When I first became a mom, it never crossed my mind that my life would eventually revolve around my children’s mental health. In our case, it comes with the territory in adoption. You can prepare by reading all the books, but you never can fully understand until you are in the thick of it. Having no prior experience with navigating the mental health system, it took years of not knowing where to go, who to see, or what to ask in order to slowly obtain more services and direction. Here’s what I did:
- Join a Facebook group. Facebook groups have actually been one of the most helpful resources. There are groups centered around ADHD, parenting with connection, Reactive Attachment Disorder and most likely whatever mental health condition you may think your child has. There are hundreds of people currently in your shoes and hundreds of people who’ve already gone through it. Not only can you learn important information, you can make worthwhile connections.
- See your general doctor. When I first thought we may be dealing with ADHD, I made an appointment with our general doctor. He gave me and my child’s teacher a test to take to whether or not my child may have ADHD and if it was necessary to medicate. It may be easier for you to go straight to a therapist and psychiatrist, but for insurance purposes we needed to get a referral.
- Make an appointment with a children’s therapist. When behaviors were escalating, I went back to my general doctor and requested a referral to a children’s therapist.
- Make an appointment with a psychiatrist. After several months of therapy for my child, I suspected other mental health conditions in addition to ADHD and requested a referral to a psychiatrist. From there, the psychiatrist evaluated my child and tried additional medication.
- Ask for an IEP or 504 at your child’s school. If your child is struggling in school due to a disability or a mental health condition, ask for further testing. There can be stigma surrounding adding extra supports for your child, but it has helped my children immensely.
- Don’t be afraid to medicate. Don’t automatically write off giving your child medication. Yes, you want to only turn to medication after exhausting all options and resources, but just as if your child was physically sick and in need of medication, mental health conditions can drastically improve with the correct med under care of a psychiatrist.
- Make a therapy and/or psychiatrist appointment for yourself or family members. After caring for my children for years with daily explosive tantrums, it took a toll on my mental health. Parents of children with special needs can develop anxiety, PTSD, depression and other mental health disorders from the constant daily battles. Also, neuro-typical siblings who live with those that have mental health struggles are often forgotten. Make the necessary appointments for your family.
- Obtain additional testing and therapies. There are other testings and therapies available. Ask your therapists and doctors!
Raising children is tough. It can be even tougher raising children with mental health conditions and disabilities. Know that you are not alone!