Although childhood schizophrenia requires professional treatment, it's critical to be an active participant in your child's care. Here are ways to get the most out of the treatment plan.
- Follow directions for medications. Try to make sure that your child takes medications as prescribed, even if he or she is feeling well and has no current symptoms. If medications are stopped or taken infrequently, the symptoms are likely to come back and your doctor will have a hard time knowing what the best and safest dose is.
- Check first before taking other medications. Contact the doctor who's treating your child for schizophrenia before your child takes medications prescribed by another doctor or before taking any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals, herbs or other supplements. These can interact with schizophrenia medications.
- Pay attention to warning signs. You and your child may have identified things that may trigger symptoms, cause a relapse or prevent your child from carrying out daily activities. Make a plan so that you know what to do if symptoms return. Contact your child's doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in symptoms, to prevent the situation from worsening.
- Make physical activity and healthy eating a priority. Some medications for schizophrenia are associated with an increased risk of weight gain and high cholesterol in children. Work with your child's doctor to make a nutrition and physical activity plan for your child that will help manage weight and benefit heart health.
- Avoid alcohol, street drugs and tobacco. Alcohol, street drugs and tobacco can worsen schizophrenia symptoms or interfere with antipsychotic medications. Talk to your child about avoiding drugs and alcohol and not smoking. If necessary, get appropriate treatment for a substance use problem.
Coping with childhood schizophrenia can be challenging. Medications can have unwanted side effects, and you, your child and your whole family may feel angry or resentful about having to manage a condition that requires lifelong treatment. To help cope with childhood schizophrenia:
- Learn about the condition. Education about schizophrenia can empower you and your child and motivate him or her to stick to the treatment plan. Education can help friends and family understand the condition and be more compassionate with your child.
- Join a support group. Support groups for people with schizophrenia can help you reach out to other families facing similar challenges. You may want to seek out separate groups for you and for your child so that you each have a safe outlet.
- Get professional help. If you as a parent or guardian feel overwhelmed and distressed by your child's condition, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
- Stay focused on goals. Dealing with childhood schizophrenia is an ongoing process. Stay motivated as a family by keeping treatment goals in mind.
- Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways your whole family can channel energy or frustration, such as hobbies, exercise and recreational activities.
- Take time as individuals. Although managing childhood schizophrenia is a family affair, both children and parents need their own time to cope and unwind. Create opportunities for healthy alone time.
- Begin future planning. Ask about social service assistance. Most individuals with schizophrenia require some form of daily living support. Many communities have programs to help people with schizophrenia with jobs, affordable housing, transportation, self-help groups, other daily activities and crisis situations. A case manager or someone on your child's treatment team can help find resources.
Early identification and treatment may help get symptoms of childhood schizophrenia under control before serious complications develop. Early treatment is also crucial in helping limit psychotic episodes, which can be extremely frightening to a child and his or her parents. Ongoing treatment can help improve your child's long-term outlook.