Parental Self-Care

14th May, 19

Parental Self-Care

Being a parent is extremely rewarding but it can be very challenging at times. For this reason and due to being a parent myself, I have written a short leaflet which explores ways parents and carers can maintain positive mental health and wellbeing in themselves.

The full leaflet can be found using the link below and in the Resource section on my website:

Resources

Being a parent involves a lot of learning and making mistakes along the way. Parenthood can bring with it a range of new worries and self-doubt, with parents often caring too much about what other people think of them, worrying about doing things ‘right’, whilst being provided with conflicting information from various sources about how to bring up your children. Although many parenting books exist, there is no guide on how to be a good parent. However. if your child is truly loved and well cared for then you can simply learn along the way.

Self-care is extremely important yet as a parent or carer we often neglect our own wellbeing for that of our children’s. However, a lack of self-care can result in many physical health problems, for example causing a weaker immune system or high blood pressure. Similarly, a lack of taking care of ourselves can have a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing, triggering issues such as anxiety and depression and affecting our ability to be the parent we want to be. It is therefore important for us as parents and carers to practise self-care, remembering to be as compassionate towards ourselves as we are too our children.

If we are not feeling well ourselves or are running low on energy, how can we effectively be there for our kids? The fact remains that whilst travelling by plane and in the event of an emergency, the first crucial step is to place the mask over your own face. Making sure you are breathing and functional is essential before being able to help your children or any other people on the plane. This helps to highlight the importance of parental self-care: think of your self-care routine as being your oxygen mask.

Very recently I attended a charity event run by a friend of mine who works as a Clinical Psychologist and who specialises in perinatal mental health issues. The event aimed to raise awareness of maternal mental health and it helped to highlight the importance of self-care in parents and carers. Whilst there, I listened to two very emotional stories told by women who had experienced perinatal mental health problems, and I came away reflecting on how vulnerable parents are during these early days of parenthood.

As a young mother giving birth to my son at the age of 19, I too struggled with postnatal depression. However, I was reluctant to talk to anyone about it due to the pressure I felt to pretend that everything was okay and due to not actually knowing how I ‘should’ have been feeling during that time. I remember lying in my hospital bed feeling very lost and not having a clue of what I was ‘meant’ to do as a parent. It is pleasing to see that these days there is much more awareness of perinatal mental health issues and it’s thanks to the likes of my friend that this is so. Nevertheless, there is still so much more to be done, not only with regards to perinatal mental health but also mental health issues in general.

More recently the issue of the mental health of dads has been highlighted by various campaigns in the media. Shockingly, around 1 in 10 men have been found to experience paternal postnatal depression. I believe it essential for men to be offered support during this journey into parenthood, especially given that many men often struggle to talk about their mental health in the first place. If dads are asked about their mental health as well as mums, they may be more open to talking about how they are feeling.

Childhood is such an important time of our lives as our experiences shape up. As a parent and carer, we can often question whether we are doing the right thing, wanting to give our children the best start in life. It is therefore essential to look after your own mental health and wellbeing, because like the oxygen metaphor suggests, we need to maintain our own self-care routine in order to be the best parents and carers we can be for our children.

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