Helping Children Understand: Explaining Parental Mental Illness

Parental mental illness can be a difficult topic to discuss with children. As parents, guardians, or caregivers, we naturally wish to protect our children from suffering, but it is also critical that we help them grasp what is going on in an age-appropriate and soothing manner. Here’s how to navigate this tough conversation:

1. Start with Understanding.

Before starting the conversation, learn about the mental disorder. Research it, contact with mental health professionals, and understand the symptoms, treatment choices, and how it may affect your family dynamics.

2. Keep it simple.

When explaining to children, make the terminology simple and uncomplicated. Use age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts. Avoid employing intimidating or unclear terminology that could overwhelm them.

3. Emphasize It’s not their fault.

One of the most important messages to express to children is that mental illness is not their fault. Reassure them that they are loved and cared for and that the disease is not their fault.

4. Normalize feelings.

Explain to your child that it is common for individuals to feel sad, anxious, or fatigued at times, just as they do when they have a cold or a stomachache. Help them realize that the parent’s disease is comparable to physical ailments, but it affects their thoughts and emotions rather than their body.

5. Encourage questions.

Encourage your youngster to ask questions and share their feelings. Let them know that it is acceptable to discuss the disease and that you are available to listen and provide support. Validate and reassure them that their feelings are important.

6. Provide reassurance and support

Inform your child that they are not alone and others can help, such as doctors, therapists, and other trusted adults. Reassure them that you are handling the problem and that they may always contact you if they have any concerns or fears.

7. Maintain routine and stability.

Try to keep your child’s life as predictable and stable as possible. Predictability might make kids feel comfortable and secure in the face of the unpredictability that comes with having a parent with mental illness.

8. Seek Professional Help as Needed.

If you’re having trouble explaining the situation to your child, or if they’re struggling to cope, don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist or counsellor who specializes in working with children and families. They can offer direction and help specific to your family’s requirements.


Explaining parental mental illness to a child is difficult, but with patience, honesty, and support, you can help your child understand and manage the situation healthily. Remember to be gentle with yourself and your child while travelling this adventure together. With love and empathy, you can make your child feel safe, secure, and supported, regardless of the difficulties they may experience.