What I Wish My Parents Knew: Childhood Anxiety and Mental Illness
Dear Mom and Dad:
1. Be Patient
This is all new for me. I am still learning how to identify and name all my emotions, and understand what is happening in my body. With this mental bully, I am having to learn all that any child my age would learn on top of what my bully brings. It will take me time to learn to regulate all this, but I will. Please be patient with me on my bad days. There is no quick fix, and it may take some trial and error before I learn how to manage it. It may even shift and change how my bully presents over time – I need you to walk this journey with me as I learn and grow.
2. Show Me
I am looking to you to help me learn how to regulate and manage my emotions. When I am in a bad moment, remind me how to calm myself by talking soft and slow, taking breaths with me, and helping me talk through what I am experiencing. Stay open with me, and help me fight the feelings of shame and blame that my bully loves to use against me.
3. Help Me Find Support
You do not have to carry all of this on your own. Please help me find support in my school, with other family members, in counseling, and other outside areas so that I know who or where I can go when I need extra support. Mom and dad, seeking counseling for me or yourselves is not a sign of weakness or failure, but a place where we can receive the support we need.
4. Ask me
Sometimes it helps when you ask me how you can help or what I need in that moment. The coping skill that works for one situation may not always work for another so please ask what I am feeling and help me talk through what might work. It will also help teach me how to self-regulate myself for when you are not around and need to cope.
5. We are Not Alone
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 13% of children aged 8 – 15 face mental illness, and half of all chronic mental illness begins around age 14. Many children and adolescents face this and work to overcome it. You are not in this alone. There are many parents struggling with a child who has their own kind of bully. Let them help us, and help me feel normal. I am not the only one facing this and neither are you.
6. This is Not Your Fault
This is not a poor reflection on you. You are amazing parents. My mental bully is not due to any mistakes you could have made or an indication of your failure as a parent. I am lucky to have you to love and support me while we battle and grow in this together. This is part of our story, but it is not all of it.
Note from the Author:
As a child therapist, these have been some of the things I have heard from children and think are important for parents to hear. It can be terribly difficult to watch your child face mental illness. Maybe your heart aches with fear, loneliness, and helplessness, but there is support for you and your child. You are not going through this alone, and we would love to help you walk through this chapter together.