Outing My Child's Psychiatric Illness: When to Disclose It?

June 22, 2011 Angela McClanahan

When should I out my child's psychiatric illness? Talking about it online is one concern--but when is it time to tell his friend's parents? It's a dilemma.

The older Bob gets, the more he knocks me from my parenting pedestal with unexpected questions and requests. I thought he'd outdone himself with his recent query as to the purpose of testicles--but last week, he hit me with something that left me even more dumbfounded.

"Nathan wants me to come sleep over at his house next weekend. Can I?" sleepover1

I honestly didn't know how to answer. It's never been an issue before, as Bob hasn't really been able to develop friendships to the point any kids (or their parents) want to be around him for that long a time. And as overtly sexist as it may seem, I didn't think boys were as into the "sleepover" as girls (for which I've been secretly grateful).

But here it was, and it wasn't going away without an answer.

The Dilemma of Outing My Child's Psychiatric Illness

If I say yes, there's a conversation that has to take place. A conversation wherein I disclose, to people who doubtfully understand, Bob's diagnosis. Not wanting to sound like I'm giving a dissertation, I won't go into a lot of detail--leaving doubt in their minds and room for a lot of speculation about Bob and his behavior. (What if he freaks out while he's there? What if he murders them all in their sleep? Crazy people do that, you know.)

I also have to hand over the travelling pharmacy of pills Bob has to take, with instructions on how to administer them, and trust these people I barely know to do so properly. And then there's what happens when Bob's friend discovers Bob wears pull-ups to sleep in because he still wets the bed.

If I say no, I'm taking the safe way out. Saving face, both for Bob and, admittedly, for me. Preventing more people from thinking the worst of us.

Am I protecting Bob, or merely being a coward?
Outing Your Child--When to Disclose Psychiatric Illness
Yes, I hang our laundry out on the Internet clothesline every week, but I'm pretty sure neither Bob's friends nor their parents are followers. And even though it wouldn't take a Mensa member to figure it out, I try to anonymize to a point. Besides, as most bloggers are well aware, the Internet is a wonderful mask to hide behind.

I still haven't decided how to respond. Bob has been at his father's this week, so I have been granted temporary reprieve from decision-making. But he'll be back tomorrow, and I'm sure it will come up.

Maybe I'll get lucky, and he'll think of some horribly embarrassing human anatomy question to ask me instead. A mother can hope.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, June 22). Outing My Child's Psychiatric Illness: When to Disclose It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

June, 24 2011 at 4:02 am

I agree with Gretchen. Has he ever been to this friends house to just play? Or has the friend ever been to your house to play? Do you know the parents very well? With the problems that Bob has you probly would want to talk with the parent(s). Maybe they could just make a day of it, you always seem to come up with fun things for him.

June, 22 2011 at 4:10 pm

Could you have the friend spend the night at your house as a starting point?

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