No parent ever wants their child diagnosed with a mental illness.
But the truth is, mental health disorders know no age. It could happen to anyone, even to young children, teens, and older adults. Knowing what to do to help their child struggling with their mental health is a big challenge for most parents.
If you’re wondering how you can support your child, Beyond Small Talk guest Paolo Punzalan shares 6 parenting tips to help your child on their mental health journey:
Tip #1: Make your home a safe space for your children
Everyone needs a safe place to flourish. To fully support your child, make sure that your home is a safe place to come home to – both physically and emotionally.
Assure your child that you are willing to understand and listen to their concerns. Start a conversation, and allow them to open up when they want to or when they’re comfortable.
“I tell my children that no matter what happens, they can always come home. Our home should be a place where they can be themselves. That doesn’t mean we won’t discipline or put boundaries. But it should be a safe space. So we listen, we validate. Sometimes we just hug them and not force them to talk,” Paolo shared.
Tip #2: Don’t take things personally
Does your child keep ignoring you? Do they seem rather irritated and a little less than friendly?
Don’t take it personally. Symptoms of mental illnesses differ from one another, but they all affect how your child respond to their environment. Use empathy, not argument.
Paolo recalled, “That became my problem, too. I took it personally. I’d tell them, ‘Why don’t you talk to me? I want to help you but you’re ignoring me!’ It was painful, but we just really need to be there. Those were some of the lessons I learned as my children went through different things during this pandemic.”
Tip #3: Turn to God
No matter how you try to carry everything on your own, you can’t do it all alone. There is no need to be overwhelmed. You can always pray and seek God’s strength, hope, and comfort for you and your child.
“If we love our children, God loves them more. We can surrender all our worries to God,” Paolo reminds.
Tip #4: Be very patient
Looking after anyone who is struggling with their mental health can be physically and emotionally draining. If you find your patience being tested, take the time to think about what your child is going through and remember to take care of your own mental health, too.
Paolo has a suggestion for you, “I know sometimes we want to question them why they wouldn’t talk to us or even want to eat. But that’s not the time to correct them, it’s a time to be patient.”
Tip #5: Ask for help
It’s good to ask for help. Sometimes, people want to help you and your child, but they do not know how. Give people the opportunity to bless you however they can.
Likewise, Paolo encourages you to seek help from doctors and mental health professionals, “Mental health problems are treatable. I know there’s a stigma, but God can bring healing. If there’s a need to go to a professional, it’s perfectly okay to go to a counselor or a psychiatrist.”
Tip #6: Be present
Every parent should be intentional about “Present parenting.” It’s challenging, but don’t just find time—make time for your child. And whenever you’re together, it’s best to give them your undivided attention.
“More than anything, be present. Love them unconditionally. Tell them, ‘No matter what happens, anak, I’m here. I will love you.’”
As you connect with your child, gently connect them to Jesus, too. Everyone—including you and your child—will go through challenges in life, and you can’t be around them 24/7, forever. But when they get to know God, He can guide them.
Be present, pray, and teach your child that they can turn to God every time.
Is your child struggling with their mental health?