For many parents, conversations surrounding a teen’s mental health aren’t unusual, and there’s luckily now plenty of advice around how to deal with this increasingly common problem. Yet, when you do a blanket search on the internet, it becomes painfully obvious that there’s almost no advice of the same kind about parenting when you yourself are struggling with mental health issues.
This is an especially worrying omission when you consider that approximately 68% of women and 57% of men who experience mental illness also have children, while 15-23% of children have parents who are experiencing some kind of mental illness. Worse, representation of this issue in the media tends to be poorly portrayed and even suggests that mentally unwell parents can do real damage. As well as being drastically misplaced, this blame can worsen an already difficult situation, and it’s something we hope to help you overcome by considering a few healthy coping mechanisms to prevent your mental illness from ever becoming an issue for the wellbeing of your family.
Make a plan
Mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia can accumulate in a kind of ‘brain fog’ that makes concentration and daily tasks a challenge. This is a significant concern for parents who are worried about forgetting key aspects of parental care. To remove that pressure, many parents working through mental health find it useful to make a plan. Obviously, this plan should make way for large-scale things first, like estate planning with a family attorney not long after the birth, or even putting the wheels in motion for a home purchase, etc. Daily, planning things like meals, school pickup times, and even outfit choices can make it far easier to reassure yourself that you’re meeting your child’s needs, and to keep things on a steady level for your children no matter how bad you’re feeling.
Open communication at all times
The silence surrounding mental health is an increasingly worrying problem and never is that more the case than when parenting is concerned. Certainly, parents who worry about overwhelming their children avoid talking about their own mental health altogether, thus creating an ongoing cycle of silence. By speaking out about your struggles, not only do you ensure that your children are more likely to speak out if they experience the same, but also that they always understand what’s happening and why.
Embrace outside support
Outside support is also essential when things get difficult. Support groups and therapy sessions can prove invaluable for this purpose, providing a professional setting that your child can trust, but outside support networks including family and friend units can also provide a safe haven that’s going to make a huge difference to how your child is able to cope with different situations.
Mental illness makes life undeniably difficult, and parenting can certainly fall under that umbrella, but there’s nothing to say that a parent experiencing mental illness can’t still ensure a thriving, supportive, and even happy family environment by simply approaching the matter with these pointers in mind.
This is a collaborative post.