Communicating with your toddler or young child when you have a mental illness
The COPMI national initiative, Australia
This fact sheet looks at parental mental illness and toddlers, it has been developed with parents to help support communication with young children.
As a parent with a mental illness, it can be very challenging to think about how your toddler or young child views what is happening. This resource will help you connect with your toddler or young child when you are unwell so that they feel secure and nurtured. It steps you through:
- understanding your symptoms and behaviours
- thinking about what your toddler or young child notices and experiences
- communicating with your toddler or young child to support a nurturing connection.
Although a toddler or young child may still be developing their understanding of what you say, they will be very sensitive and responsive to your emotions and to the tone of your voice. Toddlers and young children are very perceptive and can detect even the smallest change in their parents’ behaviour and body language (despite a parent trying to ‘hide’ any change).You might notice that when you are struggling with your moods and emotions, your child’s responses may also change.
Although discussions may be short, their meaning is important. Often the first discussion is the most daunting. Small conversations can build on your child’s and your family’s shared understanding over time.
Other trusted adults can be helpful when explaining your mental illness to your child. Consider grandparents, other family members or good friends. Have a conversation with these people. Tell them about the information you have given to your child and the information that you would like them to share with your child. You can also tell them if there is any information that you do not want to be shared with you child.