Fort Worth, TX,
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How a Child’s Mental Health Impacts Parents and Caregivers

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Note: If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available.  If you believe that your child is having a mental or physical health emergency, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a free and confidential resource available 24/7. If you have questions about your child’s mental health, contact your child’s pediatrician. 

By Linda Puga

As important as a child’s mental health is, it’s equally as important to look at how their journey impacts the people around them -- their caregivers. The ACEs Task Force of Tarrant County developed a video series called The Roadmap for Children’s Mental Health to help families navigate this health issue. These are some tips on how to take care of yourself to ensure you can be the best support system as a caregiver.

“Parents often have a lot of guilt, they have a lot of worries, they have a lot of uncertainty that they’re going through,” said Steve Chennankara, D.O., child psychiatrist at Cook Children's Psychology Clinic - Fort Worth.

First, recognize stress and model appropriate coping skills. Parents need to take care of their own mental health because as a caregiver, they make the medical decisions when it comes to their children, said Dr. Chennankara.

“For their own longevity, when it comes to endurance, they need to know that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” said Dr. Chennankara.

Second, be honest with yourself, your kids, and your peers. Manage stigmas in the ways you see fit. Child's mental health and parents

“I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach. So, recognizing and being aware of the stigmas that the parents have, or the child has, or a family member has, and bringing that to the light, and processing that, and working through that is important first,” said Dr. Chennankara.

After working through stigmas with yourself and your children, you can extend these practices with your next circle of friends and family, said Dr. Chennankara.

Third, be an advocate. You never know what people are going through, so make sure you’re intentional with the actions you perform and the thoughts you vocalize.

There are different levels of advocacy, depending on where you feel like you’re at right now. Something you can do is share testimonies from your child as a way to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Having these conversations helps kids know that they aren’t alone in struggling with mental illness. 

“One in four kids go through some type of mental distress throughout their developmental period,” said Dr. Chennankara.

Fourth, remember that your best is good enough. Don’t let your opinions get clouded by too many other people.

“There is no such thing as perfect parents. And, a child does not need a perfect parent. They need a present parent,” said Dr. Chennankara.

Remember that asking for help doesn’t make you weak or a failure, it leads to more awareness. Take advantage of all the resources you can.

In order for kids to trust caregivers with the big things, they need to listen to the little things.