Parenting a Schizophrenic Child: How To Raise a Child with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is devastating enough a disorder in its own right, but it is particularly tragic when the disease strikes children and teenagers.

According to Mayo Clinic, teenagers with schizophrenia are more likely than adults to have hallucinations, but less likely than adults to experience delusions. They may also abruptly withdraw from social interaction, develop insomnia, and suffer from depression and irritability.

Gradual onset of symptoms

Instead of an abrupt psychotic break, the symptoms of a child who suffers from schizophrenia may begin gradually. Oftentimes, these symptoms are so vague that it is not clear what the child is suffering with. It is very important to catch schizophrenia at this early phase, before straightforward symptoms of psychosis, such as confused thinking, delusions or hallucinations appear, as early treatment greatly improves the prognosis of the disease.   

When to see a doctor

Mayo Clinic advises medical consultation may be appropriate if the child begins to suddenly decline academically, becomes excessively suspicious of others, becomes agitated or violent, exhibits unusual fears and ideas, engages in unusual eating rituals, withdraws from others and no longer wants to socialize, fails to perform daily tasks such as maintenance of personal hygiene, suffers from perceptible developmental delays, or exhibits emotional flatness or emotions that are inappropriate given various situations. Seek immediate medical help if the child begins to exhibit illogical or disorganized thinking, seeing or hearing things that are not there, or expresses beliefs that are clearly not based in reality.  

Alleviate & mediate symptoms

While childhood schizophrenia cannot always be prevented, there are certain things parents can do to alleviate the severity of symptoms or prevent them from worsening. First, parents ought to make sure that the children take medication as directed. Apart from strict adherence to a medication schedule, the child may relapse and begin to exhibit symptoms again. Next, make sure the doctor is aware of any over-the-counter medications, herbs, vitamins, minerals or supplements the child is taking, as these may interact adversely with the medication used to treat schizophrenia.  

Identify triggers

The parent ought to consider the possibility that certain events may act as triggers of symptoms of schizophrenia. While healthy eating and exercise are important for anyone, this is particularly true of those with schizophrenia, as medications administered to individuals with schizophrenia may increase the risk of high cholesterol and obesity. A strict and detailed written plan is helpful for consistent adherence to exercise activities and proper nutrition. If the child is abusing drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, ensure that he or she receives appropriate treatment, as these can aggravate symptoms.  

Learn about the condition

Knowledge is power, and this is no less true of schizophrenia than with anything else. The parent ought to be encouraged to learn about the condition in order to better understand what his or her child is experiencing and how the parent can help. Understand the risks and benefits certain medications may have.  

Take care

Finally, parents need to take care of themselves. Dealing with schizophrenia in a child is a tremendous challenge, and parents may develop resentment towards their child as a result of the stress they experience. It is important to take time to engage in recreational activities and hobbies the whole family can enjoy. Parents ought to set aside time for themselves to relax and recharge as well. The healthier their mental states are, the better able they will be to help their child as well.