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10 Notes for Parents of Complex Kids

Parenting a child with mental illness can change your approach to daily life

  1. Keeping to a schedule (work, volunteering, social, self-care, or BLOGGING (*ahem!*) is pretty much impossible. Know that you are in good company, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  2. Mental illness can strike children of any age. And you can’t hide from it, so don't try.
  3. Public School is not for every kid--and there’s no shame in being a public-school “flunk-out.” Also, you don’t have to be rich to get your child the appropriate private placement (but you do need to live in a place with a reasonable special education administration).
  4. Don’t assume your school district will inform you about all the educational options for your child. These programs don’t come cheap--and even the most dedicated special education professionals may be fielding demands from the purse-keeper while trying to do right by their students.
  5. Don’t assume all special education professionals will try to do right by their students. Sad but true.
  6. Don’t leave the house for longer than half an hour without appealing food stores stashed in your bag. I'm talking about snacks for child AND parent. Often hunger or low blood sugar can trigger a meltdown in a dysregulated kid--and serious irritation in The Adult of the Species. Man, that is one bad combination. But you already knew that, didn't you?
  7. Disability of any kind in a family can be extremely costly. Unless you started out with a lot of dough, you may find yourself unable to get ahead, no matter how hard you try. You may be well into middle age, working hard, and still perennially broke. There is NO SHAME in this. There is only shame in a system that does not provide adequate resources and supports for its vulnerable people.
  8. I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: stress is a killer. Take care of yourself, no matter how tricky it is to arrange self care.
  9. The most important thing, possibly, for kids with psych disorders and their families, is finding a community of fellow-travelers. We all need people who “get” us. If you don’t have any of those in your lives, it may be time to figure out a way to get some.
  10. Prioritize your tasks, and don’t feel like a loser if you only tick off a couple of boxes a day. I’ve been working on a book proposal and dealing with an increase in chronic pain. That’s meant no blogging for 3 months. 3 MONTHS. Does it make me feel bad? Yep. But when I look at the big picture, it seems like the right choice at the current time.

Readers, what are some of YOUR notes on organizing a life with complex kids?

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