Millions of people are living with mental health disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the onset of mental illness begins by age 14 in 50% of people, and 75% by age 25, increasing significantly within the last decade alone.1 Though it’s normal to experience some growing pains when merging into adulthood, the transition can be even more difficult when mental health problems are involved. For parents of mentally ill adults, the subsequent struggles can be difficult to manage. If your son or daughter is coping with depression or a similar disorder, our rehab in Massachusetts shares a guide to parenting adults with mental illness that can help.
Tips for Parents of Mentally Ill Adults: How to Cope
As a parent of an adult, it can be difficult to know when to get involved and how involved you should be in their decision-making. This can be especially challenging when it comes to their mental health. Like any good parent, you simply want what’s best for your child, and no matter how old they are, they’ll always be your baby. Fortunately, while it can be hard to find the balance between being overly involved and not being involved enough, it’s possible.
If your son or daughter is battling a mental health disorder, below are some tips for parenting adults with mental illness that can help you avoid harmful behaviors like enabling and codependency and truly be there for them.
Educate Yourself on Mental Illness
Especially if you’ve never experienced mental illness, it can be difficult to empathize with your son or daughter concerning their mental health. You may feel frustrated when their depression keeps them in bed all day or when their anxiety causes them to seek your constant reassurance. This frustration, while understandable, can make your child feel ashamed and less willing to open up to you about their struggles.
Because this frustration stems from a lack of understanding, a great way to support your mentally ill child is to educate yourself about their disorder. Speak to your doctor, find accredited medical texts, read memoirs, or get your hands on anything you can concerning the disorder your adult child has to better prepare yourself to be there for them.
Avoid Being Judgmental
This is where balance comes in. Always be willing to listen to your child, but ask questions and offer advice only when they ask for it. It can be frustrating and overwhelming to constantly receive unsolicited advice. It’s also okay to not know what to say to your child when they express themselves. For instance, if your son or daughter is talking about their struggles with depression and you’re not sure how to respond, you can simply say, “I’m sorry I don’t know exactly how you’re feeling, but I’m here to listen and support you in any way I can.”
Be sure to avoid judgmental language, such as language that implies they’re to blame for their disorder, or that they’re being dramatic or aren’t “doing enough” to combat their symptoms. Mental illness is a serious matter that could worsen over time without proper care and contribute to substance abuse, addiction, and even suicide. While these things aren’t inevitable, always keep them in mind when speaking with your adult child about their mental health.
Uplift your child by reminding them of your support and their ability to get better. Along with words of affirmation, you can also take some steps to aid in their recovery. Some important things you can discuss and help your child with include:
- Avoiding and/or treating substance abuse
- Coping with college stress
- Finding a medical provider
- Finding counseling and mental health resources
- Going to doctor appointments and therapy sessions
- Maintaining proper diet and exercise
- Managing medications and refills
- Managing sleep habits
- Sustaining positive lifestyle habits
Remember to discuss these things with your child and ask them if they’d like your active support in these matters.
Do Not Be Controlling
This one is easier said than done. As a loving parent that wants the best for their son or daughter, it can be difficult to not be in control of the situation. In your mind, it’s easy to rationalize the situation as “they’re in trouble, so I need to do something.” However, this isn’t always the case. Your adult child is, well, an adult. That means that you no longer have the same authority you’d have over their decisions and care as if they were a minor.
What’s more, the goal is never to control your child but to support them. Ask them if you can be involved in their treatment and recovery before jumping in and assuming control. Simple yet effective ways you can play a role in their recovery is by driving them to their appointments or therapy sessions, helping them manage their medications, or keeping track of their symptoms.
Watch Out for Enabling
In a nutshell, you enable someone when you do things for them that they can and/or should do themselves. An example of enabling is making excuses for your child every time they skip their therapy sessions. Often, enabling stems from a desire to make the other person happy, but it comes at a hefty price.
As a parent who wants their child to be happy and healthy, it’s normal to feel sad or upset whenever you see your child struggling with their symptoms. However, doing everything for them and making excuses for poor or irresponsible behavior will only hinder them in the long run and make recovery that much more difficult.
Codependency is also commonly seen among loved ones of people with mental illness. This is a behavioral and emotional condition that affects the person’s ability to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. Also known as relationship addiction, co-dependent relationships tend to be one-sided, with one person doing more of the caretaking and putting in more effort than the other.
In cases of parent and child, codependency can be exemplified by the parent constantly caring for the child while the child takes advantage or simply does nothing to better themselves. Eventually, this kind of relationship can cause the parent and child to become dependent on each other – the parent on the child to be a caretaker and feel needed, and the child on the parent to be taken care of.
It can be tough for mentally ill adults living with parents to remain independent while they recover, but it’s possible to be there for them without taking control.
Help for Parents of Adults With Mental Illness & Their Children
At the end of the day, our Massachusetts rehab recommends professional care for treating a mental health disorder. If you or someone you care about is battling depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, our Clearbrook rehab offers residential mental health care that can help.
We also offer support for parents of adults with mental health issues through our family program. Participants in this program will have the opportunity to receive individual counseling from our trained and licensed therapists, as well as group counseling sessions with their loved ones.
For more information about our Massachusetts substance abuse treatment or mental health care, call Clearbrook Treatment Centers today at 570-536-9621 or send us your contact information, and we’ll reach out to you.