When is the right time to tell your c... - Action on Postpar...

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

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When is the right time to tell your child you are not well?

Strawberry55 profile image

As many of us, I suffered with PP 7 years ago when my daughter waa born and as a result have been battling with anxiety and depression since.

In 2018 I had a change of anti depressants and it was an awful experience, my family were really supportive. I now need to change meds again and am obvously very nervous. I don't want my daughter to think I am angry at her or anything like that. The A+D make me horrible to live with at times, I am aware of that, maybe I should be explaining it to her now. I already worry I am ruining her and don't ever want her to feel unloved or to blame herself.

I was wondering if anyone has experienced talking to their child about their PP or other MH struggles, if so what ages were they and how did you approach the subject to explain?

Thank you

20 Replies

My daughter was almost 4 when I was admitted to the MBU with her little sister. At the time, I told her there was something wrong in my head that made me very sad and scared, and just like when people are poorly in their bodies they need to be in hospital, when people get poorly in their head they sometimes need to be in hospital.

She is now 6, and I have given her a bit more information. We think she is autistic and she knows the idea that some people's brains work differently. I told her that my ex's brain's difference is called autism, and mine is called bipolar. And I explained sometimes it makes me very happy and sometimes it makes me very sad. She was very interested and asked lots of questions. I answered them without getting into anything that might scare her.

I grew up in a family that didn't talk about things with children. I found out most things by accident, overhearing conversations and phone calls, and it was awful, I got half truths and ran with them, and couldn't ask questions because i wasn't meant to know. I always wanted to be open with my kids, to show them it was nothing to be ashamed of, and that it's not something scary and asking for help is ok. I just keep it appropriate to my kids' age and understanding.

Thank you astrosue that is very helpful. I am very aware she hears things now, and I want her to know when I am sad/irritable it isn't becuase of her.

EmiMum profile image
EmiMumVolunteer in reply to AstroSue

Hi AstroSue,

I do know what you mean. In my home we had a similar view of mental illness and it wasn't until my own experience that I found out my mum could have had postpartum psychosis after her first child, undiagnosed - she never went to a psychiatrist her sister who happened to be a psychologist treated her privately, at the time she was told it was post partum depression, but the early onset and her symptoms of strange beliefs and hallucinations make us think now it was more likely to have been pp instead. It shows how differently we perceive mental and physical health when in fact both of them are equally beyond the control of the person that suffers it.

I want the same as you for my daughter, that she be informed in a way she can understand, and that she'll feel confident and safe in asking questions about it. I'll think carefully about how to approach it when I feel the time is right, she is still 2, but its definitely something to keep in mind. My husband is a bit more reticent to openly talking about this, but as a society I think we are slowly working towards removing the stigma around mental health.

Hope you have a lovely somewhat quieter weekend (no school run for one!) and that your appointment with the CPN on Monday goes well

Pikorua profile image
PikoruaVolunteer in reply to EmiMum

Hello EmiMum,

that is a lovely reply and thank you for sharing your family experience.

Mental health has been pretty much a taboo with my parents. Although little remarks of my dad somehow disclosed some information that he had knowledge about my state of mental health, - his experience with my mother.

I probably will never find out the truth via my mum. I got in touch with my great Aunt , who is a Psychologist has explained about how trauma throughout generations is reflected in our DNA along the female line. Real fascinating stuff. Her mum was in an asylum all her life after my great aunt was born, my mum's cousin.

How interesting that your mum's sister, who is a Psychiatrist helped your mum with her recovery.

Take care x

EmiMum profile image
EmiMumVolunteer in reply to Pikorua

Hi Pikorua,

There is certainly a genetic component in mental health, perhaps that in a way has contributed to the taboo around it I wonder, centuries ago conditions that ran in families were considered to be a punishment for certain actions. Who knows.

I hope the society our children will live in as adults will be more open to discussions on this subject, I'll certainly try to play my small part towards it.

Take good care, good night and have a lovely weekend.

Pikorua profile image
PikoruaVolunteer in reply to EmiMum

Me, too. Transparency is so important for our rainbow children. Prevention is possible and knowledge exchange vital, so that our loved ones can be prepared and receive the best treatment possible...

Take care x

Hi Strawberry55,

There are some good resources here:


under Carers, families and friends.

There are also lots of books that you could read with your child. I find my son responds better to talking about issues in books than when I ask direct questions to him.

I had a quick google, there is one called Perry Panda by Helen Bashford that has had good reviews and is around PND.

I also know that APP are working on a guide to talk to children, as well as one of the APP volunteers is working on an illustrated book talking about PP.

Hope that helps a little and hope the change in your medication goes as smoothly as possible.


Must admit this brought me to tears, the thought is so scary.

Jocelyn_at_APP profile image
Jocelyn_at_APPPartner in reply to Strawberry55

Oh Strawberry55, I'm sorry this upset you.

You are so brave and the fact you want to talk to your daughter about it all, so she understands. It shows what great mum you are by the fact you want to make sure she understands everything. It great that you will be able to foster that openness with her and allow her to feel she can talk to you.

