How to Parent Millennials with Mental Health Issues – Understanding and Communication

Mental health issues are a constant challenge in young adults today. Learning to parent Millennials with Mental Health issues without support can be daunting. The good news is that Millennials do really well working with a life coach to deal with mental health challenges alongside medical professionals. This may be due to the fact that life coaching is action-based vs. talk-therapy. Most Millennials are the kings and queens of shining on boomers and gen-x-ers who are hired to use talk therapy to help them with their problems. To quote one of my clients: “I’m tired of talking to people who tell me they know what I’m going through because they read about it in a book”.

I have found therapists do amazing, successful work with many young adults but for Millennials that do not seem to resonate with therapy, life coaching can be life-changing.

So, my client and I start to work. We establish what their goals are, the challenges to those goals and the first signposts of success. We start a daily routine and after a few weeks, it begins to work and for the first time in a long time, they start to have micro-successes and start to believe in themselves based on successful actions they have made happen.

What about the parents?

This mentoring system is all about having a safe place to self-reflect free from the regular circle of friends and family for two hours a week, as well as working on the tasks the client has chosen on their own. What do the parents do to make sense of what is going in their child’s lives and join in the work of moving forward?

Let’s backtrack. When someone asks me to mentor a young adult dealing with mental health issues, it is often after the proverbial poop has hit the fan and there has been a major episode that required professional care. This can be traumatic for the entire family and often leads the parents feeling lost as to what to say; what not to say; how to act; and how to give their child space when the parents are so fearful of things going south again.

This is why I have begun a series of online workshops to help parents learn new ways to help their children dealing with mental health. These are the outlines notes of those workshops. Our first topic is communication and understanding.

Understanding a Millennial Dealing with Mental Health Issues

A great line that a parent said to me recently about her frustrations with her daughter who had recently been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. She said that her husband had said: “Your problem is you try to make her be like you!”. I told this mom, that I would put it differently: When you see someone you love suffering and you know that if they could only do “x” they wouldn’t be suffering and you know that you would definitely do “x” because that is what you do in your life, when poop hits the fan for you, you are simply seeing the one you love through your own personal lens.

That doesn’t mean you are trying to make her be you. You are simply trying to resolve things from your personal lens. Parents are often trying to solve their children’s issues from their own personal lense.

In my client’s situation, the roller-coaster of emotions she had been feeling for the past few years kept growing and growing taking over all the things the she used to do to feel great about herself until she couldn’t do them anymore. The mom had to learn the her daughter needed to now understand how the bi-polar issues had affected her and rebuild an inner trust in herself so that she could find her own personal greatness again. Possibly becoming something even better and more profound for having owned and risen above these emotional/chemical challenges.

This gave her mom a new lens to look through.

Communicating with a Millennial Dealing with Mental Health Issues

I always say, if you want to get something… give it. Want to be loved? Love unconditionally. Want to be appreciated? Give earnest praise.
Want to be heard? Learn to listen. Really listen.

What is real listening? It requires biting your tongue. Not jumping in when your child shares how they perceive life, their problems, their solutions. Don’t be an inquisitor. Don’t be an ostrich. Be a talk show host.

Johnny Carson was amazing at letting people feel at ease (when he wished to) and getting them to open up and share. It didn’t have to be meaningful; it just had to be communication.

Be there to let your child teach you about them. How they see the world. How they cope. Be truly interested in the process without figuring it out for them.

This begins the start of a new relationship.

You may have noticed we haven’t talked about “fixing them”. That isn’t our job. That is them and for the medical professionals to do and if you get the right ones, they are an amazing group of people, who often are under-appreciated. The psych nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, all those who help people with mental health issues should have their own day of being recognized and celebrated each and every year.

Our job is to champion these Millennials on their new path towards a good life. Trust that it is possible. Find a life coach or mentor who will understand them and help guide them while helping you learn to be a part of the team.

It really does take a village.

Share your challenges.
Support other families dealing with these issues.

That, to me, is communal love and can be the first step in healing and growing together.

Mentoring Young Adults Past the Stigma of Mental Health

I mentor young adults labeled and stigmatized with every Mental Health issue you can imagine. They all have two things in common when I meet with them: Each one of these Millennials has greatness hiding within them and they all feel imprisoned by their labels.

