Dr Kritika Dharia
All parents want the best for their children, if someone suggests that the child could be suffering from any mental health issue it can be traumatic for the parents. At times, you may get a call from school suggesting the child could be afflicted with a mental health issue. In this scenario, parents can do the following:
A diagnosis provides a roadmap to recovery
Understanding what your child is going through is very important, hence diagnoses is very crucial. This knowledge can help you get clarity into his problem and ways to cope. For instance, if a child is going through depression, or could have ADHD or be a slow learner, having him tested gives you an action plan of how to go forward with it.
Open communication is key
Being honest with your child about why you are taking him to a mental health professional helps the child to trust you and share their difficulties with ease. Make sure you’re not shutting off communication before you give your child a chance to explain how they feel. It’s amazing the answers you can get and the solutions you can come up with together if you first start conversations with respect and empathy.
Care for yourself too
When your child is going through some difficulties, it is important for you as a parent to be healthy, happy and supportive. Until you do not take care of yourself, acknowledge and accept the problem, you will not be able to help your child. So, plan time for yourself. Find an outlet. Find support. You can start walking, listen to music when you drive, write, paint, do gardening or at least one activity that makes you happy throughout the day. It is important to understand that if we hit a rough patch and the oxygen masks drop, we need to put our own mask on first before we help anyone else.
A family crisis plan is crucial
Talk to your partner about his or her concerns, share your sorrows and pain, you both are in this together. Don’t blame yourselves for the situation you are in. Speak to your partner about ways you can work on this together, involve other family members if possible; the more people understand the more they will be able to help you. Involve other siblings as well so they will be more empathetic.
This is not the end of the world, but a new beginning for your family and it is important to stick with each other and support the child.
(The writer is Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower – The Centre, Mumbai.)