jump to last post 1-6 of 6 discussions (19 posts)

Parenting Children With Mental Illnesses

  1. profile image0
    Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago

    As an adult who suffers with my own mental illness, I am fully aware of the genetic component.  I'm also fully aware of the nature v. nurture arguments.  My questions are these:  As the parent of a mentally ill child, what is your responsibility while raising them?  Is it enough to simply seek therapy and treatment?  If they turn 18 and commit a horrific act against another person, do you wash your hands of it and say there's nothing more you could have done?  Is your responsibility to the child or to society?  What 'help' can/should you rightfully expect from friends and family?  IF your parenting skills have been less than stellar, even in terms of raising children without mental illnesses, is there a point at which you should accept a bit of the responsibility for where they are, or is it acceptable to blame the therapists, the doctors, the schools, and even your friends for your child's behavior?

    1. HattieMattieMae profile image66
      HattieMattieMaeposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Hard cases like that the damage was already done! Some you can help and others you can't!  It may be what no one has told you, whether they were abused sexually, forced to do other things psychologically, It's hard to say even when you do no all the information. I know some recover, and others don't. I don't think you can be held responsible for their actions or behaviors, most of the time these children lie, and aren't aware of the consequences, and don't really care if they do. Some know how to talk their way out things even in front of psychologist. They're very smart, clever, and can change their mood in a flash. Pretty much friends stay out of it for the most part, the teachers will blame parents, most of the time report cases, and families in an out of family court. Family gets frustrated, and stressed, there hands tied in some ways, and end up taking meds themselves trying to handle their kids. Fortunately these cases rarely get help, and kids are in foster care non-stop until their 18 or 17 emancipated, and they go on being destructive. Fortunately even when everyone is involved some never make it. Hate to say that, but fortunately parents damage their children as infants to 6 years old. Depending on what kind of abuse, and combination or abuses verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, some people can cause all those disorders in their children. Even from not feeding or holding an infant, or leaving them all day in a crib. Someone created these children's problems. How can you be held responsible for the damage someone else has created, but of course with all the new laws, the world says you are, and that is where families stress and feel guilty.

    2. HattieMattieMae profile image66
      HattieMattieMaeposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Hard cases like that the damage was already done! Some you can help and others you can't!  It may be what no one has told you, whether they were abused sexually, forced to do other things psychologically, It's hard to say even when you do no all the information. I know some recover, and others don't. I don't think you can be held responsible for their actions or behaviors, most of the time these children lie, and aren't aware of the consequences, and don't really care if they do. Some know how to talk their way out things even in front of psychologist. They're very smart, clever, and can change their mood in a flash. Pretty much friends stay out of it for the most part, the teachers will blame parents, most of the time report cases, and families in an out of family court. Family gets frustrated, and stressed, there hands tied in some ways, and end up taking meds themselves trying to handle their kids. Fortunately these cases rarely get help, and kids are in foster care non-stop until their 18 or 17 emancipated, and they go on being destructive. Fortunately even when everyone is involved some never make it. Hate to say that, but fortunately parents damage their children as infants to 6 years old. Depending on what kind of abuse, and combination or abuses verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, some people can cause all those disorders in their children. Even from not feeding or holding an infant, or leaving them all day in a crib. Someone created these children's problems. How can you be held responsible for the damage someone else has created, but of course with all the new laws, the world says you are, and that is where families stress and feel guilty.

      1. profile image0
        Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        Hattie, the very sad part is that I believe most of these problems were created while he was very young.  By the time he was 22 mos old, he'd been in and out of several foster homes and severely neglected (possibly abused) in more than one of them.  I just don't think that even the best hearted parents could have been prepared to turn it around.  sad

        The parents are dealing with a great deal of guilt, anger, frustration, disappointment - and they're pushing it off on friends.  That's what I'm struggling with right now.  Mom has a lot of anger - and because no one, including her, can fix it, it's become everyone else's fault but his.  I'm struggling with being a good friend to her without allowing her to push it off on the rest of the world.  He made the choice to do what he did - and it's possible that it's because of mistakes that she and her husband made, in addition, of course, to what he suffered before coming home to them.

