My Son, his Dad and his Mental Health

I asked my partner to leave when my Son was 18 months old.  It was a scary time for everyone.  I was quite young, and facing being a single parent was daunting. Soon after he left, Dad’s mental health deteriorated rapidly.  He went to a pretty dark place and an acute schizophrenia developed.


Still feeling a sense of responsibility to Dad, I spent a lot of that time trying to get him the support he needed.  This was a challenge, as Dad didn’t really accept he was ill.  Some of that is still true today even though Dad is a lot more stable than he was.


Over the years I have been really concerned about the impact Dad’s mental health issues might have on my Son, and whether keeping contact with Dad was the right thing to do.  I know what the easy thing to do would have been, well the easy thing for me anyway.


I’ve had lots of worries about this issue.  Would being around his Dad increase the chances of my Son having mental health issues in the future?  Will he learn some of Dad’s behaviours? Will he get bullied because of his Dad? Will my Son cope with it all, will he blame himself?


I soon realised that the concerns I had around keeping Dad in my Son’s life were very similar to the ones I had about my son not seeing his Dad at all.  I also realised that it wasn’t really my decision to make.


Over the years I have been very honest with my Son about his Dad’s mental health issues.  There have been times when Dad has been too ill to have a relationship with his Son.  Sometimes my Son needs a break from his Dad, but then like most normal teenagers, he wants to spend as little time with his parents as possible!


I strive to provide as secure an environment for my Son as I possibly can.  I haven’t included Dad in some things like parents evening and going to watch the basketball matches, so my Son doesn’t get bullied about it.


I’ve looked for positive male influences for my son, and Basketball has been great for that.  The coaches are amazing, and the sport is brimming with bromance. My Son has people he can talk to if he needs to.  He chooses when he want to see his Dad now, and sometimes he chooses not to, and that’s ok.


My Son understands his Dad’s mental health issues, and he doesn’t blame himself.  My Son cares about his Dad.  My Son is a kind, compassionate and thoughtful young adult, and I think the relationship he has with his Dad has helped that.  Did I do the right thing?  I think so.  But it was hard, and still is, and it will probably continue to be.


Zena is a 40ish year old Mum with 3 kids who is keen to pursue her passion for travel despite being a busy parent. She’s also partial to coffee and chocolate.


  1. July 14, 2014 / 9:13 pm

    I agree with Abbie, you’ve answered your question and it sounds as though your son is very understanding and comfortable with it. Well done you for navigating your way (and your son’s) through a challenging time. x

  2. July 14, 2014 / 9:58 pm

    You have done the right thing. Talking openly to your son about it all is a fantastic thing to do. If you had kept it a secret or refused to discuss it, things might have turned out differently, in my opinion. You sound like you have done a fantastic job with your son.
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  3. July 14, 2014 / 10:02 pm

    It sounds like your son is growing into a very considerate and mature young man. Your openess and honesty about the situation must have been the right move.
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  4. July 14, 2014 / 10:25 pm

    It must have been such a dificult desition to make! I think you did the right thing, you gave your son the opportunity to get to know his dad and develop a relationship with him. But you allowed him to have enough space to feel safe and free, also.

  5. July 14, 2014 / 10:27 pm

    Family secrets are the worst. By being open the pain of the situation is greatly reduced. I went to school with a boy whose mother had mental health problems and lived with a foster mother. As he was always made aware of her situation and was allowed access to her he was able to talk to us about her and receive our support. Kids are more willing to talk about what they know rather than what they don’t.
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  6. July 14, 2014 / 10:55 pm

    What an awful situation to be in and I really feel for your son having a dad with such severed mental illness. It sounds to me you like you did the right thing.
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  7. July 15, 2014 / 7:35 am

    I think you have answered your own question and made the right decision for all of you. Great job darling xxxx

  8. July 15, 2014 / 1:29 pm

    Sounds like you have done a good job in difficult circumstances, and that your son benefits from understanding the situation by having a relationship with his Dad and by having greater compassion and understanding of mental health problems. Well done you.
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  9. July 15, 2014 / 5:46 pm

    It sounds as though you navigated a tricky path with maturity and compassion. No-one’s life is a perfect existence and often the children who grasp that earlier grow into more tenacious and open-minded adults than those who were shielded from reality for as long as possible.
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  10. July 15, 2014 / 8:37 pm

    I think you are doing an amazing job. Your son sounds like a very sensible, mature young man who you have allowed to have a honest relationship with his dad when the easier option would have been to cut contact. You should be very proud of yourself and your son for taking this course of action. x
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  11. July 15, 2014 / 8:38 pm

    Sounds like an awful predicament to find yourself in but i think you answered your own question. You are doing everything right by your son and he is thriving because of it! xxx
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  12. July 16, 2014 / 12:11 am

    Sounds like you are responsible for raising a very mature son, who as a result of you, will have amazing emotional intelligence, which isn’t nearly as common as it should be.
    I hope he’s proud of you one day, as you so deserve it.
    Such compassion in this heart warming post xx
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  13. July 16, 2014 / 7:46 pm

    I think children exposed to this sort of issue have far more empathy than those that are never faced with a challenge. Sounds like you should be very proud of your young man
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  14. July 17, 2014 / 6:10 pm

    You were faced with a difficult situation and you made a decision.I am sure your son will accept and understand your intentions behind it.He is aware that you are putting his welfare first.
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  15. July 18, 2014 / 7:03 am

    You did/do what you had/have to do and it sounds like you’re doing great for all concerned xx
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  16. September 7, 2014 / 6:44 am

    Sometimes it is more difficult to do the right thing as in your case. and having first hand experience of having a close relative who suffers from schizophrenia I know what an incredibly hard illness it is to live with and witness. You put your son before yourself and took a very hard path what a great Mum xx

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