Mental illness and parenting

Mental illness and parenting

All parents worry about their children. This also applies if you have a mental illness and are a parent. In this situation, it can give extra challenges in relation to making everyday life work. At the same time, it is important to be aware that if you have a mental illness, it is not only you, but also those closest to you who are affected by your condition.

It can also be a source of concern for how your illness will affect the childhood and development of your children. Children are able to notice when their parents are not doing well, therefore children are also affected when their parents are not mentally well.

How much the illness affects the child depends on a number of factors such as which illness, how severe it is, how long it has been going on and how old the child is at the onset of the illness and what the family’s network is like.

Being affected by a mental illness can have profound implications on parenting. It can be difficult for you as a parent to offer your child the care you would like to when you are not feeling well yourself.

This is why creating the intimacy and the security which your child needs can be difficult. And creating structure in daily life and good mutual experiences can be difficult. Not because you do not want to, but because the illness makes it difficult. 

Some of of the things that make being a parent when having a mental illness are that your attention, concentration and mood and energy level can be affected. Some mental illnesses also result in you having another perception of reality. This can all result in you not having as much energy to be involved in your child’s daily life and well-being. Some of the typical consequences for children who grow up with a mentally ill parent are that they believe that it is their fault that mother or father are not well. They can also take on too much responsibility so that the father or mother with the mental illness fares well. This can, for example, result in your child being very aware of how you are feeling.

They try to do everything correct, so the child does not provoke conflicts. Your child can also spend a lot of energy on hiding to the world that your family is different than others. If you have another perception of reality, are prone to anger or have other symptoms that can be scary for a child during different periods due to your illness, your child can also be afraid of you.

Children's concerns are sometimes expressed as psychical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. Or they can have problems in school concentrating and learning what they need to. Or perhaps they often come into conflict with the other children or adults.

So as a parent, you must be aware of this connection if your child complains about pain or has other problems. As a parent with a mental illness, it can be a great challenge living with the illness. Many feel powerless and have a constant bad conscience concerning the children. And perhaps one can feel that one is a bad role model for their children. One of the things you can do yourself to ensure that your child has a secure childhood is to learn how to live with your illness in the best possible way. If you are feeling better, the family will feel better.

Among other things, this means that you become acquainted with your resources and limitations .So that you can respond to them actively in everyday life. For example, if you know that you feel better if you exercise, then make sure that you exercise, perhaps even with your children. And if one of your limitations is that you easily become stressed and lose control, then limit your activities and plan your day in detail so that you have more control over what happens and in this way avoid stress.

You can also help create more secure surroundings for the development of your child by giving your child the opportunity to talk with other adults about how your child is doing so that your child does not feel alone or misunderstood, but on the contrary feels seen and acknowledged. It can also be a help for you to visit a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse or other health professional in psychiatry where you can get support and guidance for living with your illness and everyday problems.

If you as a parent are associated with a psychiatric unit, there are offers for family meetings, and your children have the opportunity to participate in group sessions for children. If you need help making your daily life work or need help handling a problem concerning your children, you can contact your municipality to hear about what offers they have for citizens in your situation.

Depending on your situation and the municipality’s assessment, there may be financial support so that your child can participate in recreational activities, a contact person may be linked to your child, there may be family guidance, relief or placing the child outside the home.

You can also contact one of the patient associations which also have various offers that may relevant to you.