Let’s take a look at a few messages from parents and children that explore the delicate and sensitive nature of caring for someone with emotional and mental health challenges.
Here are some insights from the child's perspective:
“When my dad said he’d always be there for me, for some reason, I believed it. Deeply. And I suddenly didn’t feel like I needed to run anymore.” -Craig
“I have never had the courage to tell my parents what’s really going on. I mean, they know I go to therapy, but they don’t really know why. I know they want to help, but I just don’t know how to be a broken person to them - I’ve always been the strong one in the family.” - Jenny
“I grew up going to therapy. My pops put me in when I was 4 or 5 years old, so it’s the one thing that was constant in my life. It’s the one thing he did right in my life.” -Greg
“My mom found me in my car. I took everything I could get my hands on. I just couldn’t see a path forward with me alive. I hate that it was my mom that found me. I hate what that did to her. But because of her, I’m alive. So thank God that she did find me as quickly as she did. Thank God that she called the ambulance, and it wasn’t too late.” -Josh
Here are some thoughts from the parent's perspective:
“I just want to be a good parent. But I have no idea if I’m doing it right. Am I enabling? Am I supporting in the right way? I just want my daughter to get better.” -Heather
“My daughter is severely depressed. I’m so scared she will never feel happy again.” -Jessica
“I currently live with my kiddo who has recently diagnosed mental health issues. He is doing so many things to help himself (meds, therapy, exercise). I try to let him take the lead on his own journey but, man, sometimes it's so hard to watch him struggle and not attach my own well-being to his. How can I both parent and detach?” -L.P.
“I want my kids to know that nothing will change my love for them. I want them to actually believe it. And I want to support them in a way that is healthy for them - for their development and their growth as an individual. I don’t want to take away their challenges, but I want them to feel their worth and to feel loved.” -Chris
Codependency is one of those hot-button words. Most parents probably have some level of codependency with their kids; some of their worth as a person is rolled up in their view of how good of a parent they are. Or on some level, the parents want to control the children. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially in terms of early child rearing and keeping the child safe.
But when a positive, nurturing relationship is absent - lacking quality time that builds healthy bonds together - codependency becomes emotionally and developmentally crippling. The child may lack self-esteem, be obsessed with people-pleasing, develop a sense of never being enough, and so on. Essentially, the child doesn’t develop a healthy sense of self. So how do parents establish a healthy relationship with appropriate boundaries?
The following tips from psychologist Raychelle Cassada Lohmann can help create a positive parent-child relationship:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers these suggestions that can help friends, loved ones, and parents know how to support someone with mental health conditions.