ACA Blog

Apr 07, 2014

Parents’ Survival Guide

Raising a child with a mental disorder isn’t always a walk in the park for parents.  In my last blog post, I mentioned that it’s important for counselors to empower caregivers during this time.  Of the many ways to help them, here are some of the points that I think should be reiterated throughout the coping process.

Be open with the people it may affect

While a struggling child is the first priority for parents, it’s important to keep the entire family well during this time, too.  Parents sometimes tiptoe around taboo topics such as mental health in an effort to shelter other children in the family.  Kids, however, can often figure out when something is amiss, and it can lead to confusion if not addressed properly.  I find that sometimes it’s better to share just a bit of information with children and be open to discussion (given that it’s age appropriate).  Consider this almost like a preventative step for other members of the family. 

 Don’t play the blame game
During a difficult time, it’s natural for parents to ask “why?”  For the purpose of moving on, it’s helpful to remind parents that mental disorders originate from a combination of life events, perhaps including some that are out of their control.  Maybe this is my personal counseling style, but I tend to encourage taking steps to move forward, instead of “figuring out” the past.

 Take care of yourself
In order to help their children, parents need to be mentally healthy themselves.  It’s no secret that stressful situations affect our moods – parents need to work on this aspect of their well-being by eating right, getting a sufficient amount sleep, and occasionally making it a point to do enjoyable things.  This is, of course, easier said than done, but one way to make sure it isn’t left on the backburner is by…

 Asking for support!
However this happens – whether it’s through seeking individual counseling, joining a support group, or reaching out to your family, friends, or place of worship – it’s crucial for parents to get proper support during this time.

 Counselors, what do you think are the most effective ways to help parents?
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Sadaf Siddiqi is a certified counselor with an interest in mental health research and its application to children and families. Please share your thoughts with her at ssiddi12@jhu.edu

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