Having a Mental Illness Causes Stress for Your Child

April 15, 2014 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Stress is common for any parent, especially when parenting a child with mental illness. But did you know that stress affects kids, too? According to, April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day. The Center for Disease Control states that "stress is a condition that is often characterized by symptoms of physical or emotional tension. It is a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious. Stress can be positive (e.g., preparing for a wedding) or negative (e.g., dealing with a natural disaster)."

Kids experience stress due to school, home and other on-going events. But, in my work I have found that kids with mental illness are very sensitive to stress. Even the positive stress that most kids deal with at home or in school. Here are some tips to help you to parent a child with a mental illness dealing with stress.

Stress is Real for a Child with a Mental Illness

For some parents it is hard to believe that kids experience stress. Part of my work with parents is to help them understand what stress for kids is like and how they can help their children deal with stress in a healthy way.

Know When Stress is Normal

Kids worry about many things. School can cause stress in children. Most often, I deal with children who worry about getting good grades and recently, passing state exams. Here in New York City, kids just finished the English-Language Arts state exams and are now preparing for the Math state exams. Stress due to school performance is normal. Remind your child that he or she is capable and advocate for your child with a mental illness in school.

Know When Stress Isn't Normal

In my work, I also find that kids experience stress due to trauma. I've worked with children who worry about their parents' (or their own) safety, natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) and tragic events (Boston Marathon bombings, school shootings, etc.). Negative stressors such as these can definitely affect your child's ability to live well. If your child with a mental illness experiences unusual reactions to these stressors, speak to your mental health provider.

What Can Parents of Mentally Ill Kids Do?

Be there for your child. Support and encourage your child as much as possible. At the same time, try to shield your child from stressful things. Avoid talking about adult themes around children. Watch the news after the kids go to bed as this can affect them also. make sure to encourage stress-relieving activities such as sports. Stress can affect kids in any number of ways, but when you can recognize stress, you can help your child through it.

You can connect with Heiddi Zalamar on Twitter.

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2014, April 15). Having a Mental Illness Causes Stress for Your Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Elina Ponting
April, 15 2014 at 8:40 pm

I also think that its a stress both for the parents and also for the children's. I really like to read this blog. Keep sharing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 22 2014 at 12:33 am

Hello Elina,
Thanks for visiting and sharing. I agree that mental illness causes stress for both parent and child. Since I've written about parenting stress before, I chose to focus on the child's stress in this post. Thanks again for the visit and please come again soon.

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