Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Supporting children battling mental illness

Published:Sunday | September 1, 2019 | 12:07 AMJessica Harrison - Gleaner Writer

Mental illness has been around for just as long as human existence and yes, children suffer, too. Having a child who suffers from mental illness isn’t easy on anyone in the family, especially parents who have no previous experience with the condition.

So, you’ve noticed the changes, you’ve taken him or her to the doctor, you’ve filled the prescription and you make sure the medication is taken at the appropriate time. But that’s not all. It is imperative that parents pay close attention to the child and provide more than the usual cup of attention and support.

Clinical psychologist Jovan Cummings shares five quick tips with Outlook on how to support children living with mental illness.

1. Go to therapy sessions: Sitting quietly in the room with your child during therapy will give them a sense of security. Opening up to a complete stranger is hard, and having the support of those you feel closest to will help the session go smoothly.

2. Journal together: Journalling has proven to boost emotional intelligence and mindfulness. There is a strong connection between happiness and mindfulness. It causes you to actively engage your thoughts while keeping the edge off past and present anxieties. Journalling is also used to process emotions and increase self-awareness. Joining your child on this journey will allow you to see how he or she processes their emotions, while giving you the opportunity to teach better emotional management.

3. Parent-child dates: Spend time with the child. Just the two of you, for a couple of hours on the weekend, doing something fun. Going to the zoo, having an ice cream cone, a picnic or even a simple lunch. During the date, focus on the child, but don’t forget to share who you are and your past experiences. The road of trust development is a two-way street.

4. Know their friends: Friends play a very crucial role in the lives of children, and at such an impressionable age, it’s wise to know who their friends are. Children with mental illness need to be surrounded with love and support.

5. Give them space: As much as you would like to be with them and know the details of everything in their lives, it is imperative that you also afford the child some amount of space to be an individual and perhaps process things on their own. Sometimes knowing that you are just a shout away is all the support they need.

jessica.harrison@gleanerjm.com