Mental Health Labels and the Outside World.
If I said to you “Hi! My name is Ken Rabow and 20 years ago, I couldn’t get into a subway without wanting to freak out and smash the doors open from anxiety if we stopped for more than 5 seconds. I also made a plane taxi back so that I could get the hell out (way before 9/11). (BTW, the anxiety was eventually conquered) what would you think?

Would you have said: “Hey! I wonder if he is a good teacher?” or “You think he’s any good as a Jazz Drummer?” or… “I’ll bet he’ll make a great life coach for teens one day!” … I don’t think so.

The world wants things to make sense. We feed each other in small bytes of “facts” so that they may be consumed and we can move onto judging the next item in our path.

I am not affected by your good opinion of me. Even less so by how you judge my challenges. It doesn’t matter if you are my Doctor, my Priest, or my Parent, I will not be defined by my lacks, imbalances or labels.

So who stops me?

The Harshest Judge of your Mental Health… is you.
No one is as hard or cruel on my clients suffering from Mental Health issues as they are on themselves. I am honored that they trust me enough to let me in to witness their suffering. I see what they go through and I get it unfiltered.

What I hear them say about themselves, spoken or unspoken are things like: “It’s my fault I have x”. “I’m so stupid” and others too painful to repeat.

I listen. I say back what I am hearing and then I tell them… if the person in your head was your parent, they would be arrested. No one should have such a cruel voice taunting them. Let’s find a new way to work with “the voice”. That voice in your head really wants to help you. They think that by saying awful things to you, they will keep you safe.

First: give that voice a name: Evil Coach, Angry Dad, Malevolent Mom, X, and then you have to talk to them. Tell them “Thanks for trying to help me. What you did kept me from trying things before but now I need you to become a supportive (albeit cautious) Coach/Dad/Mom/X”.

Find a phrase you believe in: “I am not my label” or make up your own.
Read inspirational books: Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, anything by Wayne Dyer.

Slowly transform that voice into: Inspirational coach, Loving Dad, Nurturing Mom or anything else that lets you try and be ok with falling on your ass from time to time and growing from it.

Remember: It doesn’t matter what someone calls you, or judges you as, or labels you, all that matters is knowing yourself. Choose to try to understand your strengths, your weaknesses and recognize when you are at the bottom of the well. There are times when anyone with any sort of sensitivity ends up there.

It is the worst place to be. There seems to be no way out. It seems that everything always brings you back here. Hope is abandoned. Tears replace anger or sullenness and life seems like a shit sandwich served on day-old bread.

Remember this… the bottom of the well is just that: The bottom. It is the place you get to when a series of events, physical, emotional, time-based, chemical-physical and perchance spiritual combine to bring you to the lowest of the low. When you are out of that place, remember that even the well is just a temporary state, which occurs only when all the crappiest humors align.

Coming out of the well, can be the start of seeing life anew. You will have to remind yourself that the well is just what happens when all the crap aligns and it can be temporary. You must do all the things that you can to strengthen yourself, physically, emotionally, chemically (legal meds, holistic supplements or orthomolecular therapy as well as meditation) and time-wise. Learn to be kind to yourself and look for whatever is good… and find a Mentor who is not hung up on labels.

A Word to Families of Someone with a Mental Health Label.

Just because a family member has a Mental Health problem, doesn’t mean that they “did it to themselves” or are “acting like that to spite you” or that you need to save them. Nor is it the end of their possibilities in life.

As they get better it doesn’t mean that they aren’t the “other” thing anymore either. We are all so many different things and some of the most inspiring people I’ve met struggle daily with Mental Health issues. Those people are some of the most courageous people I have known. Not just the courage to change the world but also to take one step forward when they have been living in a well for so long.

See the hero. Ask them what you can do to help.

If we all start to see the potential in each other… the stigma will be replaced with an ancient tribal rite… faith. Faith in the unfolding of life through mentoring each other to be our best and to accept us at our worst.

Become the Mentor… for yourself and for our tribe… the world.

Are you interested in becoming a Professional Mentor for Young Adults? Check out our next opening for 1st Degree Mentorship at Ken Rabow’s Mentors Professional Workshop by clicking here