Your parents are usually considered to be unbreakable, with superpowers, and always there for you. But sometimes we see things that show us that our parents are not always super-humans, and that they are regular people, just like you and me. Sometimes we see things in our parents that can be confusing since we don’t understand what’s happening. This can be scary, but how can we understand what’s happening? 

When your parent has a serious mental illness, regardless of what the diagnosis is, it can be stressful and affect everyone in the family. Maybe the roles might change, and you have to take care of your parent instead. Either way, it can add a lot of pressure on oneself and being confused is completely normal as a child. So, what can we do to understand this?

Don’t be afraid and stay curious

Be curious to learn more about your parent’s mental illness, so you can understand them better. Be curious to even learn what a “mental illness” is. By doing so, you also learn how to support them in the best way possible. Reaching out to another parent, relative, caretaker, or even your parent’s psychologist or doctor can be the first step in trying to understand what’s happening. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone, you also have access to a large number of tools and resources that can help you online. 

Remember, it is not your parent’s fault

When a parent has a mental illness, they may say or do things that don’t make sense or can hurt you. It may make being a parent much harder for them. But typically, they are not doing anything bad intentionally. Some people with serious mental illnesses don’t have a lot of control over their thoughts, words, or actions. It is not unnatural to feel ashamed, hurt, or even angry at the parent with the mental illness, and you are not responsible for your parents’ actions. But it is important to remember that, at the end of the day, it is hard for them as well, 

Set boundaries if you need to

For some parents with serious mental illness, it’s difficult for them to understand things they do that make you feel uncomfortable or not safe. Sometimes it can be hard for them to listen and understand what you are going through as their child. But if you need to set boundaries with them to make sure you feel good and safe, you are without a doubt encouraged to do so. 

Find support and talk about it

As a child taking care of your parent or generally being a child with a parent with a serious mental illness, it can feel lonely sometimes. Not understanding the situation can be isolating if no one also speaks to you about it or talks to you about how you are feeling. This could be a good chance to find someone to talk about what you need to talk about. Keeping in emotions can be unhealthy as they tend to build up inside. You are also deserving of support and are free to share whatever thoughts you feel are needed to share. 

And most importantly… believe in yourself

If you would like to speak to a professional about this issue, you can book an appointment here.

Chloé Möller currently has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and is further pursuing another in Work & Organisational Psychology. She works at Willingness as an intern.


  • Glynn, S., Kangas, K., & Pickett, S. (2015). How to cope when a loved one has a serious mental illness. Retrieved 27 July 2021, from
  • A Guide to Understanding When A Parent Has a Mental Illness. Montare Behavioral Health | Mental Health Treatment in Los Angeles. Retrieved 29 July 2021, from