        1. HattieMattieMae profile image66
          HattieMattieMaeposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          I don't think when parents take these children in they understand the whole big picture. I feel for the parents, and yes anger, is there, and of course we want to blame ourselves, and take responsibility, but of course there are just some things we'll never quite understand or grasp. There are things that are out of our hands, and control. It takes a lot of compassion, love, and patience to deal with a child like this, and a good support system is needed, but it is wearing and tiring for all parties, even friends. People can only do the best they can in these situations, and making yourself feeling guilty or to blame is not useful, and only harmful to yourselves. Some serial killers come from the best families, and have had good parents, and a good life. Sometimes it's just in their wiring in their brain, and it's hard to say why things happen the way they do to small children, or because of actions from using drugs, abuse, and people choosing to do damage. First two years is critical in bonding, trust, and learning safety, etc. Who knows what happen, and  Reactive Attachment Disorder is one you can count on being very difficult and leads to some of the others one you're talking about. This is a tough road, and of course doctors, psychiatrists, support groups are helpful, but don't solve the problem. It just depends on what the parents can handle, and if they're comitted to the long journey. http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_ … t_disorder

  2. profile image0
    Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago

    Anyone?

    1. PhoenixV profile image81
      PhoenixVposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Probably not the anyone you were looking for, but some more details about what the exact diagnosis might help, if not too personal.

      1. profile image0
        Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        The child was a special needs adoption.  Came home when he was 22 mos old.  Originally diagnosed with ADHD, later ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), Conduct Disorder, and possible Bipolar Disorder.  On and off meds from the age of 5.  Trouble with the law and virtually every authority figure from the age of 13.  In and out of several county youth intervention programs...thrown out of two.  In and out of mental hospitals three times.  Kicked out of a transitional housing program that would have helped him finish school, establish a household and a means of transportation.  Threatened to kill his mother at 17.  Two days before his 18th birthday, arrested on four charges including 1)Accosting a child for immoral purposes 2)Using a computer to commit a crime 3)Distributing obscene material to children via text and/or internet 4)Criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree. 

        And why wouldn't you be the anyone I'm looking for?  I appreciate the feedback.  It's a troubling situation.

        1. PhoenixV profile image81
          PhoenixVposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          Well, I can give an opinion based upon life experience and advice or opinion in general that may not even be applicable, but just trying to help.

          Me personally, I believe that children are normally active as they are growing up. They have lots of hormones that spur growth and that is normal. But there is a lot of negative external problems in the world. I would bet that 99% of its not the kids fault, and not you or any parents fault.

          They are growing up and all that the body goes through at that time period. Now add sugar in everything, every chemical known to mankind and drugs in every medicine cabinet or street corner and schools. Media is overwhelming them with violence. A parent would have to be Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa and a good hearted parole officer all rolled into one and even then they would have their hands full.

          If only they could have grew up on a farm or rural area 40 years ago with lots of land and horses to run off that energy and eat real food. But hindsight and a time machine wont help, I know. All I can think of is nutritious food and sports or a physically demanding job and possibly monitoring their friends.

          1. PhoenixV profile image81
            PhoenixVposted 4 years ago in reply to this

            I would also add, without really knowing all the circumstances, is if you are doing this: stop beating yourself up as a parent.  A friend once told me, sometimes if its all you got - cliche as it sounds- keep your chin up. Sometimes its all you can do.

            1. profile image0
              Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

              In my case, I'm beating myself up a little as the friend of the parents.  I've known this child since he came home to them - have known them even longer.   I'm struggling with watching the parents try to absolve themselves of all responsibility - and not knowing whether there is something I can do, or could have done.  Hattie makes a very good point.  We all knew when he came home that there had been terrible damage done to him, but I don't know that a single one of the adults in his life could have been prepared for how it would all turn out.  sad

              My husband and I don't have our own children yet, but we're about to be legal guardians to a wonderfully blessed and beautiful 14 year-old girl.  smile

