Inspiring My Child’s Mental Health Despite Mental Illness
Keeping a child mentally healthy can be challenging, especially if your child has a mental illness as mine does. In fact, I think it can be harder than keeping a child physically healthy since keeping the body in shape basically involves a checklist: good diet, check; lots of exercise, check; plenty of water, check; annual checkup, check. A child's mental health, though, can be a bit more complicated.
How I Inspire My Child's Mental Health
Even though my child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are things I can do and teach him to help manage his symptoms and, hopefully, avoid further mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse, in the future.
- I encourage him to label and express his feelings. When my child is upset, I ask him what it is he's feeling. Sometimes I don't have to ask at all. It's become natural for him to tell me what he's feeling. Sometimes, though, he still needs my help figuring out why he's feeling that way, especially when he's tired.
- I try to teach him how to breathe deeply when he's upset. It's a work in progress. My child wants to take deep, shallow breaths, which won't do anything for his mental health. Still, though, when he gets upset, I try to guide him through a few deep breaths and explain what deep breathing can do for him when his emotions feel out of control.
- When the time comes, I'll talk to him about my own mental health struggles. Since he's still so young, I don't know if my child would understand yet--or maybe I just don't know how to explain it to him yet--but eventually, he will know about my own struggles with mental health problems and how I've learned to cope.
- I try to teach him that most things aren't that big of a deal. What with his ADHD (and him just being a kid), my child can get very upset very quickly, and most of the time, it's over something small. If he could let go a little and let the small things run off his shoulders, life would be a lot more comfortable for him. I try to teach my child that most things just aren't that big of a deal and definitely not worth sacrificing his happiness and mental health, even for a moment.
- I take my child to a psychologist. When it comes to keeping a child mentally healthy, no parent can do it alone. Everyone needs some help sometimes, especially if your child already deals with a mental health condition. What better person to turn to for that help than a mental health professional?
- I've explained to him what the counselor at his school is for. My child knows that his school counselor is there for him in case he needs to talk about something that he doesn't want to talk to me or his dad about. These days, it takes a small army to keep a child mentally healthy. There's no reason I should expect myself to be able to do it alone.
I Have to Keep Tabs on My Own Mental Health, Too
More than once in the past few years, I've sought professional help because I saw my mental health issues affecting my child. There's no way I can keep my child mentally healthy if I can't keep myself mentally healthy. If I'm not well, I can't set a good example for him or stay out of my head long enough to really pay attention to what's going on in his.
I might not necessarily see the fruits of my labor immediately. My child doesn't try to calm himself down with breathing exercises, and most things that happen throughout a typical day seem like mini-crises. What I'm trying to do is plant seeds. Hopefully, my little boy will grow up to be an adult who knows how to maintain his own mental health, and it starts with the seeds I plant now.
How do you inspire mental health in your child? Let's share ideas in the comment.
Sharp, S. (2021, September 15). Inspiring My Child’s Mental Health Despite Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2021/9/inspiring-my-childs-mental-health-despite-mental-illness