Sunday, January 30, 2011

When Your Child or Teen Has Mental Illness Part 2

It's easy to forget how hard it is. When a mother (and it's always the mother) who has a child with a mental health issue appears at my support group, it all comes flooding back: the desperate search for ideas and answers, helplessness, determination, fear and hope in the face of constant criticism. 

Luckily, I wrote a lot down.  Here are more lessons learned from raising a child with a diagnosed mental illness:
  1. Let her do as much for herself as she can. At the same time, watch carefully to step in quickly when needed.
  2. Establish a stable structure with a few simple rules in writing. Set up the consequences for violating the rules before the violation takes place, if possible. When your child is well enough, use negotiation and ask for input into the rules.
  3. When what you are doing isn't working, change it. This is particularly true regarding arguments and confrontations.
  4. Think before you speak.
  5. Choose your battles carefully.  Depressed children and teens can only work on one improvement at a time. If you insist on getting your own way all the time, your home will be a battlefield. 
  6. Keep your marriage as stable as possible or make the divorce as civil as possible so you can talk things out to always present a united front. 
  7. Don't take hateful words personally.
  8. Recognize agitation and allow the child or teen to exit from the conversation when it is occurring. 
  9. Ask her if she wants your advice before you give it.  Try not to talk too much because she stops listening if you do.  (By the way, this also is a good rule with all young adult children.)
  10. Make your requests in a positive manner with a pleasant expression on your face.  Accent positive feelings, and be specific, as in "I would feel much better if you would ..."

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