Motu e va’a e taha. ‘Oku ongo katoa ia ki ke fu’u akau”

When one branch breaks the whole tree feels it.

Tongan proverb.

Talking with your children about mental health or addiction issues can help them make sense of changes they see in the family and whānau. Without support, your children will try to make sense of these changes on their own. Talking with them will reduce their confusion.


You need to tell them enough to reduce their concerns about your issues and how you are being supported – and they need to know that they aren’t to blame. You might be worried that talking about your issues with your children will burden them. In fact, many parents say that their children are reassured to learn about why things might be ‘different’ and that their parents are taking steps to manage the issues. For advice around this visit here >

Plan for Caring for Children: Being a parent is an important role. This plan helps everyone support the children, family and whānau of people who are parents and who also use mental health or addiction services.


If children need care due to a parent’s illness or time in respite/rehab/hospital, it is good to record the wishes of everyone involved ahead of time. The plan is about being prepared and talking through possible processes and issues – the plan may never have to be used.

Parents want the best for their children and these guidelines provide all mental health and addiction services, adult and child services alike, with the mandate to work in a family-focused way to help parents achieve this. These guidelines help to ensure that the wellbeing of children is everyone’s responsibility, not just infant, child and adolescent services. 

Other useful links:

COPMI website.

Information for children and young people, Werry Centre.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Position Statement 2016

Werry Centre videos and resources

Yellow Brick Road - support for family



Supporting parents with mental illness and or addiction and their children –download a government guideline for mental health and addiction services and access links to plans and other resources here >


Here are some resources that may be helpful for caregivers of children and young people:

Information Fact sheets visit here >

Understanding child development: Ages 0-3 years visit here >

Ages 1 - 5 and mental health issues visit here >

Ages 6 - 12 mental health issues visit here >

Autism Spectrum disorder information visit here >

Resource Tool Kits for Caregivers visit here >


Support for parents of 4 to 8-year-old children with mild to moderate anxiety visit here >

Support for parents of pre-teen children with mild-moderate anxiety visit here >

Supporting anxious children - resource for parents and caregivers here >


If you have child who is experiencing anxiety, try some of the breathing and action techniques below.


Fill a glass to halfway with water or your child’s favourite drink (we always encourage a healthy sugar free drink of water or milk). Place a straw in the glass and ask your child to take a deep belly breath (see Belly Breathing exercise for how to do this) and hold for 3 seconds, then blow into the straw slowly through their mouth. Repeat this 5 – 10 times (or as many as your child needs to feel less anxious).


Belly Breathing

Place on your child’s hands on their chest and one on their belly. Breathe in through the nose for half their age in seconds, hold for half their age in seconds and breathe out for their full age in seconds. This methods works well up to age 8. The structure would be: – 4 seconds breathing in, hold for 4s and out for 8. If your child or young person is over 8, use the following: – 4 seconds breath in, hold for 5 and breathe out for 8. (adjust this as per the needs of the child or young person).


Robots, Jellyfish and Towers

The aim of this game is to practice progressive muscle relaxation. You call out each of these names and your child mimics the behaviour of each one: – Robots, who are stiff and robotic in their movements. – Jellyfish, who are floppy and relaxed. – Towers, which are strong and stretch up high into the sky. The game begins with each person cycling through the actions a couple times. Try to keep mixing the order of the names up and ensuring there’s a jellyfish movement after the tense movements.