My Kid Has What?! Living With a Mental Health Diagnosis

Hey You...

Are you feeling overwhelmed with what you just heard? You might have some anxiety and cry... Or perhaps you just want to know where to go from here. Hearing that your child has a diagnosis for the first time isn't always easy. Parents react in different ways. Some parents hear the news, it confirms their suspicions and now they are looking for solutions. While other parents are thrown for a loop.

There is no "right" way to feel. Your feelings are just that - your feelings! And that's ok.

The first thing you need to know is: a diagnosis is not the end of the world. You hear stories of people overcoming heavy obstacles all the time and your story will be just as amazing as theirs! Your child needs your support now more than ever. This is new information for them as well. Most children have the thought they are "damaged goods" or "bad kids" that can't be fixed. Obviously, these things are far from the truth.

 "Children do well if they can..."
        - Ross Greene

If a child is struggling to make appropriate choices, they may need a little extra support. It's our job to help determine what they need and then to meet that need. The needs of each child will be different.

Find a support group for yourself! If you're struggling with handling a teen battling with Bipolar Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, it can feel like a lost cause. There is strength in numbers, there is strength in validation and there is strength in telling our stories! Groups for people supporting loved ones provide information about the disorder, support for you and/or your child/teen and various local resources. 

Take time to understand the disorder. Unfortunately, many people still believe mental illness isn't real. These people believe that saying someone has a mental disorder is making excuses for their behaviors. Mental illness is real and it's more prevalent than we would like to admit. Half of the problem is denying it's existence. There are people who live with mental illness and have healthy, happy, stable lives. If you reach out to an agency or join a group, you will meet some of these people. 

Have patience. Seida - but you don't understand how long I've been dealing with this! You don't understand how tired I am of giving the same speech! I know this kid knows what (s)he is doing and it's time for them to take ownership for it!  You are probably 100% correct that they know what they're doing; however, a key component to having a mental illness is that these types of children learn differently than their peers. The strategies you will have to use to see behavior change look much different than with their non-mentally diagnosed friends. 

Hang in there and seek professional help. Whether you received a report from a private doctor or the school suggests an evaluation, you need to seek help. Ignoring the problem will only make things worse. The earlier you seek help for your child, the better the outcome tends to be.