Staying Calm While Raising a Child with Mental Illness

November 11, 2020 Sarah Sharp

"Raising a child with mental illness is probably one of the easiest things I've ever done. I'm always calm, and I never need any help," said no one ever.

To be honest with you, it's hard to stay calm when raising a child with mental illness. In fact, this is the most stressful job I've ever had. There's definitely a learning curve, and I've definitely made more than a few mistakes.

I make even more mistakes, though, when I don't stay calm. That part is up to me. My kid is going to act like a small child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because that's what he is. It's my job to act like a calm, rational adult.

Sometimes, though, staying calm for my child with mental illness is easier said than done. Here's why.

Staying Calm and Patient for My Child with Mental Illness

Raising a child with mental illness is the longest, craziest, most fun roller coaster ride ever. I don't even like roller coaster rides, but I wouldn't trade this one for anything.

That doesn't mean I always enjoy it. Raising a child with mental illness comes with a lot of noisy busy-ness, plenty of tantrums, and more than a little disobedience (both intentional and unintentional).

It's a lot to handle, and dealing with my own mental health issues doesn't help. My depression ebbs and flows sometimes without warning, and when it flows, I can get irritable, distant, weepy--traits that make it difficult to stay calm while I tackle the most important job of my life: raising a child with mental illness.

However, more than anything my little boy needs me to stay calm and patient. In a study of 391 parents of six- to eight-year-old children with and without ADHD, anger in parents aggravated ADHD symptoms in their kids1. The angrier the parents, the worse off their children were in terms of their mental illness.

Obviously, my son needs me to chill, but how do I give him something I can barely give myself at times?

How I Stay Calm While Raising a Child with Mental Illness (Even When the Roller Coaster Gets Crazy)

Staying calm when life is at its craziest isn't easy, but it's worth it. In the long run, it helps me, my child, and everyone else in my life. So how do I pull it off?

  • I stay grateful. Raising a child with mental illness might feel like a burden sometimes, but really it's a blessing. My boy has so much uniqueness to share, and I get to be a part of all of it. When I stay grateful, I can enjoy his childhood, even the parts that aren't fun.
  • I focus on how cute my little boy is. No matter what he's doing, my kid always has one thing going for him: he's unbearably cute. When I concentrate on that, it makes me want to love him and be patient with him, and I'm less likely to let any irritation I might be feeling take over.
  • I let people help me raise my child. I don't have a lot of people nearby who can help me, but those who are around, I welcome their help, even if they aren't perfect at what they do. When it comes to loved ones who are farther away, I listen to the advice they have for me. Everyone has something to give.
  • I write about my experiences raising a child with mental illness. I'm honest when I write, too, and when other parents reach out to say they can relate to my mistakes, it helps me feel better about myself as a mother. The ironic thing is I know those other parents probably feel a little better, too.
  • I remind myself that my son can't always control his behavior. Often, he isn't even aware of what he's doing. If I can remember that my child struggles with mental illness just like I do, then I might feel more compassionate towards the sometimes aggravating things he can't help but do.
  • I keep my voice low. As soon as I start raising my voice, I start to lose control of my feelings, and it's really hard to come back from that. It's easier to not raise my voice at all. Besides, if I start yelling, then everyone gets stressed out. Whatever the situation is, keeping my voice low won't hurt anything.
  • I keep a sense of humor about myself. Raising a child with mental illness is funny sometimes, so I have to keep a sense of humor about myself. You can't laugh and be stressed out at the same time. Sometimes all you can do is kick back and enjoy your people.

Raising a child with mental illness means my patience will be tested, but it's up to me to figure out how to keep myself calm. That's my responsibility as my son's mother, and it makes more of a lasting difference to him than I may ever know.


  1. Bhide, Simpada et al. "Association Between Parenting Style and Socio-Emotional and Academic Functioning in Children With and Without ADHD: A Community-Based Study." Journal of Attention Disorders, July 2016.

APA Reference
Sharp, S. (2020, November 11). Staying Calm While Raising a Child with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 13 from

Author: Sarah Sharp

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December, 2 2020 at 5:59 am

What do you do when anything you try or even just asking them to be respectful or ask or even just pick up your room flush the toilet is met with complete screaming or verbal abuse not just from the mentally bpd violent child but their father. To where your feelings way you would like to be treated or respected in your own home your boundaries of something as simple as having a specific food or dish you just want for yourself is treated with such absolute ridicule contempt. Or when the mentally disturbed child is given control or power over you you then have a kook of a psychotherapist tell the other parent that your goal is to divide from the children after believing the lies of the violent abuser. Or asking to have them please turn down her music is met with. What is your problem what's wrong with their music being loud...but when it disturbs their activity. Hey turn it down
When a 16 yr old who just threatened suicide and screamed vulgar things and names at you and their dad threw water all over a computer and important papers calling you all sorts of names but her father repeatedly said call the police you do then she calls and tells you that you're crazy and you should be the one to just die that she the violent abusing 16 yr old tells you to just lease die they so want you dead to just lease kill yourself how dare you call the police on me...and your husband her father stays silent while she flips you off smirks at you keeps demeaning you as he gets angry at you for calling the police....never stops her just sends you into another room. Never says once you don't talk to it treat my wife like this. You know. I actually prayed for death when I went to take an antidepressant of mine last night. How much I actually stood looking at all the pills poured them into my hand stool there for a minute ..looked down at my dog who would be in danger with them thought of my own adult birth daughter and poured the pills back into the bottle....they have no clue the brink they really do and have broken me with their 6 yrs of abuse by his child and thanks to her now her brother and verbally and with no care consideration or respect for me their father has done the cheating emotionally texting online but since he didn't touch them just told them with written and verbal words how much he wanted them over me. Oh no that's not cheating. How close my life almost did end due to them

December, 3 2020 at 8:43 am

Thank you for sharing so much of your story with us. It sounds like everyone close to you is going through a lot and is in a lot of pain.
Thank God you put those pills back in the bottle. Do you have a therapist, doctor, or another advocate you could talk to? If not, there are suicide and domestic violence hotlines you could call to get more information about where to turn for help. You can learn more about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at and the National Domestic Violence Hotline at
Sometimes I have to remind myself that eventually, life WILL get better, no matter what I'm going through at the moment. It can't hurt forever. There are moments in my future I WILL want to be here for. I just need to hold on tight and keep doing the next right thing.
We at HealthyPlace are here if you want to chat more.
Kindest regards,
Sarah Sharp

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