Written by Samantha Carter

Parenthood is hard enough. When you add in a mental health diagnosis, things can quickly feel overwhelming and unmanageable. Suddenly, the laundry that’s piling up on the floor feels more like a metaphor for your life that’s gone wrong. When the challenges of managing a mental health diagnosis feel more daunting than doable, take comfort in the fact that there are strategies we can use to help get us through the tough times.

From understanding your diagnosis to seeking support, creating a self-care routine, and fostering open communication with your children, it’s possible to pave a path forward to happier and brighter days. While managing your mental health needs as a parent may require more work at times, it doesn’t have to prevent you from being the attentive, reliable, and loving parent you aim to be. In fact, by better learning to attend to our own needs, we can teach our children what it means to be committed to self-growth and healing, and inspire them to do the same.

1. Seek Professional Guidance

Consulting with mental health professionals is crucial for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans. Establish an open and honest relationship with a mental health provider, and make sure to discuss your specific concerns about your mental health as it relates to your job duties as a parent. By seeking professional advice, you can develop a strategy that aligns with your unique situation and needs.

It may take some time to find a mental health provider you feel comfortable with and that’s OK. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing we have no time for these tasks on top of our parenting duties, it’s important to remember that tending to your own mental health needs sets a foundation in your relationship with others. If we don’t take the time to nurture our most basic needs, we will – at some point – be unable to caretake for our children properly.

2. Educate Yourself

The first step in managing any mental health diagnosis is gaining a thorough understanding of your condition. Research the specific symptoms, triggers, and potential treatment options. Equip yourself with knowledge to demystify the stigma surrounding mental health and empower yourself with the tools needed to navigate parenthood effectively.

The more you begin to understand your diagnosis, the less anxiety you will feel about the unknown. As you gain more insight, it will be easier to accept things as they are and move forward with a plan that works for you and your family.

3. Build a Support System

There are many different ways to work on building a support system. While each person’s situation is unique and depends on a variety of factors, it’s important to find ways to build community and lean on others in times of need.

Communicate with Your Partner

Open and honest communication with your partner is key. Share your diagnosis, discuss its implications, and work together to develop a support plan. A united front can help create stable environments for both you and your children.

Connect with Other Parents

Seeking support from other parents who have experienced similar challenges can be immensely beneficial. Join local or online support groups to share experiences, gain insights, and foster a sense of community.

Involve Extended Family and Friends

Don’t hesitate to involve your extended family and friends in the journey. Building a robust support system helps distribute responsibilities, allowing you to focus on your mental health needs without feeling overwhelmed by parenting duties.

Seek Out Childcare Support

Seek out resources in your community that can assist with childcare, giving you the time and energy to tend to your personal needs while your children are in good hands. Check out your local YMCA, licensed childcare centers, community bulletin boards, or recommended nannies and babysitters. Trading childcare with other parents can also provide support to more than one family while establishing meaningful relationships over time.

4. Prioritize Self Care

It’s easy to get lost in the throws of parenthood and neglect our own needs in the process. However, tending to our personal needs provides exponential rewards to children in the long-term. Kids are attune to their parents’ emotional states and thrive in environments where their parents are thriving.

Establish a self-care routine that includes activities you enjoy, such as reading, exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, yoga, cooking, spending time with animals, or a variety of other pastimes. A good self-care activity is something that re-energizes and rejuvenates you.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of everyday life is just too much and we need a bigger reset than that hour long self-care practice we can squeeze in during the day. In times that are really tough, consider looking into retreats or residential programs that will help you get back on track to living the healthy, balanced lifestyle you crave.

All Points North offers integrative residential programs to address a variety of mental health diagnoses using traditional and alternative therapies with proven success.

5. Set Realistic Goals

As a parent managing a mental health diagnosis, it’s crucial to set realistic goals. Break tasks into manageable steps, and celebrate small victories. This approach can prevent feelings of inadequacy and help you maintain a positive mindset.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I better show up (emotionally, mentally, physically) for myself and my children right now?
  • What is the worst that would happen if I cut my to-do list in half?

Oftentimes as parents and people experiencing a mental health diagnosis, we feel like we need to have it all figured out. The truth is, we can learn to set much more realistic expectations if we’re willing to rid ourselves of unnecessary pressure that is self imposed.

6. Delegate the Workload

For some reason as parents, we think we should be capable of doing everything. Yet, no one can do everything, let alone someone who is managing the weight of a mental health diagnosis.

Similar to setting realistic expectations, we need to allow ourselves to offload work to other people in our lives. Children should be cleaning their own rooms and both parents should be sharing the load that comes with raising kids. If you aren’t getting the help you need, ask yourself how you might request a more equitable workload from the people and resources in your life. It’s completely okay to need a village.

7. Schedule Regular Check-ins

Regularly check in with yourself to assess your mental and emotional state. Use journaling or mindfulness techniques to stay connected with your feelings and identify potential stressors. Understanding what you’re dealing with is half the battle.

Be brave enough to open up to your support system when you’re struggling to get through the day. By checking in with yourself and others, you can learn to troubleshoot as issues arise, moving through adversity with greater confidence and ease.

8. Nurture Open Communication with Children

Part of breaking down stigma about mental health involves having open and honest conversations with our children. Having age-appropriate discussions with your children about your mental health diagnosis can help to foster understanding and patience, while emphasizing mental health as a natural aspect of a person’s overall well-being. Additionally, educating our children about mental health topics can help them to better reflect on their own needs and internal landscape.

When talking about mental health with our children, it’s important to encourage questions. Be prepared to provide honest and age-appropriate answers, while helping them to better understand your experiences and foster a relationship of trust.

A large part of nurturing open and honest communication with our children is teaching them healthy ways to express their own emotions. By modeling emotional intelligence, you can contribute to their overall well-being and social-emotional development.

9. Seek Professional Help for Children if Needed

Stay attuned to any changes in your children’s behavior. If you notice significant shifts, consult with a mental health provider to address your concerns. Sometimes, family therapy can help to provide a structured environment and resolve challenges as a family unit. A qualified therapist can facilitate constructive communication and offer coping strategies.

If your children are in school or daycare, communicate with their teachers and caregivers about your situation. Educate them on how to support your children emotionally and academically. This will help to create a collaborative network for your child’s well-being.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize

Everyone messes up – even people without a mental health diagnosis. Normalize the struggles of everyday life and don’t be afraid to apologize to your children when you fall short. Modeling humility to your kids will only teach them to be kinder, more resilient human beings. It will also help to strengthen your relationship with them, as they’ll observe how much you care. That’s what’s going to stick with them more than the mistakes you’ve made. Allow space for grievances and then forgive yourself and move on. Owning your faults will empower you to make better choices in the future.

When To Seek Professional Help

Parenting with a mental health diagnosis presents unique challenges, but with the right strategies and support, it can be a fulfilling and transformative journey. By incorporating intentionality into your parenting approach, you can better navigate parenthood with grace and resilience.

Seeking help is a sign of strength. By taking proactive steps, you not only enhance your own well-being, but also contribute to the overall health and happiness of your family.

If you’re looking for more great tips on how to manage a mental health diagnosis, make sure to check out Plus APN’s vast library of resources or call to speak with someone today at 424.644.6486.