Remember when your child arrived in your life? You had never known such joy and fear all at once …pure exhilaration! Gazing at that sweet baby, you promised, “I’m going to do everything in my power for this little person,” and felt well-equipped for the task. I mean, c’mon, how hard can it be? People have been doing this child-rearing stuff for millennia!
You change the diapers, encourage the first steps, respond to the middle-of-the-night fever by engaging medical support (stat!), supply the backpacks, make the lunches, attend the school functions, drive all the time and everywhere, comfort them when they’ve been bullied, counsel them when they’re the bully, cheer them on through the difficult middle and high school years, all toward the goal of a successful launch into the world.
And then something happens that completely blindsides you: your kid has a serious problem with which you’ve never dealt – an eating disorder, self-harm, promiscuity, even criminal behavior, and you’re stunned! How could this have happened? You never saw it coming.
So, now what? Well, first you try to fix it by reasoning with your child, but you just can’t make sense of it. You tune in at a higher frequency to other parents talking about their kids and realize almost no one is talking about their kids cutting, restricting their food intake, having casual sex, or stealing from the neighbors. And nobody is talking about the deeper issues, like mental health. And yet, as a society we are more aware than ever before of the toll that untreated mental health problems have on the individual, family and community.
As parents, we owe it to ourselves and our children to seek help and get treatment for our kids and the whole family as quickly as a problem is identified. We can lay down the barriers of pride, image, and control. We can pick up tools that will support their growth by meeting them where they are and walking alongside as they grow into amazing adults. Adults, who, by the way, may someday be parents themselves.