10 Tips for Parents to Support Their Mental Health

10 Tips for Parents to Support Their Mental Health

Mental and Emotional Health
Reading Time: 4 minutes
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When you become a parent, you start putting yourself second and your family first. While this attitude is commendable, it can leave you feeling more than a bit frazzled after a while. You begin to think, “Hey, what about me?” One of the best ways to become a better parent is to support positive mental health in yourself. Doing so empowers you to interact with your spouse and children productively without creating hard feelings and resentment. It promotes more harmony in your home — who couldn’t use that?

1. Practice Acceptance

One vital technique for maintaining mental health is to practice acceptance. Doing so doesn’t mean that you like the way things are — it merely entails self-honesty. It also liberates you to take action to change your circumstances instead of making excuses for your woes.

Learn to pick your battles. Maybe your home won’t look like a model until your little ones turn 18 and go to college. What’s more critical — scolding your children for every dropped chip crumb, or appreciating that they will never again be as young as they are at this moment? Don’t waste precious time or create resentment when you could be making memories.

2. Build a Support Network

Everybody needs somebody sometimes, as the song goes, but today, many people lack a sense of community. Indeed, fully a quarter of people under the age of 30 say they don’t know any of their neighbors at all, let alone consider them friends. Who on earth do they turn to when they need to borrow a cup of sugar?

Take time to cultivate your support network. Set regular dates with your spouse without inviting the little ones. Call your mom and your best friend at least once per week to check-in and chat. Keeping the lines of communication open not only makes sure you have help when you need it, but it also adds richness to your relationships.

3. Educate Yourself

If one of your children struggles with an issue like ADHD, you might misinterpret their behavior as defiance when it is, in actuality, a symptom of their disorder. Take the time to educate yourself about any physical or mental health conditions that can affect the mannerisms of those you love. This knowledge doesn’t mean that you will tolerate intentional disrespect, but it does give you an added dose of patience when misbehavior drives you buggy.

4. Identify Necessary Resources

Are you feeling additional pressure to serve as a homeschool teacher during the COVID-19 shutdown? While many schools will remain closed for the rest of the year, you can find tons of online learning resources that make the job of educating your little ones less burdensome. If someone you love has special needs, you might need to search harder to find techniques that work. Your child’s primary care physician or social worker might have suggestions, so use your voice to ask.

5. Have Regular Family Check-Ins

You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know one exists. At least once per week, check-in with all of your family members, perhaps around the dinner table. Find out what is going on in their lives and how you can support them. Use this time to express your needs as well. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed because you are trying to keep your home tidy while telecommuting, you can devise a list of chores to make sure everyone pitches in and does their part.

6. Get Active

Do you want a natural antidepressant, no pills necessary? Why don’t you give a new workout regime a try? Scientific studies show that exercise is as effective as medication for some cases of mild-to-moderate depression. If you currently have a prescription, don’t stop taking it without your physician’s approval. You can still reap the benefits of movement.

7. Pay Attention to Your Diet

Specific nutritional deficiencies can significantly damage your mental health. For example, consuming too little magnesium can increase depression, particularly in younger adults. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a crucial role in brain function, so stock up on chia and flax seeds to ensure adequate intake.

8. Get Involved in Volunteering

Taking care of others can prove highly therapeutic. The next time you feel down, find a way to be of service to others. Maybe you offer to go shopping for an elderly neighbor with health challenges, or perhaps you spearhead a community garden project. Performing acts of kindness prompt your brain to release oxytocin, a chemical that promotes positive feelings.

9. Try Yoga and Meditation

Yoga represents the ultimate in mind-body exercise, so if you haven’t tried the practice yet, why not give it a go? You can find a host of free videos on YouTube, and many popular fitness apps also have classes you can try while studios remain closed.

You don’t need any tools at all to embrace meditation. All you need is a place to sit quietly and focus your awareness on your breath. You will get bored, and your thoughts will start to race. That’s okay. When unwanted ideas invade your zen, acknowledge them, then redirect your attention to your inhales and exhales.

10. Embrace Self-Care Techniques

Finally, if you want to give your best to others, you need to fill yourself up first. Otherwise, you risk feeling as resentful as a starving person asked to part with their last pinto bean. Take time each day to do something that you love. It doesn’t need to cost money or involve indulgence — treating yourself to a run after a stressful day qualifies. Anything you do intending to take care of your needs counts, such as cooking a gourmet meal or sinking into a bubble bath.

Protect Your Mental Health as a Busy Parent With These Tips

As a parent, your children look to you as models of mental health. Teach them positive habits through example with these tips.

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Jennifer Landis is a proud mama who fuels her fire with copious amounts of tea. She writes about food, family, and fitness. Find more from her at her personal blog, Mindfulness Mama and follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.