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Parenting with Mental Health Challenges

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Topic Tuesday is a regular event on the SANE Forums where we host live discussions of specific mental health issues. Recently Belle from Parentline joined us to give advice for parents with mental health challenges. Here's some of her tips.

The life of a parent can be a busy and demanding one! You could be juggling so many potential stressors all at once, including work, family commitments, finances, and keeping up with your child’s school and social routines.

For those parents managing mental health challenges, you are managing not only your responsibilities as a parent, but your own mental health, and the complex and confronting emotions that can come with this delicate balance. No easy feat.

This being said, there are things you can do for yourself that can make parenting with a mental illness easier.

Be kind to yourself and mindful of self-expectations

It’s natural to feel intense feelings of guilt, shame and frustration when experiencing our own symptoms of mental health.

In these overwhelming times, it is so important to try to be gentle with ourselves, and remind ourselves that it’s okay to struggle sometimes. You are human! Try to take things at your own pace, and ask yourself ‘Am I expecting too much from myself right now?’.

Setting realistic expectations for yourself is key to avoiding unnecessary pressures or disappointment.  

Give yourself permission to self-care

Many parents can worry they are being selfish by self-caring. It’s important to remember that in order for you to be able to care for your kids, you must first take care of yourself!

Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant. It is about considering what your physical and emotional needs are and figuring out how you can fit this within your existing routine. This can be something simple, like making time to have a coffee with a friend each week, catching up on your favourite TV show, or maybe it’s taking advantage of a quiet moment to catch up on some zzzs!

By modelling positive self-care yourself, your kids get to see how it’s done and learn how to do it for themselves too! Win, win.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Whether it’s accepting help from a family member to take the kids to school on a challenging morning, or having a friend organise a play date at their house, don’t be afraid to accept and ask for help when you need it.  

Be aware of your mental health and look out for signs that things are starting to become overwhelming (try to get support sooner rather than later, don’t wait for things to become intense).

If you need some extra support, there is help available. Check in with your GP, counsellor/psychologist, or reach out to online supports. For support as a parent, you can also contact Parentline on 1300 30 1300 (QLD and NT). For the Parentline in your state or for more tips, check out the Parentline website.

You’re not alone in this.

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