Parenting is a big job, one that is as difficult as it is rewarding. Even on the best days, the scope of parental duties can become overwhelming. So what happens when a parent is also grappling with a mental health issue?
Parenting while struggling with a mental health condition can be tricky. You still need to fulfill your duties while ensuring that your children don’t feel the burden of the disorder. If you or someone you care about is having difficulty parenting because of a mental health disorder, this article will offer some helpful guidance.
What is mental health?
The term “mental health” refers to our emotional, psychological, and behavioral wellbeing. When we are mentally healthy, we are able to function at our best in our day-to-day lives. This means we are emotionally stable and able to make meaningful contributions in our work, relationships, and social capacities. Having good mental health helps us to better manage and cope with adversity and stress.
Many things can affect our mental health, including adverse life events, brain chemistry disruptions, trauma, loneliness, illness, and stress, to name a few. When we experience a mental health challenge, it can affect our parenting skills in various ways. For this reason, it is essential to address any mental health issues as early as possible.
How mental health impacts parenting
There is no doubt that children are sensitive to a parent’s mood. When a parent is struggling with depression, anxiety, or any mental health disorder, the child may pick up on those negative emotions and behaviors. What’s more, according to the CDC, a parent’s poor mental health state can cross over and impact the child’s emotional and physical health.
It is possible to still be a caring, effective parent while also having a mental health disorder. With the support of a mental health professional guiding you and helping you to manage your condition through therapy and medication, you can continue to be a loving parent.
Tips for having a conversation on mental health
If someone in your life is struggling with their mental health, approaching them to share your concerns and offer your support is vital. They may not know how to reach out for the help they need. Consider these tips for starting a conversation about mental health with a loved one:
- Choose the time carefully: Wait for a quiet moment where you can chat privately. This helps to avoid embarrassment or discomfort while discussing a sensitive matter like mental health. Start a conversation by just asking how they are doing, and then allow them to share what they are comfortable discussing.
- Find the right moment: Look for a time when they are in a calm mood. When someone is feeling upset, tired, or irritable, they will not be open to chatting. Instead, they are likely to dismiss your concerns or deny even having a problem.
- Be an active listener: If you are lucky enough to have them open up to you, make a point to really listen to what they are saying. Don’t minimize their struggle, but instead listen with a compassionate heart.
- Keep calm: Regardless of how concerned you might be for their wellbeing, it is important to maintain a relaxed, calm demeanor while talking with them.
- Find common ground: If you have had your own struggles with mental health, share that with them. This can help forge a common bond based on empathy, while also preventing defensiveness.
- Offer your support: Simply asking, “How can I help,” may be enough. If they aren’t comfortable answering that, offer to help with specific actions. These might include helping them navigate insurance or accompanying them to their first consultation with a mental health provider.
If you know someone who is having a difficult time managing parenthood due to a mental health disorder, reach out to offer your love and support. They may not ask for your help, but there is a good chance they will appreciate your concern.
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