Here’s what other parents want you to know about parenting a child who is struggling with a mental health, neurodevelopmental, or behavioural challenge.
- You and your child are not alone.
- Having a child who is struggling doesn’t make you a bad parent -- just as being a child who is struggling doesn’t make your child a bad kid.
- It's important to reach out for help as soon as you begin to suspect that there could be a problem and to tap into support from others who truly understand the challenges that you and your child are facing.
- You don't need to be afraid of obtaining a diagnosis. A diagnosis doesn't define nor does it limit your child. A diagnosis simply provides a snapshot of information about your child -- information that can helpful to you in zeroing in on the most effective parenting strategies and in tapping into supports at school and in the community that might not otherwise be available to your child.
- You don’t have to wait until your child has received a definitive diagnosis before you start trying to make things better for your child and your family. You can make stress management a priority for yourself and your child. You can help your child to learn how to manage powerful emotions and to develop coping skills. You can use parenting techniques that bring out the best (as opposed to the worst) in your child. And you can make physical health a priority for yourself and your child. Physical health helps to support mental health.
- It is important to learn how to be an effective advocate for your child -- and to help your child to develop strong self-advocacy skills. And it is important to take a solutions-oriented approach when you’re advocating for your child at school or within the child-youth mental health care system.
- It is important to give yourself permission to experience joy -- even if your child continues to struggle. You don't have to put your happiness on hold until some future day when life is perfect. You can allow yourself to experience joy in your life right now.
Ann Douglas is the author of Parenting Through the Storm: How to Handle the Highs, the Lows, and Everything in Between (a guide to parenting a child with a mental health, neurodevelopmental, or behavioural challenge). She is also an engaging and inspiring speaker who sparks important conversations about parenting and mental health.