Because you have a mental health condition does not mean that your child will have a mental health condition. But because of your own experiences, it may help you be better attuned to the psychological challenges that parenting can bring. An inconsistent and unpredictable family environment, often found in families in which a parent has mental illness, contributes to a child's risk.
Other factors that place all children at risk, but particularly increase the vulnerability of children whose parents have a mental illness, include:. Families at greatest risk are those in which mental illness, a child with their own difficulties, and chronically stressful family environments are all present. Many of these factors, however, can be reduced through preventive interventions.
For example, poor parent-child communication can be improved through skills training, and marital conflict can be reduced through couple's therapy. Whether or not children of parents with mental illness will develop social, emotional, or behavioral problems depends on a number of factors. These include the child's genetic vulnerability, the parent's behavior, the child's understanding of the parent's illness, and the degree of family stability for example, the number of parent-child separations.
Preventive interventions aimed at addressing risk factors and increasing children's protective factors increase the likelihood that they will be resilient, and grow and develop in positive ways.
Schizophrenia & Bipolar Disorder Booklist
Effective prevention strategies help increase family stability, strengthen parents' ability to meet their children's needs, and minimize children's exposure to negative manifestations of their parent's illness. Increasing a child's protective factors helps develop his or her resiliency. Resilient children understand that they are not responsible for their parent's difficulties, and are able to move forward in the face of life's challenges. It is always important to consider the age and stage of development when supporting children. Protective factors for children include:.
Mothers With Mental Illness: I. Psychiatric Services. May How you talk to your child about your mental health condition will depend on the age and maturity of your child and your willingness to open up to him or her. In general, children, especially as they grow older, are very astute and knowledgeable about their surroundings. They can sense emotional changes and can often tell if something is hidden from them without their knowledge.
If Your Adolescent has Depression or Bipolar Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents
Some children may be able to fully understand what it means to have a mental health condition. In talking with children you can help them to know how to cope when you are not feeling well. And, a child may be able to support you in your recovery by reminding you when to take your medications or help you stay on track. Your decision to talk to your child about your condition should also take into account your readiness.
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Parents often want to appear invincible and strong to their children, as they think it is the parents' role to care for a sick child and not the other way around. The decisions you make should be made with both parent and child in mind.
Before proceeding, you should always talk to your doctor or therapist about the best ways to bring this information up. You may want to consider the possibility of inviting a child to a session to explore this information.
In addition to being a parent, you are also a person of your own. Your recovery plans and activities should always include time for yourself that is relaxing and beneficial. If you have a crisis action plan or a psychiatric advance directive, you should designate someone to help with your parenting duties. If your child is old enough, you should discuss your plan with your child and identify resources and options together for handling things when you are not well.
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A higher proportion of parents with serious mental illness lose custody of their children than parents without mental illness. There are many reasons why parents with a mental illness risk losing custody, including the stresses their families undergo, the impact on their ability to parent, economic hardship, and the attitudes of mental health providers, social workers and the child protective system.
Supporting a family where mental illness is present takes extra resources that may not be available or may not be offered. Also, a few state laws cite mental illness as a condition that can lead to loss of custody or parental rights. One unfortunate result is that parents with mental illness might avoid seeking mental health services for fear of losing custody of their children.
Episodes of mania or depression may happen irregularly and follow an unpredictable pattern or they may be linked, with a manic episode always following a period of depression, or vice versa. Sometimes episodes have a seasonal pattern. Mania in the spring, for example, may be followed by depression in the winter. Between episodes, someone with bipolar disorder usually returns to normal or near-normal functioning.
For some people, though, there is little or no "break period" between their cycles. These mood swing cycles can change slowly or rapidly, with rapid cycling between mania and depression being much more common in women, children, and adolescents. Some people with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol and drugs because they feel temporarily better when they're high. But using alcohol and drugs can have disastrous results for people with bipolar disorder. Substance abuse can actually make the symptoms worse, as well as making the condition hard for doctors to diagnose.
Doctors and scientists don't know the exact cause of bipolar disorder, but they think that biochemical, genetic, and environmental factors may all be involved. It's believed this condition is caused by imbalances in certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. If the neurotransmitters aren't in balance, the brain's mood-regulating system won't work the way it should. Genes also play a role. If a close relative has bipolar disorder, a person's risk of developing the condition is higher. This doesn't mean, though, that if you have a relative with bipolar disorder you will automatically develop it!
Even in studies involving identical twins raised in the same home, one twin sometimes had bipolar disorder whereas the other did not. Researchers are now working on identifying the gene or genes involved in bipolar disorder. Environmental factors may play a role in bipolar disorder. For some teens, stresses such as a death in the family, their parents' divorce , or other traumatic events could trigger a first episode of mania or depression.
Sometimes, going through the changes of puberty can set off an episode. In girls, symptoms can be tied to their monthly menstrual cycle. Most people with bipolar disorder can be helped — but a psychiatrist or psychologist must first diagnose the disorder. Sadly, many people with the condition are never diagnosed or are not diagnosed properly. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, the disorder can become worse.
Tips and quotes from parents are sprinkled liberally throughout the text, and helpful sidebars provide more detailed information. The authors also provide a chapter fully dedicated to discussing treatment options, including what role parents play in treatment, how to juggle treatment and school, and how to handle insurance and managed care issues. Knowing the right information about anxiety disorders is the first step towards helping adolescents who are dealing with them grow to become healthy, happy adults.