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Learning About How to Support a Child Who Has a Mental Health Condition

How can you support your child?

A mental health condition can make it harder for your child to manage their feelings and behaviours. They may struggle with things like doing schoolwork, making friends, or getting along with their siblings. This can be very stressful for your child and for you. But there are some things you can do to help.

  • Find a counsellor for your child.

    Look for a counsellor that your child feels safe with and trusts. You can ask your child's doctor for a referral.

  • Learn about the condition.

    Your child's doctor or counsellor may be able to recommend books, podcasts, and websites. You could find out about:

    • Symptoms of the condition.
    • Your child's treatment options and the types of mental health professionals that can help.
    • Mental health laws. For example, parents usually have the right to look at their child's medical records.
  • Advocate for your child.

    Your child's counsellor will likely want to help. This can include:

    • Telling your child's teacher about the condition and asking how the school can help.
    • Communicating often with your child's teacher.
    • Asking for help from supportive family and friends.
  • Be thoughtful about how you engage with your child.

    Here are some things you can do:

    • Try to respond calmly when your child is upset. If you're feeling emotional, it's okay to take time to yourself.
    • Listen closely when your child shares their feelings.
    • Be understanding of the challenges that your child faces because of the condition.
    • Emphasize that the condition is an illness and not your child's fault.
    • Avoid focusing too much on the condition. Instead, focus on what you love and enjoy about your child.
  • Teach your child ways to manage the condition.

    Encourage good self-care like getting enough sleep, eating a variety of healthy foods, and being active. Work on healthy ways to manage feelings, like deep breathing, playing with a pet, or doing a hobby. Try to set an example by practicing these things yourself. To learn more, work with your child's counsellor or take parenting classes.

  • Take care of yourself.

    Find a counsellor for yourself if you need support. You can ask your doctor or your child's counsellor for a referral. Make time for yourself. And do things that you enjoy, such as a favourite activity or spending time with a close friend.

  • Find community resources.

    Examples include support groups, treatment centres, and local crisis hotlines. To find resources:

    • Talk to your child's doctor or counsellor, or check with your provincial health plan or private insurance.
    • Ask a family member or friend who has a child with a mental health condition.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

  • Call Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET).
  • Kids or teens can call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.
  • Go to the Talk Suicide Canada website at https://talksuicide.ca or the Kids Help Phone website at https://kidshelpphone.ca for more information.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.