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Understand the impact

A child who has a parent with a mental illness need practitioners to think beyond their parent’s illness and understand the impact it has on them. Help parents to think and talk about their parenting in light of their mental illness and understand how their condition impacts on the safety and wellbeing of their child. Identify the impact a parent’s mental illness has on their child to help address and plan for the needs of the children and family.


A parent may welcome the opportunity to talk about their mental health difficulties, the impact this has on their parenting and how their child is affected. They may not have had an opportunity to talk about this with anyone before. Equally, a parent may be fearful, defensive, or has spoken at length with professionals about their parenting which can impact on their desire to discuss this topic.

Talk to parents about how mental illness impacts their parenting

Start with general queries like, ’Many parents who experience [agreed language of mental illness] are concerned about and want the best for their children. I wonder whether you have any worries about your kids.’ These conversations with parents are an opportunity to provide education, information and tips about parenting, child health and development, and supports to enhance a child’s social and emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Further reading

Emerging Minds has a series of free and interactive e-learning courses that can help you in your work with parents experiencing mental illness.

Child Aware Practice – enhance your understanding about the impact of adult problems on children, including mental illness, AOD and family violence.

Supporting Infants and Toddlers – develop skills to support your work with parents who experience mental illness and who have young children.

Engaging Parents – An Introduction – learn ways to engage in conversations with parents about children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

Keeping Families and Children in Mind – develop strategies to support children and parents in families where a parent has a mental illness.

Building Blocks for Children’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing – learn how to routinely enquire about children’s social and emotional wellbeing as part of your everyday practice with parents.

Let’s Talk About Children – learn about a brief, evidence-based method that can help you to have a structured discussion with a parent experiencing mental illness about parenting.

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