You're doing such a great job!

Thank you, I know you didn't mean to upset and are supporting. I decided to stop looking at the internet and start writing a poem to try and explain to her as that seems to be eaaier for me. I think I have been shielding her to protect her, but maybe it was because I find it hard myself. The next thing is to try and talk to my husband, he struggles with the whole MH thing, and I am assuming rightly or wrongly he won't want me to add emphasis or bring it to her attention. Thank you.

Jocelyn_at_APP profile image
Jocelyn_at_APPPartner in reply to Strawberry55

Writing a poem sounds like a great idea, much more personal. Good communication with your husband sounds like a good idea too.

There is a partner support group on Facebook, if you feel that your husband would that useful.

Look after yourself. You are doing amazingly! xx

hgallo profile image

Hi Strawberry55, I had PP in 2016 so my girls (twins!) are 4 now. I struggle with low mood sometimes too. I'm not sure of it's the right approach for everyone but my girls often see me crying if I am low. Often it's a combination of things that mean I feel unable to hold it back. I tend to say to them, mummy's feeling quite sad/low today. And I explain that I might not feel as able to play/go out as I usually do with them.

With the PP I've broached it a little in the last 6 months by saying, mummy was very poorly when you were babies and I was in hospital for a while. I haven't gone beyond that yet.

I guess I've found the good thing with young kids is the haven't developed any pre-conceptions yet so my girls tend to see things very black and white at the moment. I think we always try not to show our feelings around our kids but I think sometimes it's ok for them to know we get low/stressed/anxious too.

Good luck with things and try to care of yourself too, x

Strawberry55 profile image
Strawberry55 in reply to hgallo

Thank you. I think I try to hide it, and am now worried how she may be blaming herself, I don't want her to think that or be messed up becuase of me, I think I need to tell her in a age appropriate way and reassure her.

Pikorua profile image

Hello Strawberry55,

I understand your struggles. I live with cycling bipolar and part of my spectrum covers anxiety, social and agora phobia. I do not like hard ketchup on plates either :-)

My boy is very sensitive, kind and generous. You will find a lot of kindred souls amongst children of PPP mums. We are a very caring and a remarkable bunch.

We all have been in the same position in trying to be age appropriate in the way how we want to explain our illness to our children. Yes, APP volunteers have been contributing to a booklet exactly about this topic, which should be out fairly soon.

When I had one of my two consultations with a wonderful Psychiatrist, he explained that my son just will know as we are open and transparent and/or will ask specific questions-that was with the BP diagnosis.

Throughout the years my boy picked up on the fact that mum was very poorly after the birth for more than one year, because of our ongoing conversations.

I believe because of his age now and his lived experience he conceptualise everything in his unique style. After all there are times when mum just can not follow the normal routine and daddy steps in or both big and little man need to care for his partner/mum.

Children are very resilient! I tend to forget this quite often. I struggle more with changes than my son does.

Take good care!


Strawberry55 profile image
Strawberry55 in reply to Pikorua

I think you are right in many of the things you say. I am definately grateful that my dauhter is a kind, gentle caring soul herself. Yep there arw definately time dad has had to step up and I am definately understanding when you say you struggle the most, I am the same, it ia harder flr me to accept and I am hardest on myself.

Thank you for your kind words

Pikorua profile image
PikoruaVolunteer in reply to Strawberry55

You are a super mum, sometimes we forget that inner strengths is with us, because we survived a traumatising illness and may continue with mental health challenges.

It is that little confidence booster we need from time to time to make sure our self esteem does not drop down. Time out, a bit of me time, and in stepping stones is something I treasure!

Communication is hard work sometimes, but I have to realise that my partner can not look into my brain. In fact I find it so much harder to talk to loved ones (family and friends) who can not share compassions, despite their love and trying to understand...

Keep going Strawberry, - my journey of recovery has opened up doors with new opportunities and I actually do enjoy life, despite all those challenges...

Sending you much love x

EmiMum profile image

Hi Strawberry55,

How many lovely replies you have already received in this post. The kindness of your daughter is a reflection of yourself and the way you have helped her to become the amazing little person she already is.

Just keep it up, and wade the days as they come. It sounds like you 3 make a great team. If you are ever in doubt of how she may be coping with your unique home dynamic, perhaps you can just ask her. She may even surprise you with her answer :)

Take good care and good night

Thank for your kind words emimum. You are right.

My children are now 13 and 11 - they know that I wasn't well with my firstborn. They know that I sometimes feel unwell now - I refer to it as being 'grumpy'. The term bi-polar has been used, and my friends in the community know about my diagnosis. One of those friends is a teacher at the secondary school both my children now attend. Maybe think about what your children will tell their friends, and how comfortable your children will be when they are teenagers. My children have experienced the taunt, 'your mom's weird'. I gave them a few possible comebacks , but yes, I am weird. I would be weird without the bipolar, though.

That's a helpful perspective, thank you.

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