Becoming a parent is an exciting time and comes with a lot of great memories; sending them off on their first day of school, teaching them to ride a bike, celebrating their achievements, the list goes on. But like all great things, being a parent also comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities.
These responsibilities may include ensuring to feed and clothe your child, keeping them warm and happy, and also maintaining and looking after their mental health and wellbeing. However, parents also need to remember that their mental health is just as important and building family resilience can help ease the pressure of taking care of an entire household.
Parent Mental Health Day
Parent Mental Health Day (PMHD) was founded in 2022 by the charity stem4. Typically, the charity focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of young people and those who support them, such as families and carers, as well as education professionals, school nurses and GPs.
Everyone within a family relies on each other, but of course, children and young people rely on adults even more so for their support and guidance. As a parent, it’s easy to let your own mental health slip as you care for those around you, but PMHD wants to raise awareness to show parents and carers that they’re not alone and their mental health matters.
In light of this goal, this year’s PMHD theme is #BuildFamilyResilience which will help parents and carers learn how to adapt to challenging situations, manage their own feelings and emotions, and where they can find support. But what exactly is resilience?
Resilience can be defined as the ability to quickly recover from challenges and return back to a positive state. But with particularly hard times, it can be difficult to ‘bounce back’ quickly, especially this time of year with Christmas and the increasing cost of living causing financial worry and distress. The winter months can also cause low mood or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for some, and in general increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness can have further impact.
Now, more than ever, is a difficult time for anyone who suffers with their mental health, let alone for parents who make others’ mental health a priority over their own. #BuildFamilyResilience will aid parents and carers in understanding how to face challenges and difficulties, whether that’s individually or collectively as a family unit. In turn, this will enable parents and carers to focus on more opportunities to regulate the entire family system’s mental health and wellbeing, whether that’s through providing stability, positive attachments, or adapting to loss and adversity together.
Parenting with Mental Health Issues
Despite 2023 only being PMHD’s second year of celebration, it’s a very important awareness day as it helps to break the stigma parents feel around the priority of their own mental health and wellbeing.
When you’re not in a positive place everything seems like a struggle, let alone looking after the wellbeing of your children. To kickstart PMHD last year, stem4 conducted a survey with parents and carers and asked them about their mental health and wellbeing. Global and national issues such as COVID-19 and the rising cost of living are large stressors that can cause a great deal of anxiety, uncertainty and even depression. Stem4 found that after the pandemic, 39% of parents experienced mental health issues, which can be broken down into 37% women and 41% men, which is a 9% increase pre-pandemic. Out of those parents who are experiencing poor mental health, 44% say they have not asked for help, and this can be for a number of reasons, including:
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed
- Not wanting to make a fuss or upsetting their family
- Thinking they’ll be viewed as lesser
- Thinking help won’t be accessible for them
Although parents may have these emotions and feelings weighing down on them, it’s essential that they don’t keep these pressures to themselves, whether they seek professional help or work through these feelings individually or with their family. Some ways to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety include:
- Going outside, whether that’s for a walk, doing some exercise or evening going to the shops, some fresh air will help you to feel better
- Make sure to get plenty of sleep so your brain can process the day and make room for the next one
- Practice mindfulness which will keep you in the moment and help to prevent overthinking about things
- Connect with family and friends and build a support system that will be there for you if you need them
Stem4 also has some fantastic resources on how to #BuildFamilyResilience and is also holding a webinar on how to be a resilient parent or carer and explore the positive impacts this will have on the family unit.
Parents must remember that they’re not hopeless or helpless and that there is always someone, whether that’s family, friends, or a healthcare provider that can support and guide them through challenging times; in the same way that parents support their children.
Another way parents can help their children and other young people’s mental health is by becoming a mental health first aider. Here at MHFA Wales, we offer a Youth Mental Health course, this can teach adults such as parents, carers, teachers, youth workers and coaches who are in contact with young people, how to notice when issues are arising and what they can do to best support them.
To find out more about us, the types of training we provide, or book a course through one of our licensed instructors, visit our website and invest in your wellbeing and mental health and the wellbeing and mental health of those around you.