Puzzles, Pictures and Paper Airplanes
What We Do When Our Parents Get Sick
Susan F. Craft and Richard C. Massey
Lucy Lee Collins, A.T.R.
This book was made possible by a grant from the S.C. Department of
The authors gratefully acknowledge assistance from the following:
Beth Gladden and Betty Hause -- Columbia Area Mental Health Center
Betty Edwards, Nancy Tarlton and Becky Wardlaw -- Gilbert S. C. Elementary School
Mary Bostick, S. C. State Library
Lynda stood in front of Miss Katherine's door. Today was the first day she would
meet with her guidance counselor and other children.
She started to knock, but hesitated a moment.
"What will we talk about? Will they laugh at me? Will they make fun of my
daddy?" she wondered.
The door opened.
Miss Katherine, her guidance counselor, greeted her with a nice smile.
"Hello. I'm so glad you decided to come," she said. She put her
arm around Lynda's shoulder, and they walked into the office.
"I think you already know Nicole, Ramon, and Kyle," said Miss Katherine as
she closed the door.
Lynda clasped her hands together behind her back. She felt uncomfortable and so
different from the other kids.
Ramon nodded his head, and Kyle looked down at his shoes.
"Sit by me," Nicole said.
Nicole's welcome made Lynda feel a little better as she sat down in the chair next to
|"Today I thought we would talk about the things that you have in
common," said Miss Katherine.
"We're all about the same age," said Ramon.
"We all go to the same school and we're in the same grade," said Nicole.
Kyle folded his hands in his lap. Lynda squirmed in her chair, trying to think of
Everyone sat quietly until Ramon whispered, "Our parents are sick."
"That's right. Each of you has a parent who has a mental illness.
What does that mean for you?" asked Miss Katherine.
"My mother gets very sad and she cries and she cries and sometimes she has to go
to the hospital. Then I don't see her for a long time and I have to go live with my
Aunt Dolores," said Nicole.
"When my mama gets sick she stays in the bed for days. She doesn't want to
get dressed or cook my breakfast or take me to school. My dad works all the time, so
my nana comes to our trailer and takes care of us," answered Ramon.
Lynda's eyes filled with tears and she bit her bottom lip. "My daddy is in
the hospital now."
"How does that make you feel?" asked Miss Katherine.
Lynda sighed. "I feel sad and lonely."
"I feel that way too," said Ramon. "But not as bad as Kyle.
One time his mama was yelling and screaming so loud, a policeman had to take
her to the hospital. Kyle doesn't have a dad or a nana, so he stayed the night
"It's nice to have such goods friends, isn't it, Kyle?" said Miss Katherine.
Kyle looked over at Ramon and smiled. It wasn't a very big smile, but at least it
was a smile.
"Sometimes people aren't so nice," said Lynda. "They make fun of
my daddy and call him a loony."
"Yeah," said Nicole. "They say my mom is weird. They are
afraid to come to my house."
"They don't understand it either," said Lynda. "Is it something I
"Absolutely not," said Miss Katherine. "Please, don't ever
think that it is your fault that your father is mentally ill.
"Mental illness is just that, an illness. It's sort of like when
people get sick with other diseases. With the right medicine and help from doctors
and counselors and their families and friends, people who suffer from mental illness can
be all right. They can work and do the things everyone else does."
"But what can I do?" asked Lynda.
"Can anyone give Lynda some suggestions?" asked Miss Katherine.
"When my mother doesn't take her medicine like she should, I let my
aunt know before things get too bad," said Nicole.
"My dad doesn't like to talk about my mom, so when I'm feeling sad, I
talk to my grandma and it makes me feel better," said Ramon.
"When my mom won't look at me or let me hug her, I go over to
Ramon's. But most of the time I talk to Miss Katherine," said Kyle.
"That's good advice," said Miss Katherine. "One of
the best things you can do is talk to someone you trust, an aunt or uncle,
grandmother or grandfather, a neighbor, a teacher or someone from your church or place of
"What other things do you do that make you feel better when your parent is
sick?" asked Miss Katherine.
"I read comic books. Especially Super Man," said Ramon.
"I put together puzzles. Ones with the little pieces, not the great big
ones. Those are for babies," said Nicole.
"I make paper airplanes," said Kyle.
"He sure does," said Ramon. "There must be a hundred of them on
top of the trailer next to ours!"
Everyone laughed at the thought of a pile of paper airplanes on Kyle's
"Is there anything you like doing, Lynda?" asked Nicole.
"I draw pictures. Mostly of horses," answered Lynda. "I like
"Maybe you could draw one and put it in your dad's room for when he comes home
from the hospital," said Nicole.
"I guess so," said Lynda.
"Could you draw one for my mom?" asked Ramon.
"And mine?" asked Kyle.
"Sure I can," said Lynda.
"It's time to go now, children," said Miss Katherine. "But we'll
see each other next week, all right?"
As they left Miss Katherine's office, Nicole took Lynda's hand in hers. Lynda
smiled a big, bright smile. She had new friends, and they had something very special
Sources of Information
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH
2414 Bull St., P.O. Box 485
Columbia, S.C. 29202
SOUTH CAROLINA ALLIANCE FOR THE MENTALLY ILL
2016 Assembly St., P.O. Box 2538
Columbia, S.C. 29201
803-779-7849, 19 local chapters
MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION IN SOUTH CAROLINA
1823 Gadsden St.
Columbia, S.C. 29201
803-779-5363, 30 local chapters
SOUTH CAROLINA SHARE
(Self-Help Association Regarding Emotions) Consumers Group
722 Blanding St.
Columbia, S.C. 29201
803-252-7076, 23 local chapters
NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR THE MENTALLY ILL
2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 302
Arlington, Va. 22201
NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION
1021 Prince St.
Alexandria, Va. 22314-2971
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