Parenting and Mental Health

Written by admin. How many of us took the time to understand our mental health before having children? How many of us prioritise our mental health as we face the everyday struggles of parenting?

As rewarding as parenting can be, we mustn’t underestimate its power in influencing our mental health. By checking in with your mental health every day, you are reminding yourself that your needs are a priority, and you are setting an excellent example for your children.

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Mental health and parenting

Does Parenting Affect Mental Health?

Most of us will have some sort of awareness about the ways in which parenting can affect maternal and paternal mental health. We know that new parents are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and parents of teenagers can hit rock bottom due to the endless conflicts.

But do you truly appreciate just how much parenting can affect your mental wellbeing on an everyday basis? Not just mothers who had a baby last week, or fathers whose teenage son is experimenting with drugs...all parents face this reality.

Over 60% of parents in the UK have struggled with their mental health. Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental illnesses among parents, but others include:

  • Addiction (to substances or behaviours)
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

How Can I Protect My Mental Health as a Parent?

It’s important to realise we don’t have full control over our mental health. Wonderful parents can be diagnosed with a mental health condition, and sometimes no amount of inner work will change this.

However, there are strategies you can rely on to improve your chances of maintaining positive mental health as a parent. Even if this means you’re still struggling, there is a greater chance that you will cope well with day-to-day life with the following tips:

1. Find support

It’s inevitable that parents with no support are going to struggle. We used to raise children in communities, so even a two-parent family is bound to struggle without outside help.

Try to build a support system that is reliable and varied. The best place to start is with a qualified therapist who can suggest coping mechanisms to get through each parenting challenge.

Therapists are the best people to listen non-judgementally and give completely unbiased suggestions. There’s also the benefit of not needing to be on someone else’s time. You may find you need a complete break with a residential facility like or a regular appointment may be enough. 

While friends get busy and can’t always provide a listening ear, you can rely on weekly appointments with a therapist.

Friends and family are also incredibly important to have in your support system. As well as offering empathy and understanding, they may be able to help you out with the practical struggles of parenting e.g., childcare, school runs and running errands.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of social media for parental mental health. There are so many forums designed for parents where you would be welcomed and supported in your parenting journey.

Whether you want to vent about the most frustrating parts of parenting or talk about how wonderful it is to be a parent, you’ll find a group of people who will relate to your experiences.

2. Make time for yourself

There’s no denying that being a parent isn’t always compatible with having time to yourself. The likelihood is that you spend your day organising your children’s lives and there is little time left for you.

Parents are still people. Just because you need to make sacrifices for your child doesn’t mean you can neglect yourself without facing consequences. When we have no time for ourselves, we can experience problems with our identity, self-esteem, motivation and loneliness.

It’s easier said than done to carve out time for yourself as a parent. You must set goals and stay determined to achieve them. Some ideas for goals are:

  • Set an early bedtime for your children (so you have time for life admin and relaxation)
  • Try to have a child-free day every so often
  • Set up playdates so you can socialise with the parents while your child plays
  • Introduce your child to quiet time
  • Incorporate things you enjoy into each day e.g., your favourite walking routes, best playlists and favourite snacks

3. Don’t take your child’s behaviour personally

Taking your child’s behaviour personally is a one-way ticket to poor mental health. It often ends with parents believing they haven’t done a good enough job or they have damaged their child significantly.

Whatever stage of life your child is in, you must accept that they will behave in ways you don’t understand and it won’t always be your fault. It’s normal for children to act out, and they are almost never doing it to hurt you.

The sooner you understand that your child is going to sometimes behave in challenging ways regardless of how good your parenting is, the more confident you will feel as a parent.

It can help to talk to other parents and find out how they feel about it. If you speak to a parent who is willing to be vulnerable, you will quickly realise that every parent struggles with their child’s behaviour at times. You are not alone.

The Effects of Positive Mental Health on Your Children

We’ve established why positive mental health is crucial for parents, but what about children?

