Must-Know Facts On Parenting A Child With Mental Illness

Children’s Psychological ProblemsChildren’s Psychological Problems

Here is a comprehensive list of children’s psychological problems that every parent should be familiar with. Why is there a need to be familiar with these psychological problems? Because, in today’s increasingly tech-savvy world, psychological problems are on the rise, especially among children. 


Psychological problem #1: Depression

Depression may begin in childhood but often manifests in later adolescence, particularly if the child has close biological relatives who suffer from depression. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that if parents have depression, children will inherit the disease. If you provide the child with a stable, caring and loving family environment, there is no reason for the disease to raise its ugly head. Does your child show less interest in activities that previously interested her? Is she often speak of herself degradingly, showing low self-esteem? Does she often cry for no apparent reason? You may suspect depression.

Psychological problem #2: Bi-polar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that manifests as extreme changes in mood and energy levels. Children with bipolar disorder may have a family history of the illness. The symptoms include too much sleep alternating with too little sleep and excessive talking/outgoing behavior alternating with withdrawal from social settings/friends. The good news is that this disorder is treatable with psychotherapy and medication.

Psychological problem #3: Conduct disorder

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry sees Conduct Disorder as a mental illness in which the child faces difficulty behaving in the way that is expected of him. He may run away from home, steal, set fire to things, destroy property, or harm siblings, animals or peers. Treatments for this disorder includes counselling, medication and expert help in behavior management.

Psychological problem #3: Anxiety Disorder

Children can experience a variety of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration characterizes these disorders as involving significant fear and uneasiness that affects the child’s quality of life. Treatments include medication and counselling.

 Psychological problem #4: Substance Addiction

There is more to negative peer pressure when it comes to substance addiction. Children may use alcohol or drugs as an escape from their psychological problems. Nonetheless, substance addiction needs to be treated as psychological disorder. Parents must become familiar with signs of substance abuse. Common treatments include counselling and inpatient hospitalization.

 Psychological problem #5: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention-Deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common disorders among very young children. However, parents should be careful not to jump into the conclusion that their child may have ADHD just because she is extremely energetic and active. Only a certified professional can spot a real case of ADHD. Having said that, when a school-aged child has difficulty focusing on homework, paying attention in class, sitting still, or staying in line or waiting his turn to speak it is a good idea to check for ADHD. Effective treatments include medication and supervised behavior modification.

Psychological problem #6: Learning disorders

Some children have difficulty learning at the same level as their peers. What manifests as laziness or unwillingness to read or write may actually be a learning disorder like dyslexia, or dysgraphia. Testing is required to determine the specifics of the disorder and develop a specialized learning plan.


Parenting a child with mental illness

Children’s mental illness impacts the entire family. Research has consistently found that parenting children with mental health disorders is psychologically distressing. However, there are certain rules and guidelines for making their life easier:

Rule #1: there are no rules

Parenthood doesn’t come with a manual, especially when it involves troubled children.  There will be a lot of trial and error as you figure out what works best to help your child.

Rule #2: Cover the basics

Are they hungry or thirsty? Are they too hot or cold? Did they get enough sleep? Are they over stimulated? Are they feeling under the weather (i.e. colds, allergies, headaches, upset stomachs)

Rule #3: Pick your battles

Pick your battles very carefully. Is the behavior just annoying or is it harmful to human or property? If it is just annoying, perhaps you can just leave it without getting into an argument. If you do get in an argument with your child, resist the urge to raise your voice. Be matter-of-fact and stand your ground.

Rule #4: Environment matters

Raise the happiness level at home a notch or two. A home is home only when it is stress-free and supportive. All fights between parents should be behind closed doors, out of kids’ earshot. It’s the best thing that you can do if you love them because it affects them the most. Create an atmosphere in which you treat your children as your friends. It will help them to open up their mind. Praise your child for the things they do well and let them know that you love them.

Rule #5: Encourage communication

Let your child talk about his thoughts, his feelings or the difficult situations he/she is going through. When they do come to you, really listen to what they have to say, patiently. You may not agree or understand, but you need to accept that the difficulties they are having are very real to them.

Rule #6: Timing is everything

In most stressful situations, it helps to allow some time to let things settle down and cool down. Avoid saying things when you are stressed out, or emotionally out of control. Address issues later when everyone has gained control over themselves. Otherwise you’re basically pouring gasoline on a fire.

Rule #7: Create calm

Avoid chaotic situations at home. Try to get a domestic help if chores get out of hand and you tend to get frustrated. When you do get upset or overwhelmed, and your child’s behavior is just the last straw that broke the camel’s back, soften your voice and use short, clear directions like “come with me”, “sit down”, “tell me what’s going on”

Rule #8: Help them to help themselves

Introduce them to self-motivation. It will help them the most when you are not around them in a difficult situation. Praise their successes and use failures as learning opportunities. Ask questions like, “What can you do the next time when you are in this situation?”

Rule #9: Create routines

Predictability is most important for anxious children. Keep both bedtime and the morning in mind and follow expert sleep recommendations. The sleep foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep for children ages 6-13, and 8-10 hours of sleep each night for teens ages 14-17. A healthy morning routine involves morning hugs with an affectionate ‘good morning’ to each other, and a low sugar, nutritious breakfast.

Rule #10: Check your tone

Often, it is not what we say that creates problems, but our tone. A friendly, caring tone can do wonders when you are trying to correct problem behavior. Avoid accusatory tone at all costs.

Rule #11: Learn from other parents

Talk to other parents in similar situations, and learn how they deal with it. In addition to learning coping mechanisms, talking to people in similar situations will give you the emotional support you need to deal with your particular situation.

Parenting a child with mental illness: footnote

The silent plea of every child with mental illness is ‘be kind to me’. As parents, we should remember that it is precisely those times when children are least lovable, that we should love them the most. This is extremely important in the case of children with psychological problems.


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