Like all other aspects of health, mental health can affect your parenting. For example, parents who suffer from Bipolar Disorder are 10 times more likely to overreact, which can lead to inappropriate punishments. Parents who are dealing with depression are often less responsive to their child’s emotional cues. Here are some ways to mitigate the effect of mental health problems with regards to parenting:
1) Physical self-care
If you’ve been on an airplane you may remember this message: “In case of low cabin pressure, place the mask on yourself first, then your dependent companion”. This is also the case when it comes to self-care. Self-care is critical prevention for parenting “meltdowns”.
You cannot adequately care for those you love if you are not caring for yourself. Remember to take time-out to enjoy your hobbies and interest, visit your friends, and watch your favorite movie (even if it is Frozen) You may want to include meditation, nutrition, rest, exercise as part of your self-care practice as well. Your physical health has a direct impact on your mental health, and your mental health has a direct impact on your relationships.
2) Remain calm
When tensions run high, and you feel yourself getting to your breaking point, you may want to consider putting yourself in “time out” as long as the safety of your children is not an issue. Moments when you calm yourself down model the vital skill of emotional regulation to your child. When parents remain calm, children will become less emotionally reactive.
Note: Do not confuse this with ignoring your children when they are in distress. Also, If you or your child need a “time out” remember to check-in with them at the end of the “time out” period.
3) Treatment compliance
If you are working with a counselor, remember to practice any techniques or suggestions outside of the counseling office. Sometimes your counselor will challenge you with new ways to communicate with those you love. They may seem uncomfortable at first, but give them a try, and report the results to your counselor. This feedback will help guide you and your counselor towards your goals.
I cannot over-emphasize the magic of play with your children. Play promotes positive attachment, and the mental health benefits of play for you are just as significant as they are for your child. On a rainy day, try board-games, interactive video games, cooking , or baking with your child. Maybe you can teach your child a skill that you learned at their age. On a nice day, head to the park or beach. Talk during a long drive to your favorite town and get some ice cream. A chat during a casual after-dinner walk through the neighborhood can work wonders. Remember to put the cell phones in "time out" (yes, your phone as well).
If you are trying something new, your children may resist, but keep trying! They will be happy you did. They may not thank you with their words, but they will thank you with their smiles.
If you would like help in building your relationship with your children or other ways to connect with your children in an authentic way, make an appointment with Leana today!