Emerging Minds

Supporting infants and toddlers

About the course

This course helps mental health workers to identify and intervene when their clients are parents who experience mental illness and have dependent children.

It takes learners through the impact of mental illness on the family through the antenatal period, explains attachment and principles of sensitive communication with parents regarding the needs of their children. You will learn about parenting interventions and strategies to effectively support these families.

Who is this course for?

This course has been designed for:

  • adult mental health workers caring for parents with a mental illness 
  • anyone who works with parents of young children where the parent has a mental illness. 

Awareness of parents and parenting has not typically been considered a part of core business for mental health workers. This course has been designed to highlight the importance of identifying and intervening when your clients are parents of infants and toddlers.

Learning aims

As you progress through this course, you will be working towards:

  • developing your knowledge about infants and toddlers of parents with a mental illness 
  • raising your awareness around the impact of parental mental illness on infants and toddlers, and the importance of keeping these children in mind
  • gaining an understanding of how adult mental health workers can improve outcomes for infants, toddlers and parents.

Learning outcomes

Following the completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe how having a mental illness can impact on a mother and the family, in the antenatal period
  • explain attachment, and infant and toddler development
  • reflect on the experiences of infants, toddlers and parents in families of parents with a mental illness
  • describe the impact of parental mental illness on infants and toddlers
  • describe principles of sensitive communication with parents regarding the needs of their infants and toddlers
  • identify potential sources of support for families
  • reflect on strategies for supporting families. 


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses.

Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed: 

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later. 
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.


Throughout this course, reference is made to parenting, although in general it is mothers who parent infants and toddlers in our society.

The terms 'mental illness' and ‘mental health problems’ are used throughout this course. They may not reflect the terminology used by parents to describe their experiences. Parents may have their own language that you will need to be sensitive to. Within this course, the terms 'mental illness' and ‘mental health problems’ have been used to describe:

  • mental illness (when an individual’s symptoms meet criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder such as depression or schizophrenia)
  • symptoms of mental health problems that do not meet diagnostic criteria
  • social stressors that often accompany symptoms or parenting in general.

Ready to start learning?

Register today to access.