Parents with a mental illness typically wonder whether it’s best to disclose their diagnosis to their kids. On the one hand, you want to be open and honest. On the other hand, you may think that not saying anything protects your child. A parent’s natural instinct to want to shield your child from any confusion or concern. However, according to research, not telling your child can actually have the opposite effect.
Research shows that if parents don’t tell children about their mental illness, children develop misinformation and worries which can be worse than the reality, said Michelle D. Sherman, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and director of the Family Mental Health Program at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Later, these kids also report feeling resentment toward their parents for keeping them in the dark.
“It isn’t really a question of if you should tell them, but what and when,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D, psychologist, writer and professor in Pasadena, California.
“We all know kids are incredibly perceptive — if there’s something going on, they’ll know.” Information decreases kids’ confusion, said Sherman, who’s also a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
So how do you broach the topic with your kids?
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