Prioritize Your Wellbeing


Mama Bear


Supporting Your Child Starts with You (Mental Health for Parents).

While well-intentioned, focusing solely on helping your child can neglect the crucial role of parental well-being. While parents experiencing depression or anxiety can still provide excellent care, research reveals some potential challenges for children in such situations. Children of parents facing mental health issues are more likely to experience:

  • Behavioral problems: Greater difficulty coping with stress and forming healthy relationships.

  • Academic struggles: Issues with school performance.

  • Mental health concerns: An increased risk of developing mental illnesses.

When both parent and child struggle, a negative cycle can emerge. Depleted parents may lack the energy needed to address their child's needs fully.

Building a strong foundation is key. During infancy, responsive parenting - when parents promptly respond to a baby's cries or babbling - helps foster important stress regulation skills and encourages exploration. This "serve and return" dynamic, as child development experts call it, builds trust and self-regulation. While the ways we connect with our children evolve as they age, the basic principle remains the same: children feeling known, cared for, and valued by their primary caregivers strengthens their sense of self.

Open communication is also vital. When explaining their behavior, parents can say something like, "I'm struggling right now. If I seem withdrawn or irritable, it's due to [issue] and not because of anything you've done." This clarifies that parental actions stem from their own challenges, reducing potential self-blame in the child.

For older children and teens especially, exploring why is important. Many teens struggle with feeling a lack of "meaning or purpose in life," with 36% specifically reporting this issue. This absence strongly correlates with depression and anxiety. Current societal focus on individual "well-being" often overlooks the happiness derived from helping others. Studies consistently link altruism to improved well-being. Unfortunately, media and society prioritize beauty and perfection over qualities like kindness and helping others. As caregivers, it is our role to help guide teens towards discovering meaning, purpose, or at least hope.

Feeling overwhelmed as a parent? You're not alone. Let's face it, balancing everything can be tough, especially when you're struggling with your own mental health. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Talk to a pro: Don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist or counselor. They can help you understand what you're going through, create a treatment plan, and give you tools to manage your mental health. Think of it like getting a personal coach for your brain!

2. Build your team: We all need support, and parenting is no different. Lean on your loved ones, whether it's family, friends, or even a local support group. Don't be shy to ask for help with childcare or even just a listening ear. Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup!

3. Take care of yourself: You're important too! Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and squeezing in some exercise (even a brisk walk can work wonders). Remember, self-care isn't selfish – it's essential for being the best parent you can be.

4. Be honest with your kids (age-appropriately, of course): Let them know you're having a tough time and might need a little extra patience or understanding at times. Explain things in a way they can understand, and avoid blaming yourself – it's not your fault!

5. Keep things predictable: Kids thrive on routine, so try to maintain a consistent schedule as much as possible. This includes family time – even if it's just snuggling on the couch or playing a board game.

6. Make time for one-on-one moments: Even if it's just 10 minutes of reading together or playing catch, dedicate some individual time to each child every day. This shows them they're important and loved, no matter what.

7. Listen, don't just fix: When your kids need to talk, be there for them with open ears and a supportive heart. Validate their feelings and let them know you're there for them. Sometimes the best help is simply being present and understanding.

8. If things get bumpy, seek family therapy: Sometimes, even with all your best efforts, things might feel overwhelming. Don't be afraid to seek professional help for your family. A therapist can guide you through challenges and help you find healthy coping mechanisms together.

Remember, progress isn't linear. There will be good days and bad days. But with the right support and some self-compassion, you can absolutely manage your mental health and create a loving, nurturing environment for your children. You've got this!