When I was wondering why my child wouldn’t get out of bed or didn’t want to play, I always refrained from assuming that something was wrong with him. Only once this type of behavior became recurring, I started looking into niche literature. It was only then that I realized that my little boy could be struggling with mental health issues. I was witnessing how my son was starting to slowly withdraw.
I felt like it was my fault. What if I was doing something wrong when it came to educating my child? Jayden lacked interest in communicating with other children and interacting with the outside world.
Never be afraid to question
When I look back, I realize that there’s nothing wrong with questioning whether your child may be suffering from mental illness. There’s nothing perverse about this idea, but it’s one of the hardest things to get over.
A few days before Jayden’s tenth birthday, his mother and I told him about his birthday party and that his and our friends would be coming. This is when I saw that he wasn’t quite fond of that.
When the guests arrived a few days later, he clung to his mother’s feet, when she would greet people at the door — behavior that was slightly unusual for Jayden. He was obviously distressed, and it was around this time when this became his prevalent state of mind.
A month later would get a call from his teacher, who said that his performance had started slowly decreasing during the last six months and that he would cease to communicate with his classmates.
My wife and I were both in a state of crisis at that point, slowly having to accept that maybe, just maybe, something may be wrong with Jayden. Both of us then made a big mistake — we allowed ourselves to get depressed when we should have accepted the possibility of mental illness with a much more sober head.
Fight to get the most accurate diagnosis you can
Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure that you’re equipped to get the professional help your child needs. As a parent, you’ll want to do everything for them, but there’s no shame in admitting that your child needs to seek professional help.
Although the idea that something was wrong was continually creeping in, I was too afraid to pluck up to the situation for quite a while, which made me quite hesitant to look for a diagnosis.
My boy wasn’t diagnosed for a very long time, and this made it so hard to get the help he needed. Jayden was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few months before he was thirteen. To us was both a curse and a relief. It is a scary verdict. I still get the chills when I recall that conversation with his doctor, but it gave our family a sense of direction.
A diagnosis is much more than a formality or a label. It’s a shorthand that tells the medical professionals what kind of support you need. A diagnosis will help you actually provide your child with the assistance they medically require.
Show your child you’re always there for them
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that as a parent you need to show your child you’re always there for them. Sometimes it may take everything they have to appear ‘normal’ or come and talk to you. The worst thing you can do in these situations is let on that you’re tired from work, or you’re busy with something else.
Actions speak louder than words, so show your child they have your undivided attention whenever they come to you. This will help build the confidence they have that you’re the one person in life who can help them. Keep the doors open, be kind, and always show them your love.
Help them make friends by being their best friend
When you start reading about childhood anxiety, you’ll see something quite surprising. If you can help your child to socialize, and gently push them to do it, they’ll initially become more anxious at the prospect. But once socializing becomes the norm, it won’t bother them anywhere near as much.
Not only that, but my boy and I also found that it helped combat his depression. Connecting with people and getting out of the house gets you thinking in a different way, and doing different things. It’s a form of escape that gets you away from the status quo. The best gift a parent can give is love, and a big part of that is being your child’s best friend.
I’ve seen how other kids can distance themselves when your kid isn’t up to doing what they do. They’re too young to understand. So I always saw it as my job to fill the void and be his best friend.
Develop your empathy by reading as widely as possible
Understanding childhood depression has been a struggle for me, I’m not going to lie. What I would say, is that reading about it has changed my life.
Reading about the experiences and emotions of different people as they battle mental health has changed the way I care for my little boy. He’s getting better month by month, and because I have worked on my empathy, I have a much better appreciation of how significant his progress is.
You can’t judge mental health issues from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have them. As a parent, you need to put yourself in the mind of your child, and then your love will shine through whenever they need you.
Marie Fincher is a writer, adventurer, and a happy mother with a passion for helping children and young people reach their full potential. She blogs at Trust My Paper, where she shares insights into creating the perfect research paper, data science, and related topics. As a mother to a child with early years depression, she is constantly looking for new ways to help people living with mental illness.
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