by Julia Greif
Watching your child/teen being diagnosed and living with a mental illness is hard. This is something no parent wants to experience. In fact, after being diagnosed many parents feel lost as to what is next.
There are many things to do and not to do when you’re dealing with any mental illness. As someone who was diagnosed in my early twenties, I want to encourage parents by bringing attention to the things they CAN do.
My family (like many families) didn’t know what to do or what to say. Because of this, it broke and hurt me in ways that made living with a mental illness worse. So here are some words of wisdom that I want to share with you today as you guide your teen through their mental illness.
Never ever degrade or deny they have a mental illness: For example, don’t tell your teen to just perk up or be happy. If they’ve truly been diagnosed with a mental illness, this can overwhelm them to live up to certain expectations that they don’t have the capacity to give. It is also asking your teen to deny that their mental illness exists. This only pushes your teen to spiral down in their illness making it harder to heal.
Explain to them how the medicine and/or counseling can help: Sit your teen down and truly tell them you LOVE them and will uphold them through this journey. Explain how medicine and other therapies work and how utilizing counseling along with those support systems in place can be a good thing. It is also imperative that your teen understands that by doing all that they can in working with the professionals; they can look forward to a positive future.
Love them through their illness: A lot of teens don’t want this help because they don’t want to feel broken. They often have big insecurities and they need to know that they are loved through this time of difficulty. Help them see the bigger picture. Never allow guilt or blame to be put upon them; this illness isn’t their fault. Extend grace and mercy just as Christ has called us to do.
Help them through the process: Have your child participate in their health decisions (if they are old enough to comprehend their illness). You can explain and love them through it, but you can also give them the tools on how to help themselves; like finding the right doctor or counselor. Encourage them to confide in a mature friend that they can completely trust to understand and care in return. Do not ever make them think that they are alone. When people with mental illness feel alone, with no family or friends to support them, a stream of negative thoughts will cross their minds.
Don’t freak out: If you panic or get upset, they will be more susceptible to rebelling and/or not taking medicine. Stay calm, love them and cherish them. After all, they are still your children no matter what the diagnosis is.
It is important as a parent that you too are encouraged to reach out to your close friends, pastor or loved ones. God calls us to community and when times get rough, it’s easy to fall short of reaching out.
My last piece of advice is to stay true through prayer. This illness won’t define your child. Pray that your teen may seek wisdom of the Lord as well as you.
Pray that whatever tormenting spirits they are fighting will be lifted, and on the darkest of days, love them through it all. Use the Word of God as the sword of the spirit to break down the attacks of the illness that tries to take control over their life. God’s power is mightier than any mental illness.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to It Takes One, follow along the blog as we talk about the hard topics and shed light to end the stigma of mental illness.
A little bit about the author – Julia Greif felt called by God to share her testimony of how her life was plagued with mental illness. From a young age into her teens filled with crises, she was finally diagnosed and became informed about mental illness in her early adult years. Her life changed and built on God’s foundation, she now shares her story to dispel the fears and change the attitudes of mental illness. One by one she encourages others to share their stories of redemption, hope and healing. to learn more about Julia and hear other stories, you can visit her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/jegreif?fref=pb_other and other her blog site It Takes One