For children who grow up in foster care, life is unpredictable. They have to struggle with the instability that comes with moving from family to family, while trying to cope with the reasons why they are unable to stay with their biological family. Because of these challenges and others, children in foster care are more at risk for mental health issues than children in the general population. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls mental health issues the “largest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care.”
Turning 18 is a significant milestone for children and parents alike. It’s a rite of passage that children look forward to, as they think "Finally, I can make decisions on my own." On the other hand, parents typically feel some sort of apprehension about their child entering the perils of the adult world. “Where did the time go,” they wonder, and “Will they be okay on their own?” That apprehension is likely intensified for parents of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Think about the last time you were hungry. Maybe you were busy at work and lost track of time or you were running errands and put off eating until you got back home. Whatever the reason was, it probably left you feeling irritable and cranky until you were able to eat. Often when we’re hungry, all we can think about it food.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve seen what it like is to be a concerned parent of a child with a mental illness diagnosis. I’ve heard their stories as they sit in my office and tearfully tell me about sleepless nights filled with worry, the stress of going from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment seeking answers, and the struggle of getting their child to comply with treatment.
Your child has always been very active but lately you’ve started to wonder if there is more to it than them just being a “bundle of energy”.
You’ve noticed some changes in your child or teen and you’re wondering if something more is going on than them just having a rough day. Perhaps their teacher or coach has mentioned something to you about changes in their behavior. Maybe they are having trouble focusing in school, started acting out, crying in school, complaining of a stomach ache or having trouble making friends. Figuring out what is going on with your child can feel overwhelming as a parent. Where do you even start to try to figure out what is happening?