Life Lessons Hard to Learn for Children with Mental Illness

January 6, 2011 Angela McClanahan

Last night, I picked up Bob from his weekly visit to his father's house. As we pulled into our garage, he reached for his backpack and said, "Oh, no, I left my homework at my Dad's."

And so begins the internal conflict every parent experiences at one time or another--when do you cut the kid some slack, and when do you play hardball?

lifelessons2This isn't the first time Bob has forgotten his homework. It's been an ongoing struggle since August, when he began 3rd grade and started having regular homework for the first time. It doesn't seem like much--roughly 40 math problems and a "reading log" (reading 15 minutes three times a week)--but it's amazing how difficult it can be to work it into our already-hectic weeknights. Of course, homework is due Friday morning, so there's no opportunity to do it on weekends.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this struggle before. Not much has changed. After more than one week passed in December with no homework from Bob, I resolved to make more of an effort to help him out. (Read: nag more.) Obviously, he isn't mature enough yet to handle the responsibility entirely on his own.

Which brings us here--the first week back to school after winter break, Bob's half-done homework is at his father's house, with no foreseeable way of retrieving it before the deadline. And a decision I have to make.

As parents of children with psychiatric illness, we know our kids sometimes have a harder time with seemingly simple things--organization, attention, patience. Sometimes it's easier for us (and, in the short-term, them) to give them more leeway and assistance. I've never gone so far as to do his homework for him, but I've been lenient with some of his sloppier work. I've accepted his turning in incomplete assignments. I've bitten my tongue when he forgot to turn in assignments we worked on together.

lifelessons1I could have driven to his father's house to fetch his forgotten homework. I could have plead his case to his teacher and requested an extension. I could have shrugged it off and told him to try harder next time.

But I know the world won't change for Bob. When he's an adult, he will have to be the one to adapt. The sooner he learns this, the easier it will be.

I emailed his teacher and asked her to send duplicate homework sheets with him this afternoon.

Full disclosure--I did email his Dad to see if he could bring his homework to the school (he couldn't). We ended up finding his half-completed math sheet in his (overflowing) backpack. And he was plenty unhappy about having to do the reading log over again. I'm not sure starting from scratch was a lasting lesson, but I hope it made some kind of impression.

Letting our kids fall isn't easy. But the smaller stumbles might make the greater falls less painful.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, January 6). Life Lessons Hard to Learn for Children with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Dr Musli Ferati
January, 19 2011 at 6:22 am

Is this an article in a very illustrative manner is described the defects of functioning of a child with mental disorders. Difficulties becomes more acute when the child starts school, of which the duties and tasks required more severe intellectual and social commitment. The parents are those who have to manage more closely the success and progress of their mentally ill child at school Obviously this process is under the supervision of mental health professionals, as the honorable Lady acted the case of elaborated above. It is worth working with mentally ill children, as the results of a devoted engagement with child are entirely positive. On the other side, when it is known that psychopharmacologic approach to children is limited and often harmful.

Leave a reply