  3. Lisa HW profile image83
    Lisa HWposted 4 years ago

    There are times when something is the fault of others.  There really ARE those times.  Having been exposed to someone involved with the state's foster care program, and having lived a few decades of adult life; I could post here an immediate handful of examples that I've seen (as an objective outsider, but as someone close enough to the people involved to see some of what more distant outsiders wouldn't).  (None of the situations I've been close to are anywhere near close what this person you've described has done, at least as far as I know  One, in particular, though, did quite a shockeroo thing that made local news.)   But, as someone outside The System (the schools, the foster care program, the mental-health people associated with the schools and foster care program (etc. etc.); I've really seen some stuff that only an outsider is going to see.  What's worse:  It's "not my business" and "I'm not the expert" etc. etc.  So there's nothing anyone who has seen things that should be questioned could really do (at least most of the time).  The point is, it's not always the parents; and in fact, outsiders (including professionals) can muck up things and make what wasn't a great situation worse.  The parents often go along with what they know is a misguided approach by the professionals, because it's not really reasonable not to "listen to the experts".  OR, they'll put up some version of an argument for awhile, at which time they're eventually faced with being called "neglectful" or worse if they don't go with the program the professionals involved think they should.

    On a completely unrelated subject, there's something else I've seen in life; and that is that there can be any number of situations in which other people are the direct and sole cause of one's problems; and yet it is in human nature (or in the rules we learn as children) that "there is no such thing as someone else causing/contributing to your problems".    So, people who could most use the support of others in such situations are often left completely isolated, even feeling attacked, by those who can't/won't understand exactly, step-by-step, how some problem was created.

    I feel bad for your friend because a) she either actually contributed to this kid's severe issues and has to live with having messed up that badly; or b) she may have had to sit by, powerlessly and/or without being sure enough of herself to question outsiders, and watch outsiders set the son on the route to "damage beyond return". (and only to have people not listen to how it happened, and instead blame her).

    Any time there's an argument (especially one in which egos are involved), it always helps for people to agree that they will present their points with reason; and listen to the other's points of reason.  If both people are asked to offer their sound reasoning and back-up information for their stand; usually, one of them will come out having made a case, and the other will come out looking like he doesn't have a leg to stand on.  It only works when both parties are willing to listen to the others' points-of-reason/facts.  Unfortunately, there's a face-saving thing that some people do; and that it to refuse to get that far into analyzing the facts and reasoning because they either don't have facts/reason behind what they think, or else they know the other person is likely to have more solid ones.

    OR, rather than trying to get to any truth or sort anything out with your friend (who already has quite the horror story on her hands, doesn't she.._), maybe it would be sensible to just stay away from her if she's blaming you for contributing to the boy's problems.  Whether you (or someone else) did or didn't, the damage is done.   All anyone can do now is try to figure out how to deal with the person who's the problem.

    1. profile image0
      Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Ah, here's the crux of the issue for me.  I made several attempts to try to help her son.  Tried as many things as I could think of.  When dealing with him put my husband in the hospital, I took my first significant step back from the situation.  When he threatened to kill his mother, I took my final step back.  She allowed him back into her home again after that.  The end result is that he was arrested for the acts he committed that I mentioned above.  She's now angry because I can't understand her feelings.  I can try - but A) I am not the child's mother, and B)  I would not have allowed the child back into my home after he threatened to kill me.  I keep trying to tell her that I'll be here whenever she needs to talk, but her younger son is having many issues too, and I have said that I cannot care for him in my home.  He's stolen from us.  He's left my home in the middle of the night when he was supposed to be spending the night to get up for school in the morning.  He lies to us regularly.  In short, she demands that my husband and I accept behavior from her younger son that she will not accept from him herself.  When I refuse to, she tells me that I am not a true friend, I don't really care about her kids, etc.

      I just don't know what else to do - or how to assuage the guilt of doing what I feel is best to protect my own sanity and my own family.

  4. rebekahELLE profile image87
    rebekahELLEposted 4 years ago

    As an early childhood educator, I have observed that there are more children showing signs of learning disabilities at an early age.  These children have a difficult time learning and can be quite distracting in a classroom.  Some of them are physically aggressive and it doesn't matter what socio-economic bracket these families are a part of.  I work in a middle class/upper middle class community.  I've decided to do some research and see if I can find any data to help determine exactly why more children are showing signs of poor cognitive development  in the 3-5 age group.  The brain is developing rapidly at this stage and while some children simply need more structure and a proper diet to maintain balance, there are others who are not functioning on all 'pistons'.  It's very sad and alarming as an educator.
    I guess the point of my post is that mental disabilities, illness, whatever we want to call it, is something a parent needs to address as early as possible.  Teachers and school counselors can often be the first source of observing a child who may need screening and further assistance.

