Homeschooling a child with mental illness comes with a unique set of challenges. For some parents, their child’s mental illness is the reason they began homeschooling.
The truth is, homeschooling allows a positive environment where a child with mental health issues can be safe while healing. It is without the pressure from teachers and peers in public school to perform to a specific standard. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
When a family member has a mental illness it has a ripple effect on those closest to them. Parents and siblings become the front line on a battlefield.
To win any war, it is important to have a battle plan.
Destigmatize Your Child’s Mental Illness
There is no shame in having a mental illness. Your child, and other family members, may need to be reminded of this. If your child was diagnosed with a chronic illness, such as Crohn’s disease, you wouldn’t hide it or pretend it didn’t exist. You’d get your child help and encourage them to talk and share about it if they chose.
Encourage your child to be open about their mental illness with those they feel comfortable sharing with. Often, knowing someone struggles with their mental health allows others to offer support and compassion. It also allows others to understand your child’s behavior and extend grace where needed.
Destigmatizing your child’s mental illness gives them the upper hand in the battle they’re waging.
Know Your Enemy
Take time to educate yourself and your child about their mental illness. Knowledge is power. You can’t fight an enemy you don’t know.
For tweens and teens, this can count as a health credit. Understanding how their mental illness affects them and learning positive coping skills will empower them.
It will also give you better insight into their behavior allowing you to react appropriately.
Know your enemy by learning all you can about your child’s specific illness and educating them as well.
Focus On Mental Health Over Academics
Your child’s mental health will affect their schoolwork. A gifted, straight-A child, may suddenly struggle to complete the easiest assignments. You will need to adjust your expectations.
It is okay to set academics on the back burner to focus on your child’s mental health and get them to a place where they are safe and can function.
The academics will still be there. However, remember that what they are capable of may change. Be flexible in your approach to learning and adapt to your child’s needs.
Focusing on their mental health over academics is your best battle strategy.
Choose Your Battles
Mental illness affects every part of your child’s life. There may be days when they struggle to get out of bed, get dressed, and even eat. As a parent, your job is to know when they need an extra push to get out and get moving, and when they may truly need some extra sleep or a down day.
Working with a therapist can help you to understand what boundaries to set and what realistic expectations are for your child’s specific circumstances.
Not every battle is worth fighting.
Find a Support Group – For You
Parenting a child with mental illness can feel isolating, especially when you’re in the trenches. Having a support system can be a lifeline. It allows you to vent, grieve, and receive the emotional support you need for your own mental health.
Look for groups locally or online. Finding a battle buddy will get you through those hard stretches.
Homeschooling a Child with Mental Illness is Possible
The home is often the best place for a child to heal and learn how to cope with their mental health challenges. Homeschooling allows the flexibility to put your child’s mental health needs first while tailoring an academic plan that works for and not against them.
The battle may be long, but with a solid battle strategy, you will be prepared for the task at hand.