There are so many different ways that parents can help their kids who are experiencing behavioral health issues. If you are a parent, you might be asking yourself some of these questions:
- What is the best way to approach my struggling child?
- How do I get my child to talk to me?
- Should I give my child space?
- Does my child need more structure in the household?
The list could go on forever. There are so many questions that parents ask when it comes to helping a child with behavioral health needs. Typically, I would say that there are tons of answers to your questions, but in reality, those answers might not be hitting the mark. That is because those answers usually lack a young perspective. You need answers from someone who understands your child. You need answers from someone who is close in age, if not the same age, as your child. Being that I am a teenager, I feel that I can provide you with 10 realistic ways that you can help your child who may be struggling with behavioral health issues.
I’ve struggled with my health, and I know the challenges that might be surrounding your child’s life. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional by any means, but my experiences have shaped my whole support structure, which includes my parents.
I will be completely real and raw with you as I explain these 10 realistic ways that you can help your child. You can get the fullest effect of which of these ways can be applied to your life, and you can begin to figure out which of these ways are most beneficial for your family. My family practices these 10 ways, and we are living proof that positive outcomes are absolutely possible!
Show Your Love
The most important piece to the puzzle of understanding your child must begin with a loving foundation. Often times, youth and young adults are afraid to ask for help, but inside they are just begging to feel loved.
Your child needs to be reminded that you care. I remember there was a time in my life when I felt like nobody cared about me. Somewhere inside, I KNEW people cared about me, but it did not always FEEL like that.
You cannot control your child’s mind. You might be giving your all to your child, but he or she may still feel alone. Show your child you care instead of just saying that you do. Actions speak louder than words in many of these cases.
We all have busy lives, but I feel so special when others make time for me. You may be working all day. You may feel exhausted at times. I understand that, and your child very well may understand that as well. We just want to be recognized. We may even just need a bit of attention. Even if you only have 15 minutes in your day to set aside time to be with your struggling child, take that time. Letting it slip away can make us feel unimportant.
Provide a Safe Space
Home should be a safe space for everyone, especially for children who are experiencing behavioral or mental health difficulties. It is your role, as the parent, to provide that safe space for your child.
Hectic environments were huge stressors for me. I can not change the chaos that goes on in the outside world. I do not have control over that. My home was/is the one place that I can go and feel calm. The home environment should be peaceful, not stressful.
Structure and Routine
My parents helped me stick to a schedule, and that was one of the best things they have ever done for me. Getting dressed everyday and getting outside everyday helped me when I was feeling sad or unusually off. Being productive and accomplishing my goals really helped me at home. It made me feel like I had a purpose.
My mom and I also created a daily routine for me so that I could stay on task. It was hard for me to create routines and schedules on my own, so my mom helped me to make them. Your child might want a schedule or a routine in order to stay productive, but just doesn’t know how to create one. Helping your child create a steady schedule and helping them stick to the schedule can be really beneficial.
A safe place requires a safe support system. You are your child’s main support. Helping your child realize the support that is in place around them can create a whole new meaning and help them to feel less alone.
Help Advocate for Your Child
Behavioral health issues can be very exhausting to experience. Your child needs your help to advocate for their needs. Setting a good example of advocating will help them learn to advocate for themselves in the future.
Communication is critical. Teachers and counselors should be aware of your child’s needs. The only way they can help is if they know about the issue. Informing them of your child’s challenges can make a huge positive difference.
You can also communicate with the school to see if your child qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). This could potentially help your child get the accommodations that are needed for success in school.
We need help getting to and from these appointments. Therapy and doctor appointments might not seem like fun to us, so we need the encouragement from you to keep us going to them.
Being on time for these appointments helps keep me calm. Also, reminding your child that there is an appointment coming up soon will help keep them informed. The last thing we want is to be caught off guard.
Patience is a virtue. I personally feel that patience is one of the hardest virtues to practice, but it can be very rewarding. It is essential in helping a child with behavioral health issues.
