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Parenting with Mental Illness: 4 ways to balance your health and family connection

Parenting with mental illness can be challenging. Here’s how to manage it.

Parenting can be joyful, challenging, rewarding, and tiring all at once. When you’re parenting with a mental illness, it adds a whole other layer of complexity.

Studio 5 Parenting Contributor Heather Johnson empathizes with the mental battles many parents face. She dispels myths and gives advice for parenting with a mental illness.

To contact Heather for counseling, email, or visit


How to Parent With Mental Illness

Understanding the Impact on Children

One of the prevalent misconceptions is that a parent’s mental illness directly influences their children’s mental health. Heather dispels this notion, emphasizing that it’s not the illness itself but the parent’s behavior and the dynamics within the family that significantly impact a child’s development. Acknowledging this distinction provides relief as it shifts the focus towards manageable aspects.

Connecting the Dots for Children

Heather stresses the importance of transparent communication with children about mental illness. By explaining the illness appropriately and addressing resulting behaviors, parents can prevent children from internalizing false beliefs or blaming themselves for the situation. Tailoring the discussion to the child’s age and understanding ensures a healthy comprehension of the circumstances without burdening them excessively.

Building a Supportive Network

Creating a ‘dream team’ of supportive individuals helps to alleviate the strain on a parent struggling with mental illness. Engaging trusted friends, family members, or neighbors and defining specific roles for support prevents the parent and children from feeling overwhelmed or taking on responsibilities beyond their capacity.

Perseverance and Creativity in Parenting

Heather advocates for a mindset of perseverance despite the challenges posed by mental illness. She highlights the need for creativity in parenting, emphasizing that unconventional approaches can foster strong family bonds despite limitations.

Prioritizing Connection

Above all, Heather emphasizes the importance of prioritizing connection amidst limitations. Redirecting focus from what can’t be done to finding creative ways to connect strengthens family ties and fosters positive memories.

Parenting with a mental illness presents unique challenges, but doesn’t exclude the possibility of building strong family connections.

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