We're talking about not just children, obviously, who are under 18, but your child throughout their lifespan if they have schizophrenia. I have come up with four Ls of supporting your child with schizophrenia. They are: Learn, listen, link up, and love.
The first one is to learn. Learn about the disorder. Understand that it is a brain disorder, that it affects development, that it's nobody's fault. It affects thinking and behavior in the person such that sometimes they are unable to control some of their actions and the way they think about things. Understanding the nature of the disorder and also understanding that there is hope for recovery are really important parts of addressing this.
For a parent, the third L is "link up, " so linking up to organizations like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, that's NAMI. You can get there by www.NAMI.org. Those are really important resources to be able to learn more. Linking up with treatment providers so you can work with them to support your child are really important as well.
Listening to your child, taking the time to actually hear what their experience is, trying not to react strongly to some things that come out of the symptoms like paranoia towards the parent or sometimes aggressive, both verbalizations and behaviors towards the parent.
Instead, stepping back and being able to listen is really important to someone who's suffering from a mental illness, and just providing that unconditional love and support. The fourth L is really, really important as well.
For a lot of parents of people who have schizophrenia, they are responsible for taking care of a lot of the concrete needs, so making sure that their child gets good housing, has enough food, and is able to take care of themselves. One thing they do need to pay attention to is safety and emergency planning, knowing when the illness is getting worse, if the person has dangers of either suicide or aggressive behavior, knowing what to do and who to seek help from is important.
For a parent of a child who has schizophrenia, there's a lot of mourning. Every parent has hopes and dreams for their child. When a parent learns that their adult child is becoming or has schizophrenia, it can be deeply disappointing and hurtful. Being able to mourn that loss is important. They tell you on the plane, put your own oxygen mask on first. This is crucial. The parent of a child with schizophrenia should get their own help and stress management and support in order to best support their child.