    My heart goes to you, MoTown.  I know it's not easy.  I wish there were easier solutions to offer.  Certainly it can't be of anyone's benefit to blame.  It's looking at the situation as it is and doing the best you can.  We can't change someone's behavior.

    1. profile image0
      Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      rebekah, thank you for your response.  You've all been very compassionate.  I think the worst part is standing by and watching as this all happens to a family I love so much, and knowing that there is absolutely nothing that I can do.  I have prayed, I have loved to the best of my ability.  Now, all that's left to do is to be a listening ear for his parents. 

      I'd be interested in the findings of your research.  People blame so much on poverty - but I came from poverty and I'm fine.

      Sigh.

      Again, thanks for the kindness.

  5. Lisa HW profile image83
    Lisa HWposted 4 years ago

    Motown, last night as I was getting over a day or so of worrying about the blizzard in our area I found your thread and wrote a post that turned out to be a huge, long, one.  I then got self-conscious about it and wrote a less-long one instead.  Then I came back tonight and saw that stuff was added here and came up with an equally long post.  Whatever...    It's a serious subject, so I'll just post the "longie" (of tonight) anyway...    hmm

    In my personal life I've known two mothers who had kids who started out having obvious problems as little kids, and who grew up to be (to say the least) quite the handful.   One of those kids did something a lot worse than the other (that I know of), but both of them (both girls) were pretty much "horror shows" for anyone who dealt with, or lived with, them.  Both were big enough problems for their parents/families that a lot of people thought the parents should get them out of the home.  Both of the mothers had the same kind of thinking, though; and that was that 1) they knew their child was pretty much disliked by most other people, 2) they believed that if they, the mother, were the only person the child had, and at least had some hope of being a good influence, supportive and holding up their responsibility as the mother; they didn't want to "toss out the daughter" and "send her into an outside world, where the only influence/input/support she got would be either from friends who were like the daughter was (or from their friends' parents, who sometimes seemed to think that all kids behaved that way). 

    I suppose I've taken the time to write the following "input" on the situation because I've been where you are (or at least in a very similar situation, complete with the thing about wanting to be supportive of someone while not being willing to have the "problem person" become my personal problem, and feeling guilty about taking a stand at some point).

    So, I can understand why the mother of a kid like that would feel the need to "stand by her kid", no matter what.  It may not always be the wisest thing, or the rightest thing for her or her family or the kid; but I can understand it.

    What somebody's mother feels the need to do, though; and what anyone else has to do can sometimes be two different things.  Nobody needs to put up with having someone steal from them.  As a mother, when my kids were little there was no way I would have wanted someone "questionable" in my house and around my little kids.  Too many people give questionable people the benefit of the doubt, only to regret having felt more responsibility as a compassionate, caring, friend than turned out to be healthy for their own family.

    I don't know...    I think, maybe, the best you could hope to do might be to tell your friend that you understand that how she feels, and her choices, are something you can't understand because you're not his mother; but maybe you could ask her to recognize that she is operating from that very different vantage point than anyone who isn't his mother is; and you're just not confident about having him in your life.  It's unfortunate that you may have to separate from the mother because it may not be realistic for either of you to expect to "be on the same page" over such a big issue; but when people make choices that mean they allow someone/something questionable in their life, one of the unfortunate consequences is that they do find themselves alone when others feel they have no choice but to keep some distance.

    Maybe, though (and maybe you could just openly talk to your friend about this aspect of things), your friend would then see that the best source of support for her might be a professional counselor, who might then offer her some ideas about the healthiest ways she can approach some of the things she's dealing with.   Maybe you could still do things like talk to her on the phone, but agree not to discuss how she's handling her situation.  Or maybe you could agree that you won't discuss her son at all; and that, instead, you'd like to be a friend who offers her a chance to take a break from her worries and "just talks about regular stuff" once in awhile.  My thinking is that if she can't separate herself from her own feelings as his mother, and if she expects everyone else to do the same toward this individual as she does; then she's expecting too much of others.  (That's just my own opinion, of course, so I'm not saying I'm right.  It's just my take on the situation.)

