Important information for relatives

The situation for children

Children experience psychic changes in their parents very directly. They have hardly any filters and few chances to defend themselves against this. Their defencelessness is expressed in their reports, even to the extent that children who have meanwhile become adults speak about their experiences in retrospect. At the same time, children are very tenacious about clinging to their familiar picture and to their favourable experiences. They can live together, side by side with both the healthy and the sick sides of mother or father over a longer period of time, picture these two aspects next to one another and accept this situation.

Children of psychologically ill parents had been neglected for a long time and have now been discovered – primarily as a risk group. The fact that these children are finally receiving more regard and aid is long overdue. However, here as well, the kind of aid and the attitude of the therapist are decisive. Children have a particular strength in maintaining that which is self-evident for a long time: Mother and father are nevertheless mother and father, even if they are sometimes acting strangely. At the same time, children in certain phases are susceptible for feelings of guilt: Mother is in a poor condition because I have failed. If I do this or that, father will certainly be doing better. Such "egocentricity" simply corresponds with the development of a child.

Children are existentially dependent on emotional contact to other people. If a relationship to an important person is temporarily not functioning, they need to be enlightened as to why this is so, in order that they don't consider themselves to be the cause. And they require support from other persons.

Children primarily need:

  • explanations appropriate for their age (including a relief from the sense of guilt)
  • emotionally attached persons, if possible within the family (other parent, grandparents), or either foster families or professional services, to help provide relief in times of crisis
  • possibly also family-accompanying aid services
  • support within the framework of peer groups made up of other children with similar experiences


(If these conditions are fulfilled, children can counterbalance a great deal!)

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