When a family member is ill, the others in the family have to think about their approach to illness and to the person who is ill. It is very difficult to see a person you love fall ill and at the same time discover new traits and attitudes in yourself.


  • Everyone faces a crisis in his or her own way and often it may take a while before a person is ready to accept the information about a serious illness.
  • An illness may cause a shock, sorrow and a feeling of insufficiency in a parent.
  • The child, on the other hand, may be scared and lose the feeling of security temporarily. A child may wonder why her parent is ill. A child requires affection, may behave in an unusual way or be exceptionally well-behaved or challenging.
  • A child may struggle to understand his parent’s illness and discussion may prove difficult. Therefore it is important that the child has a close circle of other adults supporting him. Your child has the right to a reliable adult and everyday life.
  • When a parent falls ill, the child still has the right to be a child and it is not his duty to be his parent’s caregiver.
  • Issues should be discussed in the family or with a therapist or consult another party outside the family circle.
  • Family’s everyday routines should run as usual in spite of the illness.
  • If a parent has a mental disorder you should talk to your child about the disorder’s effect in family’s day-to-day life. For instance the fact that the parent may sleep a lot, be irritable or not have energy, has an effect on the child’s everyday routine.

Each person has his or her own way of dealing with crisis and the feelings raised by the situation; some may write, paint, listen to music, exercise, talk about it, searching information or joining a peer group. A child should be encouraged to express herself and her emotions through play, exercise or drawing, for instance. Reading children’s books about various illnesses and disorders also help the child to understand the condition.