Prescribed medications take time to kick in. It is a waiting process, and it can be very frustrating. Prepare yourself for that waiting time. I kept track of my medication process, and it took nearly 3 years to find a combo of medications that worked well for me. To this day, I still see my psychiatrist every 6 weeks to make sure my meds are still helping me as best they can. Medication can also cause side effects that are not fun. I have experienced many side effects throughout the medication process. My parents learned to be more patient as I experienced the side effects, and together, we grew to understand me better.
Talking about struggles that we face is never easy for anybody, regardless of age. Pressuring your child to speak about their challenges might not be the best route. My parents found me a therapist to talk to instead. Sometimes it is nice to explore the struggles we face, and talking to a therapist may give your child a better chance to be honest about their challenges.
There are going to be people in life who do not support your child. Many people can be unhelpful, and many people lack compassion. Forgiving those people will keep your mind clear. Holding onto the hatred will only hurt you and take your energy away from your child in the long run.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care and balance in your life is just as important as self-care and balance in your child’s life.
If you are not happy with yourself, you will have a hard time helping your child feel happy. Your example is important. Give yourself some time to take care of yourself. This will help you take care of your child.
Your emotions will affect your child. If your child is upset, it is easy to be upset with them. It may be hard to keep your cool, but your child needs you to stay positive. Your positivity will rub off on your child.
Keeping everyone in the loop was important for my family. Understanding everyone’s situations will help your family members provide support.
If your family does not want to attend family therapy, family meetings might be a great avenue for you. My family held a family meeting in our house every other week. We all got out our true feelings. Every voice was heard and valued.
Siblings are affected greatly by a struggling brother or sister. Giving them time and attention gives them a sense of purpose and strength. It may even spark them to want to care for their sibling who is experiencing behavioral health issues.
The more we know, the less we judge! In order to understand your child, you might need to do a bit of research on symptoms and coping skills.
Everyone experiences symptoms differently. Take note of your child’s common symptoms to start identifying triggers. Once you can identify your child’s triggers, you can help them cope.
Acknowledge Positive Qualities
Many people overlook the amazing qualities that struggling kids possess. Recognizing and acknowledging their awesomeness is crucial. Kids need to know how amazing they are. They should never be overlooked or put down because of their challenges.
Incorporate FUN Time
Life is not meant to be taken seriously all the time. We all need some fun in our lives, and we need it at least once a day.
Breaking every once in a while, to get away from schoolwork or chores, gives kids a chance to breathe. Working nonstop is hard on our brains.
Methods of creativity can be great for coping and for expression. It gets emotions out, and so many kids love painting, drawing, dancing, singing, playing music, and the list goes on. Being creative can be very fun, and it could potentially be the one thing your child looks forward to everyday.
Clubs, Teams, or Hobbies
You might want to mention to your child that there are clubs, teams, and hobbies that they can be a part of. Without pressuring them to make a decision that they are uncomfortable with, let them know that being with other kids outside of school could be fun for them.
Live in the moment! Show your child that mindfulness is awesome. Being a part of their lives (in the here and now) can impact them in positive ways.
Brighten the Future
We spend too much time regretting past decisions. Focusing on an amazing future keeps the light in your child’s life. It also keeps your life bright as well.
How do we see if kids are progressing positively or negatively? We find that by tracking mood, triggers, and coping skills.
Coping Skills and Mood Tracking
Your child can rate their mood on a scale from 1-10 everyday and take note of the coping skills they used to combat their triggers. Tracking this number might help you weeks later when your child seems to be upset. You can look back on the mood scale and identify what might be causing your child to be upset, and you can find the best coping mechanism.
Reward Positive Progress & Keep Hope Alive
Behavioral health issues are not the end of the world. Keep your head up. Positive progress needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. It gives kids a reason to work hard and take care of themselves. It also gives them reason to hope.