Aleasa Word gives tips on how to cope with acceptance of mental health problems in your child.
Having children is one of the most amazing experiences a person can ever have. From the time we first find out they’re on the way we begin to think about what their life will be like. Once they are here, we start thinking about their future and all the possibilities of what they will do with their lives. As a little time goes on, and they start to develop cognitive abilities, the picture of the future begins to shift for some parents when they notice their child is different than others. Some willingly look at the difference and begin to question if it needs to be looked at more closely while others look past it hoping it’ll correct itself.
There is a lot of speculation about the number of children being over-diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. This speculation along with the stigma attached to mental health conditions in general can hinder us from getting the much needed help some children should have. Loving your child unconditionally to the point that no matter what the problem is, is our duty as parents and we do the best we can. However, with mental health conditions the picture of how to work within this love can be challenging for some and ignored until they get to a point they can’t be ignored. Here are some of the reasons people have a hard time accepting the existence of behavioral health issues with their kids
- Admitting something is wrong with my child is admitting something is wrong with me.Many people live in denial about the existence of a behavioral health issues with their child. We want to believe that all of our children come here healthy and there isn’t anything out of the ordinary to worry about. By not admitting there could be a problem, you allow your child to suffer with a condition that in some cases can be dealt with through behavioral therapies. In cases where medication is needed, most doctors dealing with children don’t medicate until absolutely necessary as to improve the child’s quality of life and reduce potential of danger to themselves or others. Having a child with a problem does not mean your child is a problem or they are any less valuable than a child without this condition. Separating the hurt and disappointment about their future from the need for their current treatment will help you parent them in a more effective, loving way. Also, admittingyou don’t know how to cope or deal with it is not admitting you’re faulty. It’s like being given a job of a doctor but not knowing how to operate….it’s a learning process.
- Claiming a kid has mental illness is a cop out for bad behaviors or bad parentingThere is a significant difference between mental illness and basic childhood behavior issues. Behavior concerns can be corrected through changing parenting style, correcting unhealthy habits and inconsistency in routines etc. Mental illness involves chemical imbalances in the brain. We all have balances that are unique to us, but there is still a range that keeps us level so we don’t have extreme behaviors on either side of the spectrum that could pose a danger to us and those around us. Our bodies are imperfect in many ways. Some people have shorter toes, extra fingers that we don’t like but we accept. For some this imperfection is mental illness but none of these concerns make us any less loveable. What is considered normal becomes a different normal for a child with mental health problems; however they are still people and deserving of fair treatment.
- If diagnosed it will ruin their life. In recent years the words “mental health” have been used interchangeably with the words “behavioral health.” Though I’m sure there are differences, I can imagine using behavioral seems less stigmatizing for some and it can include true mental illness as well as behavioral problems that can be corrected in a more holistic way. Regardless of which of these terms are used, when a child exhibits symptoms of a behavioral or mental health condition, they still have the right to live the best life possible. Getting them help will give them that. A proper diagnosis may be the difference between your child being pegged as simply a bad kid and treated poorly in some school systems vs a child who has a condition that educators must legally consider when giving accommodations to encourage their learning. A diagnosis by a licensed professional gives them certain rights to what is called a 504 accommodation and or an IEP (individualized education plan) under federal law. Without this diagnosis you are at the mercy of a system that sometimes treats problem children like throw aways. Also, getting an accurate diagnosis helps you know what you are dealing with, what to expect and how to prepare for the quality of life for you and the child you’re raising without a lot of surprises. You can more easily get supports in place for both your child and your own well-being whether community based or medically based.
- It costs too much money to go to a behavioral health provider. In many communities there are additional resources available to kids who have special mental or behavioral health needs. Until you get an accurate diagnosis, those resources will remain unavailable to you. You can can check with community based organizations that offer sliding scale fees even if you have an income that is above the poverty line. Most public schools have counselors in place that can help direct you to services that can help. Additionally, when we look at the cost of getting our child help vs the cost of not getting them help…..the latter has a higher price.
- Letting go of the dream of a perfect life. Nothing is guaranteed for any of us in this world. Even a child without a mental health condition can have a great childhood and end up on drugs, pregnant early, divorced, incarcerated or even worse. Mental health conditions do not instantly send our child to the reject pile. In many ways all of us has some sort of mental health or behavioral health issue. There are fully functioning adults with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), ADD/ADHD, BiPolar Disorder, Depression and many more conditions. This is not the end of the world. This is not the end of a dream. Instead it is a way to ensure the existence of the best life for “this” child that can be had. As a parent of a child with a medical special need, I have grown so much as a person because of being forced to go beyond what I thought I could do as a parent to protect my child and get her needs met. I am her voice as you are the voice for your child. You can empower yourself to help them which in essence is empowering the child who is a gift to you.
There is no perfect child, just as there is no perfect parent. What we have are children who are born for us to love unconditionally. Our love includes the responsibility of tending to all of their needs whether we feel equipped to do so or not. Just know that there are more resources now than ever an you are not alone it this is about your child.