How To Support Your Adult Child with Mental Health Disorders

As a parent, it can be challenging to watch your adult child struggle with a mental health disorder. You may feel a mix of emotions ranging from worry to helplessness, and the path forward might seem unclear. However, with the right approach and resources, you can offer meaningful support and help them navigate their mental health journey. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how parents can identify if their adult child has a mental health disorder, how to approach them, and various ways to help them through their mental health journey. 

Identifying Signs of a Mental Health Disorder in Your Adult Child

Mental health disorders can manifest in various ways, and recognizing the signs is the first step in offering support. Below are 5 common indicators that your adult child might be struggling with a mental health disorder.  Although these signs alone don’t necessarily indicate that your adult child has a mental health disorder, the patterns and combination of these indicators signal that your child may need mental health support. 

1. Changes in Behavior – Increased irritability, withdrawal from social activities, and changes in sleep patterns can be signs of a mental health issue. These are especially concerning when they are presented as sudden changes in behavior and are not the typical behavior or mood of your adult child. 

2. Mood Swings – Frequent and extreme mood swings, from euphoria to deep depression, could indicate an underlying mental health disorder.  The key indicator here is frequent and extreme. Mood swings from the normal pressures of life events may not be cause for concern of a mental health issue unless they are out of the normal.  

3. Decline in Functioning- If your adult child experiences a significant decline in their ability to work, study, or manage daily responsibilities, it could be related to their mental health. A decline in functioning is often noticed with changes in behavior and mood swings as well.

4. Substance Use – An increase in alcohol or drug use can sometimes be a way for individuals to cope with mental health symptoms. However, substance use can worsen mental health issues over time.

5. Physical Symptoms – Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue can be related to stress or mental health disorders.

If you notice these or other unusual signs, it’s essential to approach your adult child with compassion and concern.

How to Approach Your Adult Child

Approaching a sensitive topic like mental health requires empathy and open communication. Here are 5 surefire tips for having a constructive conversation with your adult child about your concerns with their mental health. 

1. Choose the Right Time and Place – Find a private location with a calm setting where your adult child feels comfortable. This may be at home or in nature or any other place that your adult child would feel comfortable. Avoid initiating the conversation during stressful or emotionally charged moments.

2. Express Concern Without Judgment –  It is important to express concern for their well-being without them feeling like they are being judged and criticized. This may be difficult for you and your adult child as there are likely strong emotions of guilt, shame, or anger that they may be feeling. An effective way to communicate your feelings and express concern is to use “I” statements. Statements such as “I’m worried about you because I’ve noticed some changes” and “I am here to help you.”

3. Listen Actively – Allow your adult child to share their thoughts and feelings without interruption. Active listening shows that you respect their perspective and are genuinely interested in understanding their experience.

4. Offer Support – Let them know that you’re there for them and want to support them through their journey. Ask how you can help and what they need from you.

5. Encourage Professional Help –  If they acknowledge that they need help, encourage them to seek professional support. Share resources for local therapists, counselors, or rehab centers that specialize in mental health.

Ways to Help Your Adult Child

Once you’ve initiated the conversation and established a supportive dialogue, there are several ways to help your adult child as they navigate their mental health journey. 

1. Support Their Treatment Plan – If your adult child is seeking professional help, support their treatment plan by encouraging them to attend therapy sessions, take prescribed medications, and follow through with recommended treatments.

2. Educate Yourself – Learn about your adult child’s specific mental health disorder to better understand their experiences and needs. This knowledge will help you provide informed support and communicate effectively with their healthcare providers.

3. Encourage and Support Healthy Habits – Promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging three key habits: nutritious eating, exercise, and sufficient sleep. These habits can positively impact mental health and overall well-being.

4. Foster a Safe and Supportive Environment – Create a home environment that feels safe and supportive. Avoid confrontations, negative comments, or behaviors that might exacerbate their mental health symptoms.

5. Encourage Social Connections – Encourage your adult child to maintain social connections and engage in activities they enjoy. Social support and meaningful relationships can positively impact mental health.

6. Seek Family Therapy – Consider participating in family therapy sessions if your adult child agrees. Family therapy can help improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen family relationships.

7. Self Care – Supporting an adult child with a mental health disorder can be emotionally demanding. Seek support from friends, therapists, or support groups. Taking care of yourself will help you be a more effective support for your adult child.

Supporting an adult child with a mental health disorder is a journey that requires empathy, patience, and understanding. By recognizing the signs, approaching with compassion, and offering support, you can make a positive impact on their mental health and overall well-being. Diamond Recovery Center, a Layton rehab center offers specialized programs for individuals struggling with mental health disorders and are your go-to resource when you are concerned about the mental health of your adult child. Remember, you are not alone, and resources are available to guide you and your adult child toward a healthier and brighter future.