Fathers need support, too!

Laurie Katz Braun

Fathers need support, too! At The Parent Support Network, we love the perspective that men bring when they attend our meetings. Dads are particularly vulnerable to the stigma around raising a child with a mental health disorder and they don’t often have the opportunity to share their feelings in a safe environment. The isolation can exacerbate an already devastating situation.

In one of our meetings last week, two men attended who were coincidentally dealing with similar problems raising a child who was seriously struggling. Both men were living away from their families. In order to protect and create safe havens for all of their children, both families had made the painful decision to remove themselves and one of their children from the household and to live elsewhere. One father lived with the child with mental health problems and the other father lived with the children that were neurotypical.

People who attend our virtual meetings are from all over the country, but these two men, it turns out, live quite close to each other. Not surprisingly, there was an instant connection. When the two dads heard the experiences of the other, they realized they weren’t alone. Both men were frustrated and anxious; it seemed like life was going along wonderfully and then, as if for no reason at all, everything began to fall apart mentally and physically for both families.

The Facilitators are trained to guide the conversation and ask meaningful questions that help parents reflect and express themselves. And all parents are encouraged to offer guidance, resources, and suggestions for healthy ways to move through difficult times. You could sense the relief these fathers felt as they realized that they were not alone, it wasn’t their fault, and there is hope.

For many families, it can be extremely difficult to navigate marriage and caring for a child with a mental health disorder. Each parent in a family unit has his or her individual parenting style and philosophy, even under the best of circumstances. Having both fathers and mothers in a meeting helps everyone gain a greater appreciation for the perspectives of their own partners. At the end of the day, we are all in this together, doing what we can to support our children and strengthen our families.