There has, unfortunately, always been a stigma around mental health. Many people believe that if you struggle with a mental health issue (varying from mild anxiety to severe depression or anywhere in-between), then this is a sign of weakness. Or, in the case of parenting, an inability to be a good, healthy, or present mom/dad.
Honestly, though, I believe the opposite is true.
Many people struggle with varying mental health issues (and frankly, all people struggle with something or another!). But just because you struggle doesn’t mean that you are unable to be a strong, selfless, or loving parent.
The most important thing you can do (for both yourself and your family) is to prioritize your emotional wellbeing and, ultimately, become a better parent by caring for your mental health.
Here are some ways you can reshape your habits, focus on your mental wellness, and be more present for your children:
Meet Your Basic Needs
The most important thing you can do (again, for both yourself and your family) is to make sure that your basic needs are met. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely sacrificed my own health and happiness for my kiddo thinking I was doing the right thing. . . when in fact, I was doing the opposite.
And I know I’m no alone.
Many parents sacrifice their own needs to make sure their children are happy. However, it’s important to care about yourself in order to be a better parent. This includes a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, exercise, etc.
If you find this hard to do, incorporate it into your routine with your family. For example, if you eat as a family or create bedtime habits, you’ll be able to both prioritize yourself and create consistency with your loved ones.
Deal with Your Past
We’re all haunted by different things in our pasts. But, unfortunately, as a parent, your past experience(s) can impact how you parent. . . especially if you are carrying trauma from your childhood.
Your childhood experiences may lead you to make conscious (or unconscious) decisions, choices, or responses that end up hurting your children more than you realize.
Dealing with painful experiences from your past using techniques such as rapid resolution therapy can help you to be a better parent. This therapy (or other styles) can help you to prevent your personal trauma from affecting your children. It’s your responsibility to ensure your trauma doesn’t become theirs.
Take Time for Yourself
Making time for yourself will look different depending on your lifestyle, your passions, and your family. Regardless of the way you and your family operates, though, you deserve time for yourself (and time with your significant other, too!).
Alone time as a single parent or as a couple can be difficult. Still, there are ways to get the time that you need, whether it’s by finding babysitters, being intentional about playdates, or creating habits that allow for couple or solo time after the child(ren) are asleep. The key, here, is to simply make it more of a priority.
Keep Your Mental Health Your Responsibility
Discussing mental health with your family and being open about your challenges is hard, but important.
If you have a mental health condition, or if you’re going through a hard time, your children may need to be aware of it. However, it’s also important not to put too much responsibility on your children. There are times when they might need to be empathetic and careful, but you should avoid making your mental health their responsibility.
The more openness you have with your children, the more they will feel empowered and safe in sharing their feelings with you, too.
Each and every person will have challenges at times, and the more you can normalize mental health (and break the stigma!) the happier and healthier your child(ren) and your entire family will be!
For more articles like this, check out our Mental Health page!