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How to Co-parent With Someone With a Mental Illness

Posted by Mattis Law, A.P.C. on May 15, 2022 in Divorce

If you have been left in the tricky situation of trying to co-parent effectively with someone with a mental illness, there is no quick fix, and it can be understandably taxing and painful. However, there is hope. Difficult co-parenting relationships can improve over time and there are steps you can take to help you and your children cope.

Research shows that having two parents is essential for children, even in high-conflict situations. If the other parent suffers from a mental illness, but isn’t a danger to themselves or your children, then their presence is still important in their children’s lives.

Mattis Law, A.P.C., represents clients in family law matters including complex divorce and child custody matters. Give us a call today to schedule a meeting and to see how we can help you in your situation.

Common Mental Illnesses

Parenting with a mental illness may make it difficult for the parent to connect and care for their children. There are a number of different mental illnesses that may affect parenting abilities.

Depression is a common illness, with many parents suffering from parental depression, which causes feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and deep sadness. This could affect parenting by not being responsive to a child and adopting inappropriate parenting behaviors. Parents with depression could be less emotional and expressive toward their children, and even simply activities such as reading a book to a child may be difficult.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another mental illness that can affect parenting. PTSD can develop following exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms of trauma can be experienced in many different ways, and can affect day-to-day functions as well as relationships with others. A parent with PTSD could have a number of triggers that cause flashbacks or emotional outbursts. PTSD may also cause the parent to withdraw and be absent. While these symptoms are easy for adults to understand, children do not have the capacity to grasp the complex mental illness that PTSD is.

Anxiety disorder is another common mental illness that some parents may experience. General anxiety associated with children is normal because taking care of a child is a big responsibility. However, anxiety disorder can be more serious and may increase a child’s risk of developing child anxiety and associated behaviors.

Important Strategies

To make this co-parenting relationship work, you need to be well-equipped with strategies that can minimize harm for you and your children and maximize the outcome of co-parenting. Here are some things to do when dealing with someone mentally ill:

  • Educate yourselves and your children (age appropriately)
  • Assign the co-parent to parenting roles they can handle
  • Establish and maintain boundaries
  • Separate the person from the illness
  • Teach your children strategies for coping with problematic symptoms

Further Legal Action

If you think that divorce or further legal action is what is best for the safety and wellbeing of your child in this situation, Mattis Law, A.P.C., can help you through this process. It is important to seek skilled legal help to protect your children while keeping the other parent involved.

The presence of both parents is essential to a child’s health and wellbeing, and the team at Mattis Law, A.P.C., can assist you to deal with this situation in the best way possible. We have experience working with complex divorce and child custody matters and will look out for the best interests of you, the other parent, and your children. Give us a call today at (858) 328-4400.

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