Revealing depression to children: Use narration and examples to not frighten young minds
As per the latest data, nearly 44.7 million American adults were affected by mental illness in the past year, representing 18.3 percent of the population aged 18 and above. With millions of American adults struggling with the symptoms of mental illnesses, what passes unmentioned is the effect on the children of parents affected by such disorders.
Parents are under tremendous pressure to put up a brave front every morning and go about their daily tasks. The stigma associated with mental disorders doesn’t allow for easy conversations around this subject. Compared to others, children are especially affected by the symptoms of their mentally ill parents due to the exposure to the illness and close observation of their odd behaviors. Hence, it is important for parents to build a dialogue with their children to avoid any kind of misunderstanding about their symptoms and behaviors.
Ways to communicate about mental disorder with children
Though a child’s mind may not be as developed as that of an adult, he or she is capable of retaining and analyzing information. Parents need to take on the role of educating their children on their mental condition with confidence and should not feel despair if they fail to grasp the essence of the illness. Moreover, the language used to explain the concepts to children should be appropriate for their age.
Here are some of the other key measures:
Younger children can better interpret a simple narration, instead of technical terms. By avoiding jargons and difficult to understand words, one can effectively explain his or her plight to children.
The age of the child and his or her circumstances, play a significant role in determining the way parents should communicate with their children regarding their mental condition. An older child not suffering from any major health complications can handle more information than a child having developmental challenges can.
While dealing with a much younger child, parents need to share lesser information. In fact, it would suffice to explain to them that the affected parent does not feel well in the heart or mind. Preschoolers and younger children shouldn’t be overloaded with the details of the mental condition their parent might be suffering from. Being at such an immature age, such children need to be protected from stress. Moreover, parents must seek treatment and surround themselves with supportive family and friends.
It is very important to reassure the children that they are not at fault whatsoever and that everything will get sorted out in the end with the best help available. They need to be educated to the extent that they would understand and not be frightened about the situation.
One can use an analogy to a physical illness to explain to children about his or her mental illness. For example, they could be told that their mommy or daddy feels better or worse during certain circumstances in the same way as their friends suffering from cold and cough during the wintertime.
Older kids can usually grasp that something is wrong with their parents based on their behavior and may have concerns. They need to be given some power and allowed to talk about what they have been feeling lately and able to understand. In such cases, the details of the illness can be shared.
Another way to use analogy is to bring up the examples of celebrities idolized by the children of the parents battling similar conditions. Such an analogy would help to make kids understand that even the high and mighty suffer from such conditions. It is an opportunity for parents to serve as role models by showing them that they are capable standing against any challenge.
Seek help and support
Mental illness need to be treated like any other form of physical illness to ensure effective treatment and recovery. It should be the priority of the parents suffering from psychiatric illnesses to seek treatment to ensure the well-being of their children. They need to take one step at a time and be kind to themselves while at the same time making sure that their children are not unduly affected by the illness.
If you know someone suffering from any mental illness, contact the Colorado Mental Health Help to access information on the mental health treatment centers in Colorado offering evidence-based treatment. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 or chat online to seek advice on the best mental health rehab in Colorado.