Advice on how to deal with mental illness in children

Mental illness in children is not very common, but is a growing issue among our youth. If your child has been diagnosed with any mental illness, it is vital to inform and educate your Au Pair or other childcare provider. Some very helpful information is included below, but of course, consult your pediatrician and family counselor for professional assistance. Children will benefit from knowing you are providing loving support through a struggle that even you may not understand.

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Parenting a mentally ill child can seem like an insurmountable task at times. Your child may cry himself to sleep every night, or he may throw frequent tantrums. Perhaps his behavior is belligerent, or you feel he’s losing touch with reality. If your child has bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may fear that he will never have the future you imagined for him. Luckily, psychiatrists and psychologists have more options than ever before in treating mentally ill children, who can go on to lead rich and fulfilling lives.

Step 1

Read everything you can find about childhood mental illness. If you suspect a particular diagnosis, read books and websites about how the condition presents in children. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the disease your child is facing.

Step 2

Seek help immediately. Take your child to her pediatrician and ask for a referral to a child psychologist. Sometimes talk therapy is all that is needed to help a child recover. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be particularly helpful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Step 3

Visit a psychiatrist to discuss medication options. While some parents are understandably reluctant to give their child psychiatric medication, it can make a tremendous difference in your child’s life and, in turn, your own.

Step 4

Enlist the help of others in the child’s life. Make sure his teachers understand his illness and know how to help him in the classroom. Speak with the school nurse about any medications he may take. Most of all, don’t feel guilty for asking someone else to watch him while you take a brief respite. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of him.

Step 5

Examine your child’s diet. Certain foods may ease or exacerbate his symptoms. For example, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve depression, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Eliminate sugars and processed foods from your child’s diet as much as possible, replacing them with whole foods that provide all the essential nutrients his brain and body need for optimal development.

Things You’ll Need

  • Books about mental illness

References

Article reviewed by Lauren Fritsky Last updated on: Jun 15, 2011

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