Effective Communication with young people who have a mentally ill parent. Print
Written by Paul Mckillop   
Golden Rules For Professionals.

Don't expect the child to parent the parent even though they may take this role on themselves.

Be honest. Don't say you understand if you don't really.

Don't underestimate the child's / young person's knowledge.

Don't tell the child the parent can be cured.

Kids know what's happening to them.

Remember a child lives with this 24 Hours a day - they are more familiar with their parent's symptoms than you are.

Some people don't like it assumed that they are 'carers';.

Do take an Empowerment approach, young people appreciate meeting others who will let them speak their mind.


Accept that sometimes nothing they do may make a difference.

Don't pathologise the child's feelings or prescribe psycho-education as a remedy.

Remember if you are responsible for the parent YOU MAY HAVE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST in advocating for the child.

Explain what you can and can't do.

Assist the young person to contact NNAAMI.

Facilitate private contact with NNAAMI via school or library internet etc. or provide private phone time available for them to contact NNAAMI.

Confidentiality with a parent is an issue. Most young people don't want to be seen as a client but they need to be able to explain their immediate concerns re: the parent's mental state.

If the child is worried about safety around the parent take these concerns seriously.

Provide at least basic information re: parents condition or discharge / treatment plan.

Remember that children can be easily intimidated by having to deal with numerous professionals in a mental health setting.
The child is more likely to open up outside of this context.

Don't involve young people in case conferences against their wishes. Try to provide an alternate meeting for a young person to discuss their concerns, without parents attending, and offer for them to be accompanied by an advocate or friend or trusted family member.

Don't try to problem solve. Many of the issues children face daily are beyond the remedy of a strategy or a simple solution.
For some there are no immediate remedies.

Be careful not to suggest to the child that they are responsible for the problem.

Young people some times need to be able to say they hate their parents. Don't qualify their statements for them, let them do this in their own time! Coping with a parents illness is a life long experience.