October 19, 2022
Megan Bendig Ledet, LCSW, Vice President of Adolescent Services
When your child receives a mental health disorder diagnosis it’s completely normal to feel lost and confused about what to do. At Lightfully Behavioral Health, we want you to know you aren’t alone and we are here to help you navigate this uncertain time. We are firm believers that, while a mental health diagnosis can bring up fear, it can also be the start of a shining journey toward healing for you and your child. Here are our suggestions about how to get started.
STEP 1: Check Yourself
Before doing anything, check in with yourself and spend time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings related to the diagnosis. Often we forget to dive into our own unconscious biases and beliefs before engaging with our children. What is this diagnosis bringing up in you? Have you been unknowingly holding a stigma toward what it means to live with a mental health disorder? Name the feelings. Call out the thoughts. Do the work on the front end so you aren’t unintentionally burdening your children with your fears and beliefs.
STEP 2: Rally YOUR Troops
It is time to assemble your squad. You don’t have to share details about what is going on, particularly if you do not have your child’s permission, but you can and should gather your closest support system and lean on them during this time. If you don’t have people like this in your life, there are so many options you can access. Consider joining a group within your religious and spiritual practice or a support group for family members of loved ones with mental health disorders, such as NAMI. Contact a therapist and start sessions for your self-care.
STEP 3: Communicate With Your Child
On airplanes, flight attendants tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first, before helping others. You’re implementing the same strategy here—now that you’ve put your mask on, it is time to help your child. Be curious and non-judgmental in your approach. Ask your child how they feel about the diagnosis and give them space to air out their fears, beliefs, and biases related to the news. During these early conversations, focus on listening to understand rather than listening to react or share your perspective. Your child needs to have a safe space to grapple with hard things. Keep the lines of communication open. As you both feel more comfortable discussing the diagnosis, move the dialogue into a joint conversation about developing a game plan. Any decisions that are made in terms of treatment and support will need to have buy-in from you both!
STEP 4: Develop A Game Plan
Schedule a meeting with you, your child, and their mental health provider to understand their perspective of the diagnosis and thoughts about ongoing treatment. They may recommend a higher level of care or bringing on additional team members. Ask about resources to better understand their recommendation and always seek a second opinion if you or your child feels unheard or misunderstood. At Lightfully Behavioral Health, we offer a continuum of care from residential to virtual intensive outpatient care. We are here to help you live brighter and can’t wait to help your child shine!