Hey, I’m Valencia Gensollen. Have you ever found yourself knee-deep in an argument with a teenager, completely unaware that your five-year-old is going to be the voice of reason? “Y’all are stressing me out. Can you please regulate your emotions? I’m trying to have peace and enjoy my time,” My five-year-old says.
Although that might sound like a funny story, that’s exactly how we talk to each other as a family. I’m not just your average mom. I’ve lived and breathed the ups and downs of raising three kids with various mental health challenges. I also navigate my own mental health struggles and diagnoses. Throughout this new Family Voice blog series, I hope to connect and help parents of children with mental health challenges.
About My Experience Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges
I’ve helped my kids find counselors and tried to get services and help in the school district. I’ve also tried to find the local mental health authority and arrange various services for my kids. Additionally, I’ve tried connecting to others for support in the community over the last 19 years.
And just so you know, I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’m just a mom traveling through this journey of life, wanting to share the real messy experience that goes along with navigating mental health. I want someone out there, whoever it may be, to feel less alone. There were times when I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I felt like nobody understood and I didn’t know where to go. I want to try to fill that gap a little for other parents of children with mental health challenges.
My Role as a Family Engagement Specialist
Now, the cool thing is I’m not only focusing on mental health at home. I have the benefit of working as a Family Engagement Specialist with UT Austin’s Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. I know that sounds fancy, but let me tell you what it means.
My role is to share my experiences raising a child with mental health struggles. I talk about all the hard stuff, all the good things that have worked, and what hasn’t. My work educates the System of Care, the State of Texas, national programs, grants, and initiatives so that services for children, youth, and families can improve. I also help make these programs more accessible for families like ours.
A Little More About My Family and Our Experiences
How do my kids feel about me sharing all our experiences and challenging times in this blog series? Well, don’t worry, they’re okay with it. Actually, they’re more than okay; they’re really excited. I’ve got their permission to share a bit of their story, and they always get the first look before anything goes live. Privacy and respect are non-negotiables in our family. You can trust that every article has their seal of approval and is published to help in your personal situations.
The thing that fills me with hope is knowing that something good can come out of my family’s hard experiences. We know what works for one family doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone, and that’s okay. Every family is unique and different. As parents, we had our children without a manual helping us decode the mysteries of emotional regulation and mental health. So, here’s to keeping it real. Here’s to finding common ground, learning about parenting mental health, sharing our experiences, impacting systems for change, and much more.
Get ready and join me for the ride as we talk about my story, my family’s journey, mental health, parenting, family voice, and learning and growing together. I’ve Googled and researched my way out of confusion. I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned through epic fails while somehow coming out on the other side wiser.
What to Expect from the Family Voice Blog Series
If you enjoy the blog and want more, stick around because I’ll be doing these monthly. You can also join our family virtual meet-up happening every third Saturday on Zoom. The meetups are great for parents of children with mental health challenges. This is a chance to hang out, share experiences, and continue the conversations. I’m excited about building a community of imperfect but real families connecting and striving to be the best they can be for their loved ones. So, stick around–it’s going to be fun. I look forward to seeing y’all at the virtual meetups soon.