Monday, May 23, 2016

Things NOT To Say To The Parent Of A Child With A Mental Illness

"She would if she could" is something that we often need to remember as parents of Vienna. Vienna doesn't have the ability to connect the dots from point A (being a problem) to point B (being the solution). The in-between is known as the meltdown. She would be good.. if she could.. but she can't. Beneath the childhood cancer, Vienna has something going on within her brain that we can't quite understand. Was she destined to have this? Or was it due to the massive amounts of poison injected into her brain and body to keep her alive? That we'll never know.

The following is a list of things that I just can't stand to hear. Each phrase reminds me over and over again that she is different. Sometimes things were easier when she looked sick (no hair) because then people would "give her a break" when she was having a meltdown in public. Now that she is looking & feeling better, people just think she is having a typical tantrum, but that's just not the case.
  1. "Why don't you just put her in time out?" You probably won't believe me but time out does nothing, actually... it intensifies and lengthens the meltdown. 
  2. "I know how you feel, mine acts up ALL the time" Do you? Do you know how I feel? Maybe sometimes. BUT having a mental illness isn't just acting up or acting out, it's much more than that. A meltdown doesn't just occur when she doesn't get what she wants, it also happens when there is a change of plans or she can't complete a task in a certain order. 
  3. "After all that you're still going to let her play with that?!" Yes, yes I am. Why? Because the meltdown that will ensue if I then try to take away said toy will not be worth it. 
  4. "Bad kids come from bad parenting" Yes maybe, but not in this case. Our parenting style has nothing to do with her brain chemistry. 
  5. "You can't let her rule your life" Unfortunately, with this type of mental illness our life HAS to revolve around her. Avoiding triggers, tip toeing around her, doing anything and everything possible to avoid the next meltdown takes up quite a bit of time. 
  6. "Why aren't you more social, you can't miss these family parties!" This goes along with #5. Being around a lot of people can be a trigger, it's sensory overload. When I take her to a party, she may have 30-60 minutes of fun time (maybe) but there will inevitably be a trigger which will lead to a meltdown that you will then judge us about. Sometimes, it's just easier to avoid being in public all together. Especially if it's just me and the three kids, I have no reinforcements. Sometimes she needs to literally be dragged out of wherever we are. This becomes challenging with a toddler and an infant. 
  7. "She's just doing it for attention" The thing about this is.. she doesn't even realize she's having a meltdown until AFTER it's done. That's how you know there's a difference between an illness and being what they call a "spoiled brat". 
  8. "Why don't you just try ____ (insert vague recommendation that you think I may not have already heard of)" Stop there - trust me, I HAVE. 
  9. "It's so rude that you don't make her say bye to family members" Forcing her to say bye or to give a hug/kiss will surely cause a scene you do NOT want to be a part of, trust me. Just understand that the 5 minutes of pleasant time you had with her is about all you're going to get. 
Next time you see a kid acting up in public, rethink judging them as there may be more to the situation than you think. What we do appreciate is support. This would include the person who has brought my bags back to the car while I have a tight hold on her to keep her from running into the moving cars in the parking lot, THANK YOU!

*To understand more about how to comprehend and handle a child this this, read the following book. It has helped us tremendously to better our parenting style*

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