The Negative Effects of Parental Illness on Children

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Survival. A task attempted by everyone daily. Every night, we sleep after a long day of surviving tasks. Then, every morning we wake up preparing to survive more tasks. But there are always people who can't convince themselves to keep going. Children who are disconnected from their parents due to a parental illness don't know what to expect every day. This atmosphere leads them to lose the motivation and support they need to survive each day. Children being witness to their parents' diseases unfold a negative perception of life that devastates their young personalities.

There are many viewpoints on who is most influenced when there is a discussion about which family member has the greatest impact on the illness of a patient. Many argue that spouse is exceedingly influenced because they are the ones sacrificing most in their lives. In the article "How Illness Affects Family Members: a Qualitative Interview Survey," a study by the U.S National Library of Medicine of current family members living with an ill family member showcases the feelings of the wife of an Alzheimer's patient. She responded to her husband's illness by saying, "I'm alone, I'm alone in this.....I feel like I'm in a sinkhole, and... it's just like my life is spiraling down" (Prosser et al.). This demonstrates the severe impact the spouse of a patient face. Oftentimes, they have to handle financial and family responsibilities alone. This responsibility builds up their stress levels to an extent beyond their imagination.

While this showcases a valid argument for the impact spouses face, it does not display the same severity as the effect seen in children. Children tend to be less developed and hence do not hold the ability to cope with all situations, especially when it relates to someone they are close to. The article "When Mom or Dad Is Seriously Ill" displays the effects children face when their parents have an illness. Ms. McCue - supervisor of the child life program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation - suggests common symptoms children showcase as a result of not receiving the attention they deserve from their parents are ".....sleeping or eating, risky actions that might indicate suicidal thoughts..... [and] very aggressive or withdrawn behavior and extreme fears" (Chira). This exhibits the severity of parental illness on children. The rising of suicidal thoughts and extreme behavior changes result from children not getting the motivation and support they need from their parents. The extreme change in behavior causes children to lose their innocence and continue on a lifetime journey of despair.

Due to the fear of possibly ruining their child's innocence and pushing them on a path of despair, parents often hide their illness and try their best to provide everything for their children. Ivy McQuain shares how her illness destroyed her children's lives in the article "The Effects of Parental Mental Illness on Children and the Need for Healing." Even when she thought she was giving them the world by not telling them about her illness, she recognized something was off when her eldest son moved out and stopped calling her mom: "...he told me I was hard to live with during his childhood and that I caused him great stress. I was floored; I thought I had given him the world" (Kvarnstrom). This illustrates how even when a parent wishes well for their child, their illness often comes in the way. This leads their child on a road they would have never imagined being on. In the book, Flyaway by Lucy Christopher, Isla's father hides that he has a weak heart which sends Isla into an instant panic when he suffers a major heart attack, and there is nobody around to help: "There's a pumping sound in my ears, a fast heartbeat in my head. I fall against the car, pull open the door. Grab the phone. Dial. My fingers can't get the right numbers" (Christopher 47). Isla's father hiding the fact that he had a weak heart from Isla caused her to panic because she was not prepared for the situation. The way she found out about her father's illness caused a much greater trauma to her than if she had been informed earlier. Both these examples of parental illnesses play a role in ruining the innocence of the children.

Children often become a victim of their parents' illnesses, which result in them encountering a situation they would have never imagined. In the book, Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. Mcmanus, Ellery's mom has to go to rehab for the usage of opioids which leads to Ellery moving in with her Grandma (McManus 7). The move Ellery had to make due to her mother's drug addiction landed Ellery in multiple life-threatening situations. This exhibits a correlation to the article "The Effects of Parental Mental Illness on Children and the Need for Healing." In the article, Chaya Kulkarni - the director of Infant Mental Health at the Hospital for Sick Children - responds to a parental mental illness by saying, "[Mental illness] does have an impact on our ability to parent... we are going to miss their cues that say, 'Hey, I need you to be my mom right now" (Kvarnstrom). Ellery witnessed exactly the same in Two Can Keep a Secret and what many kids are a victim of when their parents are ill. The parents are not able to provide their children with the support they need, resulting in traumatizing their children.

Children of ill parents facing the loss of motivation and support often lead them to perform actions that play a role in destroying their future. Parent's preparing their children to encounter the effects which come as a result of their illness could save their children from facing a devastating future. The effects of parental illness on a child can be far-reaching and eventually can destroy their life and experiences for all the years to come.

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The Negative Effects of Parental Illness on Children. (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved April 22, 2024 , from

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