Mental health and wellbeing can be difficult to talk about, especially if you’re experiencing mental illness yourself. It can be hard to know what to say, how to say it and how much to share. It is common for parents to avoid talking about their difficulties with children, perhaps to try and protect them from worry or confusion. Yet research shows that talking openly to your child about your struggles in an age-appropriate way can help them make sense of any changes they see in you when you’re unwell, while ensuring they understand your difficulties are in no way their fault or responsibility.
In this episode, our host Alicia Ranford speaks with John Clark: peer support worker, mental health trainer and father of three, about how to talk to children about your mental illness. John knows firsthand how complex it can to have these conversations with children and in this podcast offers insights and tips from his own personal journey.
Content warning: This podcast mentions suicidal ideation. If listening to this podcast brings up any difficult feelings for you, please seek help from your mental health professional or one of these crisis or support services.
In this episode you will hear:
- what John considered before talking to his children about his mental illness [07:38]
- John’s thoughts on children being a support to parents when they have mental health difficulties [14:50]
- tools John uses to communicate his mental health to his children [17:40]
- John talks about help seeking skills, helping yourself and your children know when and how to ask for help [19:23]
- what John would say to parents in a similar situation [26:22]
Further information and resources:
Fact sheet: Parenting during recovery from mental illness
Topic area: Parenting with a mental illness
Fact sheet: Parenting with mental health difficulties