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  • Dr. Stuti Kumar

Parental Mental Health: Supporting Parents Well Being for the Sake of the Children

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Children's mental health is correlated heavily with that of their parents. According to a recent study, 1 in 14 children has a parent who suffers from poor mental health. Medical science has already proven the fact that when a mother is under stress when carrying the child it affects the child's well-being drastically as trauma now that we know of passes through genetic material that we carry.

Being a parent it's understandable to constantly keep your child's needs and thoughts as a priority and run ends to meet their best well-being and development, but you also as a parent shouldn't forget about your mental stability and health. If you are unfit it affects the environment the child is growing in. Children are known to be like sponges, they absorb whatever is given to them in their learning and developmental years. Hence it is crucial to support parental mental health as a priority along with your children's well-being.

Parents, as well as other carers who take on the role of parents, are a child's earliest and most important sources of support for independence and living healthy, prosperous lives.

There are several connections between parents’ and children’s mental health. Compared to parents who report having good mental health, parents who struggle with their mental health issues, such as managing symptoms of depression or anxiety (fear or worry), may find it more challenging to care for their child. Parenting can be difficult, especially if there are no resources or support systems available to them. This can be harmful to a parent's mental health. Shared hazards between parents and children can include inherited vulnerabilities, and living in unsafe environments.

In a recent study, parents (or other carers who served as parents) were questioned about their own mental and physical health as well as the mental health of their children. One in 14 children aged 0 to 17 had a parent who reported poor mental health, and those kids were more likely to have poor general health, a mental, emotional, or developmental disability, to have had traumatic experiences as children, such as witnessing violence or experiencing family problems like divorce, and to be living in poverty. Although they are less frequently included in research studies than mothers, fathers play a crucial role in supporting children's mental health. Similar relationships between dads' and other male carers' mental health and their children's overall mental health were discovered in a recent study that focused on mothers and other female carers.

How can parents and caregivers check on their mental health so they can be there for their children?

1. Put your child's relationship first; don't worry about anything else.

If your family is going through a difficult period, you might feel pressured to manage everything—from work and sports commitments to school and extracurricular activities—as a parent. However, it's impossible to avoid making a mistake. So pay attention to what matters most: your child's well-being and their relationship with you. In other words, don't stress too much about your child's grades if they are struggling in school. Instead, pay attention to their well-being and mental health. Less pressure to accomplish in school will improve student performance. Check the school grade app only once a week to give yourself a rest. If you discover unexpected grades, take advantage of the chance to interact with your children and work through issues with the school to find extra assistance. Look for indications that they may be experiencing depression or anxiety.

2. Permit yourself to do a “good enough” job as a parent.

Recognize that your definition of "best" might not match up with what you hold for yourself. That's alright. Make use of this opportunity to demonstrate the value of maintaining balance. Be careful not to create unattainable objectives for yourself or your child.

3. Stop the comparisons.

The journey of each family is distinct. Don't judge your parenting abilities or the experiences of your family against those of others. Feel sympathy for oneself.

4. Forget “should.”

Focus on the type of parent you want to be, rather than how social media or other forces suggest you "should" be. This straightforward mental adjustment can cut through the clutter and promote a far deeper connection with your child.

5. When stress is getting the better of you, pause.

Consider your reaction before reacting aggressively or intensely to your child. Take a deep breath and leave the area until you can respond calmly.

Try putting this question to use:

  • What advice would I give another person in this circumstance?

  • Would I advise them to react as I am about to do?

  • What is the rule that requires this particular response from me?

  • Where did it originate?

  • Am I motivated to change it?

Keep in mind that an angry or strong reaction never helps. However, it could damage your relationship with your child. Your wisest course of action might be to do nothing until your child is at risk.

6. Practice self-care.

Self-care doesn't always involve going to the spa or the beach. It can involve locking the door and leaving a heated exchange. Look for little chances to support yourself every day. You'll be giving your kid an excellent example of how to take care of themselves.

Additionally, parents should limit their children's screen time. Stop scrolling endlessly through social media and the news.

7. Get mental health support.

Your own tank cannot be empty for your child to be able to come to you. The best gift you can offer your child if you're struggling is to get yourself some mental health care.

More access than ever before has been made possible via telehealth programs. Please persevere in your search for assistance.

Written by: Dr. Stuti Kumar, Consulting Child Psychologist

What factors do you believe contribute to parental mental health challenges? (Select all that apply)

  • Work-related stress

  • Lack of social support

  • Financial pressure

  • Relationship issues

You can vote for more than one answer.

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