Children of parents with mental health struggles are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illness. A recent study found that one in 14 children aged 0-17 years had a parent with poor mental health, and these children were more likely to have a physical or mental disability, poor general health, and adverse childhood experiences.

If you are intentional about protecting your mental health, you are in turn protecting the mental and physical health of your child. The emotional climate of a home hugely impacts the emotional state of the child.

Being open about mental health is an increasingly important part of the modern parenting role. Some of the possible benefits for your child are:

  • Learning to prioritise their own mental health
  • Understanding that mental health issues don’t indicate an inherent flaw
  • Opening up to you and others about their issues
  • Having empathy for friends and family members with poor mental health
  • Having positive self-esteem

Please don’t be hard on yourself if you are struggling mentally and you have children. Every child faces unique challenges. You are not the only parent facing difficulties when it comes to having positive mental health.

While it can be scary to learn of the statistics on parental mental health, please note that if you are treated for your problem, the outcome will be much better. 

You can find treatment by going to your GP and explaining the problems you are experiencing, or paying to see a private mental health professional.

What's more, you can be struggling with parenting mental health and still have a positive relationship with your child. 

Mental illness is certainly not always synonymous with unhealthy parenting e.g., hostile parenting, harsh discipline, permissive parents, or exposure to violence. Healthy, consistent parenting and a loving happy home is still possible.

How to Cope as a Parent With Mental Illness

A large number of parents struggle with mental illness or other mental health problems. Rather than pretending this isn’t happening, we need to provide parents with support and guidance as they tackle raising children in such a difficult set of circumstances.

The best coping mechanism for parents with mental illness is without a doubt leaning on professional support. 

A combination of therapy and medication is often the most useful tool, but sometimes therapy alone is highly effective.

As for day-to-day strategies, we recommend:

  • Staying consistent with therapy and medication (if applicable)
  • Being honest with your loved ones when you are struggling
  • Breaking down tasks into small to-do lists
  • Focusing on what makes you a great parent
  • Staying in the present moment as much as possible
  • Planning ahead when you feel yourself deteriorating
  • Discussing emotional issues with other adults (not your children)
  • Finding a trusted adult for your child to talk to when they’re finding things difficult
  • Having a balanced diet
  • Sleeping at least 7-9 hours per night
  • Prioritising parental bonding to stay connected with your children
  • Consider incorporating Nuzena Optima Omega-3 Plus, a carefully created supplement by health professionals that offers the best omega-3 support for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

FAQs About Parenting and Mental Health

You can find some useful answers to commonly asked questions for this topic below:

1. Can becoming a parent improve your mental health?

Yes, in some cases, people find that their mental health improves after having children. It may provide them with a long-term goal to focus on, a sense of belonging, and a family unit.

It’s great when parents feel this way, as it means they can enjoy raising their children without the guilt of struggling with their mental health.

However, parents should take care to avoid putting pressure on their kids to meet their emotional needs. Enjoying parenting is brilliant, but relying on your children to keep you happy will be detrimental for both parties.

We often focus on the negative impact of authoritative parents, but it is just as important to be wary of negative parenting styles that stem from low self-esteem, such as codependent parenting. 

Positive parenting styles involve a healthy balance between love/support/emotional warmth and structure/discipline/consequences.

2. Can you be a good parent if you have an addiction?

Having an addiction does not make you a bad parent. However, if you do not get help for your addiction, there is a high risk of directly or indirectly harming your children.

Organisations such as the NHS and Rehab Recovery can help you to access effective alcohol rehab treatments for parents with addiction. A referral can be for for home detoxes, outpatient programmes and inpatient programmes at successful rehab facilities all over the UK.

You can also find useful guidance through the NSPCC website.

3. Does a mother’s mental wellbeing affect children more than a father’s?

There is no evidence that the mental health of a mother is more influential in terms of the child’s wellbeing. Both parents have an impact on their child’s physical and mental state in the way that they express their own mental health.

Having a mother or father with a mental health condition puts children at risk of developing mental health disorders themselves. However, there are many other risk factors to consider e.g., genetics, relationships with other people, age, gender, and trauma.

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