You’re Not A Bad Parent: Helping Your Child Manage Mental Illness


African American mother hugging son

“My daughter won’t get out of bed after I call her several times. It just feels like she’s ignoring me!”

“My son is acting out in school.” 

“Why can’t my teen stop defying what I say all the time?”

These are the questions a lot of the parents I work with ask. My answer: I don’t exactly know, but we can talk about it and invite your child in to talk about what he or she knows about why they behave this way. As a psychotherapist, I value what my clients have to say – all of them, including the little ones. But, I don’t diagnose anyone without seeing them in person first.  Therefore, it’s very important that when working with children and families, therapists get to speak with the parents, the school and the child about the behaviors that have cause for concern, or at least, a possible explanation, to get a better understanding of the problem.

READ: More Than Teasing: LGBTQ Youth & Lasting Mental Health Problems

One of my favorite quotes I picked up over the years is “no two children are alike. Not even two of your own.” The number of years it took your child to get to where they are showing signs for concern will take at least a good portion of that time to show some positive and consistent change.

I ask that parents be committed to the process of “getting better.” I also encourage parents to remain active in their child’s therapy by participating in therapy with them. Parents tend to want their children to be “fixed” so that the schools will stop calling them about their son hitting other kids, bullying, not following directions and talking back. Parents also want their daughters to stop being sassy, clean their rooms and to come home on time. However, some of the challenges begin with the way in which families view these behaviors and how therapy and its undeterminable timeline can be useful.