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How parents can help their teenagers who have schizophrenia

Frank Healy Licensed Professional Counselor, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory Associates For Life Enhancement

The onset of schizophrenia can be any age from around 16 to 30 with some rare cases as old as 40. The average age of onset is 19. If your teenager or young adult has the following signs they may have schizophrenia: garbled speech or pauses in conversation, periods of staring in space, and inability to concentrate. They may give you an inappropriate response to a question, for example, you ask them how their day went in the middle of winter and they say, “It depends on my tennis score.” If they used to be organized but have become disorganized, along with some of these other symptoms they may have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder. This article will give you ways that you can be helpful and some things which are not helpful to help your child.


Do pay attention and make note of any changes in your child’s speech, demeanor, and behavior

Sometimes people who have schizophrenia are not aware that they have a problem. Schizophrenia can cause the person to lose the awareness of their behavior and speech, and they do not know that they have changed. They can have paranoid delusions, which means they think people are persecuting them, and it is so real for them that they do not question their ideas. You can only be helpful if you are aware.

Do encourage them to get help

Most forms of schizophrenia respond well to medication. When they are taking the medication they respond well to therapy. If your child is aware that they are having a problem, you could gently and supportively suggest that they get help. Statements such as “I am losing my mind,” “I just can’t do my schoolwork or concentrate any more,” or “Something is wrong, I just don’t feel right,” give you an opening to suggest help. People with schizophrenia who don’t know that they have it still know that something is wrong. For example, if they are feeling paranoid you could suggest getting help with a counselor who can teach them how to handle it.

Do give them daily support when they are in therapy and getting medication

When your child is in treatment, there are interventions that you can do daily to help them. Remind them to take their medicine. Some people with schizophrenia decompensate rapidly when they miss just one dose. It is important to stay on top of them for this reason.

Do participate in therapy if the therapist recommends it

The therapist may want you to come to some sessions so they can educate you how to help your child. Keep the therapy going at home as well.

Do get help for yourself if you need it

It is understandable that discovering that your own child has schizophrenia can be very traumatic. You might wonder if you did anything wrong in your parenting, or if you are the mother you might wonder if you did something wrong in the pregnancy, such as smoke. You may also be sad and angry with thoughts that your child might not be able to have a normal life. Some parents become fearful that they may now have to take care of their child for life and arrange care for after they die.

However, schizophrenia is treatable and most forms of it respond very well to counseling and medication. Many people with schizophrenia are able to go to college or trade school, have a career, and have a family. If you have concerns, recognize that you could benefit from counseling for yourself. There are support groups, including NAMI. Check online for support groups for families of people with mental illness.


Do not question their delusions when you first talk to them

If they are expressing a delusion, such as that you are somebody else or that people are hurting them, it is better to agree with them at first. If you say, “No I am not the President, I am your father,” they will stop talking to you or their delusion can become worse. If they express fear of something imagined it is better to say, “That must be tough living with that.” However, if they say something that is appropriate during the conversation encourage them to continue talking about it.

Do not harrass your child thinking that will motivate them to become grounded

If your child is aware that they are having problems and you yell at them, the best thing that will happen is they will ignore you and the worst thing will be that they will become more paranoid. Harassing them will be ineffective and counterproductive.

Do not think that you cause your child’s illness

Many parents tend to blame themselves for their offspring's problems. However, there is no way to predict who will get schizophrenia. It is a disorder of the brain and it is not caused by a mistake that you made.

Do not put a cap on what your child may be able to accomplish

People with schizophrenia lead rewarding and productive lives, many of them fare as well as people without schizophrenia when given the right therapy and medication. You do not need to discourage your child from pursuing college, trade school, relationships, etc. because you think they will be disappointed when they don’t achieve their goals. They may achieve them, and even if they don’t, they have a right to try.

Do not tell your child to hide their problems form the world

Neither you or your child need to be ashamed of having schizophrenia. Our modern world has the awareness of mental illness and there is no need to be ashamed of having it in the family. Your child needs to be made aware that schizophrenia is not the only thing that defines them, and you also need to be aware. Encourage your child to excel in the activities they naturally excel in.

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If your teenager or adult child has schizophrenia, there are many things that you can do to help them. You can help them understand that they can still be productive people if they get the right help. There are therapies and support groups that you can use to get help if you are having a hard time coping. There is no need to despair.

More expert advice about Schizophrenia

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Frank HealyLicensed Professional Counselor, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory

Frank Healy is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of New Jersey. He counsels people with depression and anxiety. He has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. He remembers every day of his life since he was six years old. This incl...

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