    Maybe this is "too much" in a lot instances, but I think if I had a friend with a potentially violent kid, I'd try to keep as much distance as possible.  Sorry.  I know that seems mean, but if some angry, troubled, person were to get the drift (either by hearing about something you've said, or hearing some version of it that it isn't accurate), how do you know the anger won't be directed at you?  It really stinks that the mother may lose touch with some friends and become isolated, but she's got some choices to make (and risks to take or not).  If, by any chance, she's right in supporting her son then she'll be doing the right thing by him and will probably consider losing a little touch with friends part of the deal, at least for now.  If her choice to stand by him turns out not to be the right one, chances are it will become obvious to her as time goes on and something happens to make it more obvious.  I don't know...   If she can't understand that how a mother feels toward her kid and how the rest of the world can/should be expected to feel about him are often two very different things, then she's being unreasonable (which makes her the kind of friend you don't particularly need in your life either  hmm   hmm  ).  (By the way, one of those problem people I mentioned above was someone that I did have to separate myself from.  I did what was right by her, and I did my best to let her know that I wouldn't do anything to hurt her, or cause trouble for her; but I let her know that as much as I did care about her, some of the things she'd done weren't things I could really make peace with enough to keep up a relationship.  hmm    I think maybe she was happy enough to get a clean start with a new circle of people anyway.   hmm  )

    The one thing I think of is that if I had a kid who was a giant problem I sure as heck wouldn't be looking to my friends to help me with him (or her).  I don't know her, her kids, or you; but if she tells you you're not a true friend because you won't do what she wants you to do, it just strikes me that she may be something of a manipulator and/or a friend who is awfully needy and demanding.  Mean as this may sound, the troubled kid is her problem - not yours.  If you feel that she's not safe (and your well-being and you family's could be at risk) you wouldn't be much of a friend to "enable" what you believe to be unhealthy thinking/expectations.  My heart goes out to you too (and your friend as well), but I don't think you can feel guilty about making what may be a tough choice but one that you feel is the right one for you and your family.

    Based on a few things I've seen as an objective, but close-enough, observer; I do think there are times when "The System" or "The Experts" can do quite a job on a kid.  When they get things wrong what makes it worse is that the child's parents often don't dare to question what they say, and even the child, himself, is likely to believe what doctors say, rather than what their mother says.  Seems reasonable enough, but it can be why, when the experts get things wrong, getting past the mess that gets made can pretty much be impossible.

    The one thing I've learned about the families of kids who "got off to a bad start" and end up in that cycle of starting out as a little bit of a problem child, and turning into a major problem; is that the mothers of these adopted, "hard-to-place", children love them and feel as if this child of theirs was failed by the world in their first couple of years and generally throughout the years to follow; so these mothers can feel an especially strong wish/need (on behalf of the child) not be "yet one more adult in the world" who has failed the child by not standing by him and not trying to be supportive (in spite of his/her behavior problems or mental issues).  Several years into the child's life these mothers know what a major role they've played, and that they're often the only ones who truly care about the child in spite of his/her behavior (or at least care about him/her to the extent that a mother does); so they can feel especially responsible for, and committed to, hanging in for the long haul and being that one person who believes that she can help the child (or at least that there's help for that child).

    Oh well...    Don't feel guilty.  I do hope, though, that maybe you and your friend can make some peace with the reality that how she feels and how you feel are going to be very different, no matter who feels how.   hmm   hmm

    1. profile image0
      Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Lisa, I am SO glad you posted this whole thought process.  It made so much sense to me, and confirmed much of what I've been feeling.  Lots to think about here.

      Thank you!!

  6. josephbarrett profile image60
    josephbarrettposted 4 years ago

    If your child is suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, the Family to Family workshop is a great place to start. It deals with a wide variety of mental illnesses. It’s a 12-week course that is full of terrific information and lots of support. It won’t give you a diagnosis for your child, but it will give you support.
    Another option, if you haven’t gone down this path, is to take your child to a child neurologist for all-day testing. Teachers can be so quick to share an ADD or ADHD diagnosis and I’m finding that even family docs are jumping on that bandwagon. But, more extensive testing can weed out various diagnosis, helping you get the bottom of what’s going on.

    1. profile image0
      Motown2Chitownposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Thank you for the information, Joseph.  I will keep those things in mind.  The child belongs to my friend, however, and has been diagnosed - by doctors - with several different mental issues over time.  I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

 
working