Give Us a Break
Co-Founder, Pinnacle Partnerships
Being a parent is hard. It’s hard for all parents. Sleepless nights, worry, doctor’s appointments, time off of work. The list goes on.
However, when parents, like myself, are raising kids with mental health needs, it is exponentially more tiring, more sleepless and more worrisome. Oh, time off of work? Forget it. Almost every parent I know raising a child with mental health needs has been or is currently unemployed, on warning, or working at 2 am multiple nights per week to keep their job because of the time they take off.
When we are at work, we are dealing with emails and phone calls related to our children. Sneaking extra break times or using entire lunch breaks to squeeze in meetings with providers. We are working to provide financially and working to be present in our child’s education and treatment.
When we are home, we have providers in and out of our homes. Appointments with doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists who only work 9-5, adding to the pressure. We are monitoring our children’s behaviors on a chart, implementing reward systems, managing behavioral escalations and helping with homework that is far too difficult for them because they haven’t been able to access education.
At night, we are answering the unanswered emails we didn’t get to or crying to our one friend that will be a listening ear. We are strategizing how we can help our kids fit into society, get jobs, find love and not be judged.
Sometimes, after all that, we lay in bed and pray that our child won’t cut themselves when we think they are asleep or we think about if we left any medications out that they may have gotten to in an attempt to end their lives. We worry that they are getting bigger and an aggressive act from their mental health could turn into a legal matter because a staff person presses charges against them.
So, we don’t sleep. We don’t stop. We don’t have that luxury...
Give us a break. Quite literally, We need respite. Time away from all of that. Because all of these problems we face are the reason why people won’t take our kids for a night or even an afternoon. They don’t know how special, fun, witty and engaging our kids are. So we need help.
Here’s how you can help us:
Family and friends:
- Offer to take our kids out. We’ll tell you if there are places that are better than others. We want them to have fun and we want you to want to do this again!
- Invite our kid to parties. We’ll stay, just like all the other parents. We’ll take care of any problems that happen, just like all the other parents.
- Check in on us. Taking our kids to grab a bite to eat or bringing something over can be a huge help, especially if you know we are in a time when things might not be going so well.
- Offer us services that give us a break. We need it. Advocate for the self-care of families.
- Stop telling us that respite services don’t exist. We know they do and we can all name at least one person we know who receives the services. Be real with us. It builds trust and that creates good outcomes.
- Support us even when you don’t understand. Because we all know you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you have been a clinician for 25 years, if you have never spent 15 days in an emergency room with your child because of mental health, then you absolutely do not understand. We know you have empathy, which is amazing and needed. There is a reason families get to the end of their rope and often times it's because we need a break and couldn’t get one.
The importance of a family having a moment to take a breath and have the opportunity to have a few hours or a weekend to not run absolutely everything around our child’s need is absolutely vital. Maybe we’ll go grocery shopping, maybe we’ll take a nap (how great would that be???), maybe we’ll spend one on one time with our other kids, or have lunch with friends, or make love to our partners. We will have a moment to be humans without a task list and a racing heart because we know our kids are having fun and we have a break from it all.
So, please- be kind, be understanding and lovingly give us a break.
Kristi Glenn is Co-Founder of Pinnacle Partnerships and a professional with lived experience of raising her own child with emotional health needs. She has worked in government, community, and direct service to support family driven care and advocate for family voice at the highest levels.