As a parent, it’s normal to want to give your child the best of everything. You want them to have the best care, a stable home life, a sense of confidence and security, and a great education. You also want to take care of their mental health and ensure that they do not learn habits or patterns of behavior that could make life harder for them in the future.
However, it is not always possible to provide the best care for our children, especially if we are parenting solo or struggle with mental health. A large number of emotional factors can influence our behavior and our ability to parent in the way we’d like. This can range from personal problems, such as divorce or professional stresses, to mental health diseases, such as anxiety and depression.
Living with a parent or carer who suffers from mental health disorders can, at times, be distressing for children. Although it is perfectly possible for those with mental health problems to parent well, effective management of any psychological disorders is crucial for this. The more well-managed a parent’s emotional and psychological problems are, the more they will be to act as a stable presence in their child’s life.
Are Mental Health Conditions Common?
Yes – mental illness is extremely common and is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, studies suggest that around 175,000 UK children live with and help care for a parent who is mentally ill or who struggles with a psychological disorder. What’s more, 1 out of 4 people each year will experience some type of mental ill-health.
How Might Poor Mental Health Affect Your Ability to Parent?
Parenting can be tough at the best of times. It’s difficult to juggle your own needs with the needs of your child and maintain external factors, such as jobs, relationships, and life admin. Dealing with a mental health condition can add a huge amount of stress and hardship onto this.
Parents who struggle with their psychological health may struggle financially and find it hard to keep a job. They also main face discrimination or have to take extended hospital stays. They may also find everyday tasks overwhelming and rely on their child to help them with routine chores.
In extreme circumstances, parents may feel that they cannot put their own mental health and wellbeing first. For example, they may feel that paying for private counseling is too expensive and that they must take care of their child’s needs first. Similarly, they may not prioritize taking time out of parenting to address their mental health. However, the importance of good mental health does not just affect the parent or adult. It can also have a significant impact on the mental health of child.
How Does Mental Illness in a Parent Affect the Child?
Even with the best of intentions, our emotional health as parents plays a role in the emotional and psychological development of our children. Children of parents who suffer from mental health disorders may find that they have to partially help parent the adult in their life. Over time, this strain can take an emotional toll on the child and, in extreme cases, can lead to the development of conditions like PTSD. Some other obstacles that children who live with mentally ill parents commonly face include:
- Financial Hardship
Those who are mentally unwell may struggle to work consistently throughout their life. They may also face difficulties receiving government benefits or be discriminated against and denied help if they suffer from an invisible illness. This means that a high percentage of children with mentally ill parents live in poverty and are financially disadvantaged.
- Gaps in Education
Children whose parents suffer from mental health conditions may also miss more days of school than others as they may need to act as carers when their parent is unwell. This can lead to them missing chunks of their education or struggling to keep up with schoolwork. This, in turn, can impact their higher education.
- Increased Anxiety and Stress
Children who routinely care for mentally ill adults may experience higher levels of anxiety and may be prone to suffering from mental health problems themselves. This can be due to anxieties over their parent’s safety and wellbeing, or fears that they will be separated from their parent. This can lead to a reluctance to seek outside help or to confide in others.
How Can You Support Your Child When Your Mental Health is Poor?
There are several ways that mentally ill parents can help provide a support system for their children. By providing a support system, the mentally ill parent acknowledges that they may not always be able to offer the best standard of care. A support network offers the child ways of coping and invites other adults they can rely on when this is the case.
This includes things such as joining a support agency or attending group therapy. This can put you and your child in touch with other families who deal with similar issues and with experts who can help. Organizations can also put you in touch with specialists who can help deal with both the mental health crisis of the adult and the needs of the child when this occurs.
You can also encourage your child to confide in trusted friends or family or inform your child’s teacher about the situation. This will allow others to help support your child’s mental health and wellness if issues arise. You could also write a list of things that are required when you are ill so that your child can share this with support figures.
How to Improve Mental Health?
If you are a parent who struggles with mental health matters, it is important to try and manage your condition as best you can. Try to stick to routines that help you monitor your mental state. This will help you give your child or people in your support network warning if you feel an episode coming on.
Certain life events can put an added stress on your mental health, so it is important to have coping mechanisms you can fall back on when these events occur. For example, trying to work out a separation agreement when you are breaking up with a partner can be incredibly stressful and put a toll on your mental health – this can also have an impact on your children, so it is important that you take the time to look after your mental health during times like this.
You should also prioritize habits that improve mental health, such as getting plenty of sleep or doing physical activity. Join a fun exercise class at your local gym or check out the best exercise equipment to help you stay active at home. Even if this feels selfish at times, remember that, as a parent, the mental of your child is affected by your mental state. When you take control of your own mental health, you help your child feel stable, safe, and in control.
Have you struggled with poor mental health as a parent? How has this affected your child? Where did you seek support, and did you get the help you needed? Share your experiences in the comments!
Author’s Bio: The article was written by Thomas Nemel. He has a passion for searching, researching, learning new things and acquiring immense knowledge. Thomas loves to share his parenting knowledge to help others to grow healthy and happy generations.