How to talk to your child about your mental health condition

Mental Health   ›   How to talk to your child about your mental health condition

It can be hard for a parent to discuss their mental health issues with their child. You can open this dialogue with your child by following these tips.

Inform Your Child About Your Diagnosis and Explain it to Them

Telling children or teens the truth generally reduces misunderstandings. It is entirely possible to explain the difficulties you are experiencing to your child using language that is adapted to their age, developmental stage, and personality. Being honest and transparent with your child will show them both your strength and authenticity and also allow you to better express your needs in different situations. Of course, if you have just been diagnosed you can wait until you are ready to speak with them, and you might even find it helpful to look for support first (from a partner, friend, close family member, or health care professional). If you can, try and give them a general overview of what you’re going through (the emotions you experience, the resulting behaviours, etc.). You can reassure your child by letting them know that you are getting the help you need, and as this shows your child that you’re not alone in figuring it out, it will reassure them.


Be Open

Be accepting of any questions or emotions you receive when speaking to your child about your challenges, but also, after you inform them about your diagnosis, be accepting of how your family may experience difficulties in relating to your condition. Children do not all react the same! Some may be very open and comfortable with the situation, while others may be concerned, sad, angry, or not understanding. Accurately responding to their questions and validating their emotions is generally a good way to help calm these emotional responses and reach a better understanding.


Continue to be a Parent Regardless of the Diagnosis

Once you have told your kids about your diagnosis or shared the challenges you are going through, try to avoid constantly calling attention to it. Above all, you are still their parent! The idea that a parent is experiencing challenges is not necessarily harmful to the child, but they need to see that their parent is still their parent no matter what.


Provide Support Outside the Family

As your child may experience a plethora of emotions related to what you’re going through, and may be uncomfortable coming to you directly about it, don’t hesitate to suggest resources that they can use to explore their questions and feelings (i.e. a close family member who is aware of the situation, support resources for family members, etc.).

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