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May 24, 2021
Mental Health

Desperately Trying to Save Your Child?

By
Jack Kettering, MS, LCMHC, ACS, ICAADC, CCTS
What You'll Learn
How can I understand? How can I help?

This week, 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 mental health challenges.

How can I understand?

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 where 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

How can I help?

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:

  • Establish a trusting relationship.
  • Maintain healthy boundaries.
  • Set reasonable rules.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Encourage your child to openly express his/her thoughts and feelings.
  • Provide a nurturing and supportive environment.
  • Allow your child to explore and be independent.
  • Encourage problem solving. Don't rush to fix everything; rather, guide and encourage your child to find the solution.
  • Provide positive feedback and give lots of compliments.
  • Build self-esteem by encouraging your child to try new things, and to persevere with difficult tasks. Believe in your child's ability to achieve.
  • Most important, build them up with words; don't tear them down.

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.

Making time for connection fosters healthy, positive relationships.
  • The Child Safety and Protection Network (cspn.org) offers a list of public resources that can be helpful to parents of children who are dealing with substance use challenges. Find details here.

  • Changes Parent Support Network offers weekly parent support groups online that are free and available to anyone nationwide (note that group meeting times are in pacific timezone). Find more information here.

  • Hope Recovery and Healing is starting a support group for parents/caregivers of those with mental health conditions. If you’re interested, sign up on our contact page and express your interest in a parent support group in the details section.


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ABOUT THE ARTICLE AUTHOR
Jack Kettering

Jack is a licensed psychotherapist who has worked for decades in addiction recovery as well as treatment for trauma. He is certified in EMDR as well as CBT and DBT, and is passionate about healing and the journey to healing.

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