2024 Parental Mental Health Day is focussed on positive relationships. There is a lot of support and advice for parents on maintaining mental health, but it is essential to recognise the significant impact for those that are assuming parenting roles, and the impact that can have on mental health. Whether you are a foster carer, grandparent, or sibling stepping into the shoes of a parent, the challenges you face can be both rewarding and demanding. In this guide we will provide explore some insights and strategies to help you maintain your mental health while fostering positive relationships with the children in your care.
1. Acknowledge the Challenges
Understanding the challenges and potential stressors that come with assuming a parenting role is the first step towards maintaining your mental health. Acknowledge that this journey may have its ups and downs, and it’s okay to seek support when needed. Self-awareness allows you to recognise your own emotions and responses, which is essential for effectively managing the demands of parenting. It can be really tough to assume a parenting role – particularly if you haven’t been expecting it, or if it happens with little to no notice. It is so important that you are not only self aware, but that you exercise kindness and self forgiveness as you embark on the journey.
Prioritising self-care as an integral part of your routine is so important if you have assumed the role as a parent. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is not selfish; it is necessary for your overall health and resilience. Find activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, gardening, or yoga, and make them a regular part of your life. Additionally, ensure you get enough rest and maintain a healthy diet, as these factors significantly impact your mental health. What is key here is to not think of self-care as something in isolation to your care giving duties. As a single parent myself, it can be really difficult to find time “ alone” which is what is always expected when it comes to self care. Instead, if you switch your mindset to finding activities which nourish you regardless of whether you are in “parent mode” you’ll find that it is not only equally rewarding, you will create bonding opportunities with the child too. Freddie and I enjoy so many activities together, and I definitely classify the time as self care!
2. Seek Support Networks
Connect with Others
Building a support network of friends, family, or fellow caregivers is crucial. You are not alone in your journey, and connecting with others who share similar experiences can provide invaluable emotional support and practical advice. Consider joining local support groups or online communities where you can share your challenges and successes, learn from others, and form lasting connections, as research shows that social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being.
Consider seeking guidance from professionals who specialise in supporting caregivers. Therapists, counsellors, mentors like me, and support groups can offer insights and coping strategies tailored to your unique situation. These professionals can help you navigate the complexities of parenting roles, address any unresolved issues, and provide tools to manage stress and maintain your mental well-being effectively.
As a professional care giver, the training given can sometimes only go so far, and may lack the coping strategies for handling situations which have fallen out of the standard remit of the training you have been provided. This can have a detrimental effect on your mental health – causing additional stress and anxiety. This is something that I specialise in helping with. Supporting individuals that assume parenting/caring roles and need additional support to cope with the curve balls is something I am really passionate about. If this type of coaching appeals to you, drop me a message to connect and we can see where I could support you.
3. Maintain Healthy Boundaries By Setting Realistic Expectations
Avoid setting overly high expectations for yourself. Parenting can be challenging, and it’s okay to make mistakes or ask for help. Embrace the learning process and understand that nobody is a perfect parent. Set achievable goals and acknowledge your efforts and progress. Learning from experiences, both positive and negative, is a crucial part of your growth as a caregiver.
4. Self-Reflection and Self-Improvement
Embrace Continuous Learning
Parenting is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Stay open to new ideas, parenting techniques, and educational resources that can help you become a more effective and resilient caregiver. By investing in learning activities such as parenting workshops, reading child development and psychology materials, and staying informed about how new research for trauma informed and relational approaches to parenting can apply to your circumstances, you can increase your awareness and confidence in your role as care giver. This can have a positive impact on your mental health through making you feel more equipped and less overwhelmed – but don’t let the pursuit of continuous learning be something that adds to your feeling of overwhelm!
Taking time for self-reflection to assess your emotional well-being and identify areas where you may need support or improvement is so important for maintaining positive relationships as a parent. Self-awareness is a powerful tool for maintaining mental health. Reflect on your own triggers, emotional responses, and stressors in your caregiving role. Seek professional help if you find yourself struggling with unresolved issues or significant stressors that impact your well-being. As a parenting mentor, my approach is very centred on an attachment parenting style, so if you are looking for support where the mentor will tell you the child is naughty or place blame on either side, then I am probably not the parenting mentor for you. If you want to work on your relationship in a way that actually puts the relationship at the heart of the decision process, then we could be a great fit.
5. Foster Positive Relationships
Healthy relationships with the children in your care are built on effective communication. Create an environment where children feel safe expressing their thoughts and feelings, which in turn promotes open and honest conversations. Listen actively when children want to talk, show empathy, and ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives. In situations where you have assumed a parenting role in distressed times or as a result of trauma, this becomes even more important.
It is so important that you nurture emotional bonds by providing children with emotional support. By showing empathy, validating their feelings, and being a dependable source of comfort in their lives, you can foster positive relationships which have a positive effect on your own wellbeing. Your role as a caregiver extends beyond meeting their physical needs; it also encompasses their emotional well-being, which can be draining on yourself if you are not topping up your own cup. Being there to offer reassurance during challenging times, celebrate their successes, and help them navigate their emotions in healthy ways needs you to invest in your emotional wellbeing too.
6. Celebrate Your Achievements
Acknowledge Your Impact
Here is something I want to massively encourage – recognising the positive impact you have on the lives of the children you care for! Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and take pride in the role you play in their growth and development. Recognise that your presence and support contribute significantly to their well-being and sense of security. With the number of people applying to become foster carers decreasing, if you are doing this role you definitely deserve recognition – and self recognition is the firmest foundation you can give for a positive relationship.
Practice self-appreciation for the efforts and dedication you invest in your caregiving role. Your commitment to fostering positive relationships is a testament to your strength and resilience. Take time to acknowledge your own growth and the positive changes you bring to the lives of the children under your care. Also remember this is a journey, not a destination and there will be waves of emotions both positive and negative which need to be not only acknowledged, but embraced.
Parental Mental Health Day 2024: Supporting Yourself While Assuming Parenting Roles: A Comprehensive Guide to Maintaining Mental Health
This Parental Mental Health Day, remember that supporting yourself while assuming parenting roles is a crucial aspect of the caregiving journey. By acknowledging challenges, seeking support networks, maintaining healthy boundaries, embracing self-improvement, fostering positive relationships, and celebrating your achievements, you can safeguard your mental health while providing loving care to the children in your charge. Your role as a caregiver is invaluable, and prioritising your mental well-being ensures that you can continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those you nurture and support. By embracing these strategies and principles, you not only promote your own mental health but also create a nurturing environment for the children you care for, setting the stage for their future well-being and success. If you need help with this – let’s connect and see if there is a fit