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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. 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. 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.

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. Studies that have investigated this issue report that:The major reason states take away custody from parents with mental illness is the severity of the illness, and the absence of other competent adults in the home.

A research study found that nearly 25 percent of caseworkers had filed reports of suspected child abuse or neglect concerning their clients.

If mental illness prevents a parent from protecting their child from harmful situations, the likelihood of losing custody is drastically increased.

All people have the right to bear and raise children without government interference. However, this is not a guaranteed right. Governments may intervene in family life in order to protect children from abuse or neglect, imminent danger or perceived imminent danger. When parents are not able, either alone or with support, to provide the necessary care and protection for their child, the state may remove the child from the home and provide substitute care.

The Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, Public Law 105-89 (ASFA) was signed into law November 19, 1997. This legislation is the first substantive change in federal child welfare law since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, Public Law 96-272.

It requires that state child welfare agencies make "reasonable efforts" to prevent the unnecessary placement of children in foster care and to provide services necessary to reunify children in foster care with their families.

ASFA establishes expedited timelines for determining whether children who enter foster care can be moved into permanent homes promptly-their own familial home, a relative's home, adoptive home, or other planned permanent living arrangement. While ASFA is designed to protect children, it also includes provisions pertaining to parental rights.

For example, under ASFA, parents have the right to receive supports and services to help them retain custody and keep their families intact. The child welfare system must provide these services according to an individualized plan that has been developed and agreed upon by all parties to ensure parents with mental illnesses are not discriminated against due to their illness. A plan with parental input also helps ensure that, when appropriate, efforts are made by state welfare agencies to promote family permanency, including establishing whether children in foster care can be moved into a permanent living situation.

Such strain, as well as the lack of specialized services for families in the child welfare system and the overall stigma associated with mental illness, makes it difficult for families to get the help they need.

With the right services and supports though, many families can stay together and thrive. The following efforts by advocates can help families living with mental illness maintain custody and stay intact:1. Network practical tools for changing environment. Making the Invisible Visible: Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities. National Technical Assistance Center for State Mental Health Planning.

Special Issue Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities. Mothers With Mental Illness: II. Family Relationships and the Context of Parenting. Legal IssuesKeeping Families Intact What impact does a parent's mental illness have on children.

The effect of a parent's mental illness on children is varied and unpredictable. Will my child have a mental health condition as well. Other factors that place all children at risk, but particularly increase the vulnerability of children whose parents have a mental illness, include: Poverty Occupational or marital difficulties Poor parent-child communication Parent's co-occurring substance abuse disorder Openly aggressive or hostile behavior by a parent Single-parent families Families at greatest risk are those in which mental illness, a child with their own difficulties, and chronically stressful family environments are all present.

The Prevention Perspective Whether or not children of parents with mental illness will develop social, emotional, or behavioral problems depends on a number of factors. How do I talk to my child about my mental health condition. What can I expect from my child. Your child might experience some of these feelings: Anger - Your child may be angry at you for having a mental health condition. The child may think that it was your fault that you had a mental health condition and that it is your fault that they will experience a harder life.

Your child might also be angry at external forces, such as a higher power or the world, for unfairly hurting you or your family. Your child may also be angry at him or herself. If you notice anger problems in your child, you should talk to your therapist or doctor about arranging for your child to join in sessions.

Fear - Your child might be scared about what the future will bring. Your child might be afraid about how your mental health condition will change your relationship. They might be afraid about your ability to take care of them. Your child may also be scared about what others will think if they found out that you have a mental health condition. Sit down and talk to your child about these issues, reassure them you still love them. Guilt - Your child may blame himself or herself for your mental health condition, especially in cases or anxiety or depression.

Your child may express guilt by taking over an inordinate amount of household duties. Your child may try and hide his or her own problems so as not to make your life any worse. Shame - Despite efforts to educate the public about mental illness, mental illness is still often a stigmatized and misunderstood condition.

Your child might be embarrassed. He or she might think that your condition will have negative impacts on his or her social life and might be worried.