Recovery and parenting

The word ‘recovery’ means different things to different people 

The definition of ‘recovery’ (from mental illness) by the Department of Health and Ageing: 

‘Personal recovery is being able to create and live a meaningful and contributing life in a community of choice with or without the presence of mental health issues.’1

For some people, recovery may mean feeling empowered to achieve the best quality of life they can when experiencing the symptoms of mental illness. For others, recovery is an opportunity to strengthen relationships and make positive changes to their life and priorities.

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Being a parent in recovery

A person’s parenting role is closely tied to their recovery from mental illness. Parenting can be both a source of stress and hardship, as well as a source of joy, hope, love and motivation. For this reason, it can be helpful to spend some time reflecting on the following:

  • What does recovery mean to you?
  • What is important in your own recovery?
  • What role does parenting play in your recovery?
  • What does recovery mean to your family?
  • What would help you and your family to understand recovery?

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of recovery – some good places to learn more are:

Your family and recovery

Whatever recovery means to you, it can be important to view it as a family process as much as an individual process.

You are probably aware of some of the challenges that your family has faced as a result of your experience of mental illness. A lot of parents talk about the impact on their family relationships, and about how important it is for them to be able to work towards repairing some of the effects.

Some things that can be helpful: 

  • Remember that:
    • your children and family have strengths that have helped them get through – and you have contributed to those strengths
    • mental illness is not anyone’s fault (including yours) and this needs to be acknowledged and discussed as a family
    • family relationships can take time to heal.
  • Talking with each other about:
    • what has happened and what has been learnt 
    • each other’s hopes for the future – and how you can work together to nurture them.

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*The Department of Health (2013), A national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services: policy and theory, Canberra, ACT, accessed September 15, 2014,