or other emotional, behavioral, or mental health problems.

  3. MIKID offers programs such as Family Support Partner that help parents navigate the system whether it is social services, court, school, and more. What makes this program special is that the providers are people that understand how you feel, for they, too have children with mental illness and have had to navigate the system in one way or another.  

Amongst those supports is Alicia, she shares her story:

“My child was at a young age during the passing of her father. She was initially diagnosed with ADHD. She was seven years old when she started services such as teen therapy, family support therapy, living skills, and she learned different coping skills. I know what it feels to be judged. It feels great to help others and share my experiences. Family Support is being there when most needed – when you feel no light at the end of the tunnel” -Alicia Ledezma.    

These are only a few resources provided to get you started or begin looking for help for you. Don’t forget to also check what resources your community has to offer but most importantly don’t forget about YOU!

Written by: Edna Keefer, BASW, SUDCC

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