You see, we were never sure that we would find ourselves in this place. Our daughter, like many others struggled with mental health issues that seriously jeopardized her completion of high school.
Can we all agree that we hate mental illness? It’s so widely misunderstood by most, unless you have gone through it yourself or have been close to someone who has. What’s really nasty about this particular beast is that it portrays itself in so many different ways. Some are suicidal, depressed, reclusive, obsessive, paranoid, etc…
For most of her childhood, I misinterpreted her illness as her just being lazy and irresponsible. As a father I said some horrible things to my child in frustration. In so many ways I failed her, because I simply did not recognize the signs.
In 2014 we decided to seek out the services of a psychologist and had a psycho educational assessment completed. It was at this point that we received a diagnosis and explanation for her behavior. She was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, ADHD in the executive functions and a math learning disability.
This was the moment that I realized just how much of an a–hole I had been.. How could I have not known? Why didn’t we seek professional help sooner? Did we leave this too late to ensure her future success? My wife, having dealt with her own mental health issues, felt that it was because of her that our daughter suffered the same fate. We felt guilty, and a little bit like failures as parents.
Are you a new parent? I promise you, at some point you’re going to feel like you’ve failed. After talking with many others with grown children, it’s not uncommon. It might be cliche to say, but they did not come with a manual so we’re all doing the best with what we know.
So, knowing what I know now, my goal is to help and encourage other parents. It’s important that we learn from others experiences.
So, here are 4 steps that I believe will help you be a better parent when dealing with mental health issues
1. Talk with your children (and don’t over-react)
2. Talk to other parents (not just to complain about your kids)
3. Mental health is not an excuse
4. Seek professional help (it’s not a sign of weakness)
Mental health is incredibly complex, and there are so many facets to it. I will not pretend that we got this all figured out. I’m sure there are some ways that we’re screwing up the next two coming up through their childhoods.
You will make mistakes as a parent. You can’t change them, so face them and determine to do better. Have honest conversations with your kids, and you’ll be ok.
Oh, our daughter, is leaving in September to go to College. Yes, college! Her path to success was difficult, and never looked like we imagined it would, but she got there.
Have you dealt with mental health issues in your family? Encourage someone today!
Leave a comment below with your thoughts.