Things Not to Say to a Parent of a Child With Mental Illness

women having a conversation

Publish date

Nov 1, 2021

Post Author

Healthy U Behavioral Health


The prevalence of mental illnesses has risen in all age groups, especially in the time of the increasingly long pandemic. Children and teens are also facing many severe mental health issues such as anxiety, depressive disorders, tension headaches, migraines, and more. Due to their sensitive age, children with mental illnesses must be catered to with extreme attention.

Parents of such children often feel helpless and depressed about their child’s condition. They stay aloof during social events, miss out on family occasions, and spend greater hours addressing the various issues associated with the mental illnesses of their child.

Without any doubt, parents of children with mental illness are already suffering a lot, especially given that their child is bearing the brunt of mental illnesses daily. The least you can do for parents and children experiencing this is to empathize with them. Other people not in the situation can also provide a lot of help, giving them a boost of confidence and supporting them in whatever ways possible.

Friends, family members, and peers can play a great role in serving as their pillars of strength in helping out these children. In the process, more than what you say to them to encourage them, greater attention should be paid to the sorts of comments you should not make.

Certain statements, blame games, or sentences can shake their entire confidence, put them in deeper depression, or highlight their agonies. One must know what these comments are to know how they can avoid triggering such parents’ sadness and frustration.

Here’s a list of 5 things you shouldn’t say to a parent of a child with mental illness:

1.  “Are you not afraid that they might hurt themselves?”

Parents of a child with mental health issues are scared for their child’s health and future. They see their child suffer every day, and the last thing they need at the time is someone reiterating this fear to them. Telling them that their child might hurt themselves, is showing suicidal traits, or is suffering physically is not helpful for them.

2. “They are old enough to take care of themselves.” 

Regardless of the child’s age, this is not a helpful way to talk to a parent with a child who has a mental illness. If they are facing a mental issue, parents feel the responsibility to cater to them, whatever age the child might be. The mental illness may be shaking their self-confidence, self-love, and self-worth. Parents can work with the children to help them restore their self-worth.

 3. “Give them some time to get over these petty issues.” 

Never tell a parent to ignore their child’s mental illnesses, thinking them to be just petty tensions. Teens face different challenges at school and home, not the least of which is peer pressure. Any mental illness they’re struggling with should be handled with great care to ensure small worries do not turn into big struggles. Many mental illnesses start as simple tension, anxiety episode, or stress. However, when ignored for a long period of time with repeated episodes of such incidents, these can morph into a worsened mental illness. No one should never belittle anyone else’s problems, especially if they are related to mental illness.

4. “Your child lacks the motivation to study, that is why they are behaving this way.”

Despite children displaying all signs of depressive disorders or anxiety, people and family members may not notice or understand them to be those signs. Others outside of the situation often suggest that parents scold their child, adopt stricter rules, discipline their child better, or follow a rigid study routine. These suggestions are offered with the belief that making them study harder when they behave differently or show restlessness will somehow help them get over their mental health concern. Telling a parent with a child who is suffering from mental illness that their child behaves differently only to avoid studying is not only harsh but also inconsiderate of their feelings.

5. “My brother’s son has a friend whose sister’s husband has a brother suffering from some kind of similar mental illness.”

You should be cautious to avoid comparisons between the mental health struggles of others. The symptoms of mental health disorders differ between different individuals, and each person experiences individual symptoms and complications. You should never tell a parent of a child with mental illness to take things lightly as if their child’s mental health problems are just a common issue. Rather than saying something like this, you could instead help them connect with that person who is handling a similar mental health disorder to better help the parent understand and approach their child’s mental health struggles.

Anxiety, depression, tension headaches, and substance use disorders are becoming increasingly common in children and teens. Family members, peers, and friends play a significant role in determining the treatment and recovery success of children struggling with mental illness. We, as a society, must act responsibly towards people suffering from any mental illness and try to support the parents of such children. One way of helping parents of a child with mental illness can be by encouraging them to go for professional healthcare consultation. HealthyU is a safe place for both parents and children suffering from mental illnesses. We are a team of industry-reputed healthcare professionals with diverse experience in the field. HealthyU offers dedicated outpatient programs for speedy and long-lasting treatment for your specific needs. If you are seeking expert assistance for mental illnesses, feel free to call our representatives and inquire about our mental health outpatient program at (619) 542-9542.