Tips for Parenting with a Mental Illness
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
As a parent, you are a teacher, a counselor, a provider, and more. You have to learn to provide for others, manage multiple schedules, and balance the needs of your child with your own. For anyone, these are difficult tasks to manage, and for those with mental health conditions, these challenges are amplified. However, this doesn’t mean that those with mental health issues cannot establish a happy and healthy family. All it means is that there may be more barriers to overcome before you can implement that environment. Here, you will find tips to help you through this parenting journey.
Even though having a mental health condition does not guarantee that your child will have it, some conditions are more heritable than others. For example, psychiatric disorders – such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – have the highest heritability rate at around 80%. In contrast, anxiety disorders – such as OCD – have a much less heritability rate at approximately 50%. While these statistics are important to keep in mind, they should not deter you from starting a family.
Many protective factors can be implemented into your parenting style to ensure a healthy and happy child. These factors can increase a child’s resiliency and help them to understand that they are not responsible for their parent’s challenges:
1. Inform your child of your mental illness: Educating your child about your mental struggles will increase both your own and your child’s comfort in dealing with your challenges.
2. Ask for support from immediate and extended family: When you’re not well, you can let others know that you need extra support and suggest what they can do to help ─ for example, babysitting for a day, or giving your kid a ride to school.
3. Have both you and your child attend therapy: Sending your child to therapy can give them an opportunity to share things they may not feel comfortable sharing with you. They can also share their worries and doubts, and learn how to better cope with their home environment.
4. Encourage your child to engage with environments outside of the home: Having stable and safe spaces outside of the home will decrease the chances of your child developing emotional or behavioral — a common challenge among kids with parents with a mental illness.
5. Focus on a strong relationship between you and your partner: A strong and genuinely loving relationship between you and your partner will set great examples for your child. Not only will they understand the best way they can help you through your mental/emotional journey, but they can also apply this to others will mental illness outside the home
6. Look after yourself: Self-care will put you in better shape to take care of your child. This includes healthy eating, regular exercise, and quality sleep.
7. Set aside time for parent-child bonding: Whenever you can, talking to and staying connected with your child will help them feel secure and loved. This can be as simple as a cuddle on the couch, a loving note in their lunchbox, or any family ritual.
All in all, parenting can be a daunting experience especially when you are still trying to cope with your mental health; but, by following some of the above tips, you should be able to better manage the hectic lifestyle parenting can bring. Your child and the relationship you will establish will ultimately be an extremely rewarding gift for both you and them.