Parenting with a mental health problem (anxiety or depression) can be difficult and there is no one solution that will sort out everything. However, there are lots of things that can make a positive difference. Here are several things you can try:
REMEMBER – Perfect people or perfect parents don’t exist – just focus on one day at a time and do the best you can.
Take steps to look after your mental health
• Finding an exercise that you enjoy will also reduce your stress levels. Online fitness classes can be done at home.
• Eat a healthy diet for a healthy immune system and a clear mind.
• Connect with nature for a rejuvenating boost.
• Develop self-help tools, such as mindfulness or relaxation.
• Make regular time for yourself with no external demands (‘me’ time) – even 10 minutes a day can help.
• Explore different treatment options so that you know what works for you.
• Start a worry journal or worry box to let out your emotions.
• Use a glass jar to record your happy moments or compliments received or things you are proud or grateful for and see your confidence building before your eyes. Empty the jar and read all your lovely moments on your bad days, to boost you up.
Talk about mental health
• Contact an anti- stigma campaign such as Time to Change for advice on sharing information about your experience.
• Think carefully about how much you want to say and to who.
• Never feel you have to explain more than you feel comfortable with.
• Remember – you can always add more information later, but it’s hard to take something back once it’s been shared.
• Contact a local counsellor to talk things over with and this really helps if you feel you don’t wish to upset your loved one’s or friends, by telling them difficult things.
What can I do to help myself? – Have a support network in place
• Let people know early if you are finding it hard to cope and need support.
• Ask for practical help such as childcare, transport and cooking meals.
• Ask the school or nursery to keep an eye out for any behaviour changes in your children.
• Find out if your employer offers flexible hours to help you manage the demands of working while parenting.
• Try to identify one or two people who you can ask for emotional support.
• Stick to regular times for routine tasks like mealtimes and bedtimes.
• Create simple and time-saving systems for daily, weekly and monthly activities such as cooking and shopping.
• Plan ahead for the busy morning times each evening by making lunches and packing bags.
• Have a clear and quiet homework space for your children.
• Make advance plans to reduce your responsibilities during unwell periods and check out options for extra support during these times.
• Write down family routines so anyone supporting you can keep things consistent.
• Ask someone you trust to either find out about or go with you to a support service for the first time.
• Make a list of all the questions that you’d like to ask the support service.
• Reaching out for help can sometimes bring up very difficult fears about having children taken away. Remember that organisations will have supported lots of other parents before you, and their family support staff will be experienced in how best to help you manage your situation.