How to raise 3 boys with mental illnesses (from a mom who's been through it)

'I have to just remember that I was chosen to be their mom for a reason.'

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  • When asked to recall a specific moment of frustration with her kids, Utah mom Lonica Knudsen recounts a morning a few months ago when her three sons were eating breakfast while bickering non-stop, no matter what she said.

  • "I was so mad, I banged the milk on the counter, and the milk exploded and got all over the walls and counters, down the stairs," Knudsen says. "And that was just the start of the day."

  • Motherhood is no walk in the park, especially for Knudsen. She's the mother of three boys who each come with unique challenges — from Asperger's to anger issues. The process of raising them has presented a daily struggle as well as moments of pride and joy, as many moms can surely relate to.

  • Along the way, Knudsen has learned some valuable lessons any mom with hard-to-handle kids can learn from:

  • Sabe

  • Sabe is an 18-year-old high school senior with Asperger's (a spectrum of autism) and ADHD. Knudsen says some of the biggest challenges she faces with her oldest son include his constant need for reminders and encouragement to get things finished, especially homework and other responsibilities.

  • "He wants to be independent because he realizes he's an adult, but his brain doesn't think the same way a normal adult's brain thinks, so he needs a lot of guidance," says Knudsen.

  • Because of this, Knudsen says Sabe gets down on himself a lot, so she gives him lots of encouragement.

  • "I'm learning I have to really tell him how much I love him and I appreciate how hard he tries."

  • Toby

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  • Knudsen said her 13-year-old eighth grade son, Toby, has depression and anxiety. She says her biggest challenge with him is that he has a hard time getting along with his siblings because he feels self-conscious about himself and likes to spend time alone, but that he's come a long way since being a little trouble child.

  • "Toby's gotten so much better. I've spent some one-on-one time with him, and we have a Harry Potter connection. I didn't feel there was a bond between me and Toby when he was little. He was a very distant and difficult child. And as the years have gone on and I've tried to build a one-on-one relationship with him, and he's matured, it's gotten a lot better."

  • Colton

  • Colton, an 11-year-old sixth grader, is Knudsen's youngest son and has anger issues along with Asperger's like his oldest brother. She says he also has a hard time focusing on getting a task done and gets mad at his family easily.

  • "He feels like everyone's picking on him and he has to defend himself. He's in his own little world when it comes to time, so things like eating takes three times as long as everyone else."

  • Knudsen says she's focused on giving him lots of one-on-one time to help him be successful in school and other endeavors.

  • In addition to the unique difficulties each boy presents, Knudsen says all three have pretty substantial communication problems because "they think on a very black and white level — there's no gray area in between."

  • 'You can't do it alone'

  • Knudsen's number one piece of advice to other moms struggling with especially difficult children is: "You can't do it alone — there's no way. You have to have help so that you don't go crazy."

  • Everything from prayers to family to teachers have helped Knudsen through her challenges as a mother.

  • "I say a lot of prayers. I honestly feel I have to remember and try to see them through God's eyes. I go to counseling weekly. I've gone to Sabe's school and gotten help with his teachers, and Colton's teachers have been very supportive. Family and friends have helped by understanding and being patient."

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  • 'Love them for who they are'

  • Though Knudsen has had many days where she wants to "rip out her hair," she says she's found a way to make things less frustrating: Don't waste energy trying to change them.

  • "We were trying to make them into somebody normal, or socially acceptable, but it made things worse. It made it more frustrating, because we can't change them."

  • Instead, Knudsen says to "just love them for who they are, and help them."

  • 'I was chosen to be their mom for a reason.'

  • "I say, why the heck, why me?" says Knudsen. "I have to just remember that I was chosen to be their mom for a reason, so we're kinda learning and growing together."

  • Without doubt, she learns lessons in patience all the time.

  • "I have to be patient and caring. But I'm not always — I yelled at Sabe yesterday. I'm very hard on myself, cause I'm always thinking, why am I always getting angry and frustrated?"

  • 'There's never going to be a perfect day'

  • Knudsen wants to share with all other struggling moms that they're doing better than they think they are.

  • "Colton always tells me I'm the best mom ever. And I'm like, 'Really? I'm not ... ' But it's adorable he thinks that."

  • Amidst all the frustration and difficult times, Knudsen learns to appreciate the little moments.

  • "There's never going to be a perfect day. You have to appreciate the good time and the little compliments."

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McKenna Park is a staff writer at FamilyShare. She's a happy wife, puppy mama, ice cream addict and film nerd. Website: www.mckennapark.weebly.com

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